York College to offer student Spartan Startup camp on entrepreneurship
Imagine leaving college with a degree – and a viable plan for your own startup.
That’s the vision behind the new Spartan Startup program, a partnership between York College of Pennsylvania’s J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship and the Center for Community Engagement. Scheduled for March 9-11, the three-day experience will serve as an entrepreneurial boot camp, driving participants to develop feasible business ideas for the future.
Tied to the national “3 Day Startup” program that began at the University of Texas, Spartan Startup will build upon York College’s successful elevator pitch competition, says Oscar Winters, associate director of the J.D. Brown Center.
“The one thing we noticed was when the elevator pitch competition was over, it was over. A lot of students would come up with 1- to 3-minute pitches, deliver them, win some money, and that was it,” Winters says. “We wanted to make a way for students to come up with a pitch and a business idea and walk away with more than a check.”
The startup spirit
In ways, the new event is a startup itself. Fueled by an all-hands-on-deck attitude, input from the brightest students, collaboration between the J D Brown Center and the Center for Community Engagement, and old-fashioned hustle, Spartan Startup has materialized in less than a year.
Winters joined the J.D. Brown Center last spring – and even before he started the job, his new boss, Assistant Vice President for External Relations Jeff Vermeulen, told him to be ready to explore the startup program. He wasn’t kidding. A couple of weeks later, Winters received a call from the national program.
It didn’t take long to sell Winters.
“I was an Entrepreneurship student at York College, and it was really exciting to be part of a push to bring this to current students,” Winters says.
Not just for business majors
Intermittent phone calls have morphed into a busy planning season. The development of promotional materials is a sign it won’t be long before participants converge on campus to start brainstorming the next great startup.
All students can apply to participate.
Dr. Dominic DelliCarpini, Dean of the Center for Community Engagement, stressed that entrepreneurship isn’t just for business majors – and neither is the Spartan Startup. In fact, organizers hope to see art majors team up with future engineers and other dynamic combinations.
“Spartan Startup will help students see how their innovative ideas can move from ideation and prototyping to actually creating a plan for bringing their ideas forward,” Dr. DelliCarpini says. “They will also learn that entrepreneurship is not just a business principle – it is a habit of mind that leads to success. Entrepreneurs have the attitude that any problem can be solved with innovative thinking and serious commitment. All employers want employees like that.”
Six months in three days
Organizers encourage participants to consider ideas that could materialize in the York area – like retail, product development, services or technology products, Dr. DelliCarpini says. He stressed that while it’s not a competition, there is hope local investors might buy into some of the ideas.
The national effort has a strong track record of success. Almost 13,000 students have participated in the “3 Day Startup” program. Alumni have launched more than 135 companies.
The three-day workshop will start with market research. That means hitting the streets to talk with potential customers. Participants will also meet with area business owners, develop pitches, and eventually collaborate on key ideas.
Faculty and business mentors will help teams formulate proposals that will be pitched to community leaders.
“It’s six months of startup planning crammed into three days,” Winters says.
Future expansion possible
Like any startup, growth is the goal.
Winters hopes to have about 40 participants in the first Spartan Startup. Ten spots will be reserved for community scholarships, and York College could eventually open the program to students from other schools.
An advisory board including Graham Innovation Scholars and students involved in YCP Hacks, a similar event for tech ideas, is helping to lead efforts to engage participants for the inaugural event.
All of it fits into the broader experience York College wants to offer students. From elevator pitches to startup planning, the school wants students prepared for the real world.
“This is part of larger efforts for collaboration across disciplines and for project-based learning that gets students outside the classroom for real-world experiences,” Dr. DelliCarpini said. “Ultimately, it will make students the innovators of our college and community.”