Students Sharpen Entrepreneurial Talents Through StartUp Term 2017
July 12, 2017
Knox College students sharpened their entrepreneurial skills in a real-world environment through StartUp Term, an academic immersion experience where teams build companies offering a variety of products and services.
"This has been extremely valuable in the sense that we talk about business-related things in the classroom, but having real-life business experience is a completely different ballgame," said Cortney Hill '17, a member of the Chart Air team.
Bridget McCarthy '18, a member of Bluebrick Collective, described StartUp Term as "an amazing opportunity for all of the teams because we have had such freedom to make mistakes and, also, to flourish."
The five teams from this year's StartUp Term established businesses in multiple fields: art, aviation, food, apparel, and software development. Some of the teams are continuing to pursue their efforts, even though StartUp Term officially ended with the conclusion of Knox's 10-week spring academic term.
Bluebrick Collective, for example, has launched "The Summer of Engaged Arts" in Galesburg, offering workshops and a collaborative space for anyone—especially young people—to create art.
In addition, Chart Air, an aviation services business, was invited to join the 2017 session of Elmspring, a real estate accelerator that supports technology startups through a robust network of real estate and venture partners. As a participant in Elmspring 2017, which started in late June, Chart Air receives seed capital, access to Elmspring's network of advisors and mentors, office space at the Chicago tech hub 1871, and other professional services and resources.
Open to students from all academic disciplines, StartUp Term provides an opportunity to transform original business concepts into real services and products. Students accepted into StartUp Term work from office space in the Bondi Building in downtown Galesburg.
"Being off-campus really starts us thinking outside the Knox bubble," McCarthy said.
StartUp Term 2017 students mostly set their own schedules and decided how to accomplish their goals. Throughout the process, they were mentored by four Knox faculty members: John Dooley, William and Marilyn Ingersoll Chair in Computer Science; Jaime Spacco, associate professor of computer science; John Spittell, Wagner Distinguished Chair in Business; and Tim Stedman, visiting assistant professor of art.
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Rosemary Momoh '17 of Upkeep AI said one highlight of StartUp Term was learning to work with people outside of "a structured learning environment."
Logan Ayers '18 of Chart Air added: "It's not a professor telling us, ‘These are things that need to be done.' It's us looking at what we want to do and figuring out on our own what needs to be done."
Part of StartUp Term also involved discussions with Knox alumni who have entrepreneurial experience. Jasmine Artis '19 of Fusion 5 said she was especially struck by the advice from Bob Gillespie '90, who spoke about how students could make an effective pitch at the end of the term to a panel of judges.
"The biggest takeaway is to not be product-centric, to focus more on the issue that you're solving," Artis recalled.
Vlad Papancea '17 of Upkeep AI said StartUp Term taught him many lessons that he expects will help him in his after-Knox life.
"Overall, it was an amazing experience and very eye-opening," he said.
Here's a look at the five teams:
- Bluebrick Collective: Liliana Coelho '17, Larisha Dhakal '18, Summer Fujii '18, Bridget McCarthy '18, and Emily Trevor '17 are establishing a "creativity incubator" in Galesburg, targeted especially at young people. Bluebrick aims to work with other arts organizations in Galesburg and offer its own open studio hours.
- Chart Air: Logan Ayers '18, Madison Belka '17, Clare Colt '17, Cortney Hill '17, and Olivia Keneipp '17 are creating an online tool that makes it easier for private pilots, businesses, and others to compare airport fees for their particular aircraft.
- Fusion 5: Jasmine Artis '19, Maria Ha '18, and Leela Yeleswarapu '19 brought ethnic street food to campus and encouraged cultural appreciation through events featuring Korean, Japanese, and Mexican cuisine.
- Sneaker Guys: Brendan Roddy '19, Xiong Wang '17, Zhaofeng Wang '17, and Sidath Wanigasinghe '17 set up a business for reselling exclusive, limited-edition sneakers.
- Upkeep AI: Jinglin Feng '17, Caleb Gumanow '18, Rosemary Momoh '17, and Vlad Papancea '17 developed a task-management application that can be used on cell phones and the Amazon Alexa system to enhance communication between homeowners and nannies or other people working in their homes.