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Central Washington University

CWU student entrepreneurs roll out beneficial new products/services

CWU CB I4IE New Venture Roll OutEight young entrepreneurs have launched new ventures, thanks to CWU's Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I4IE). Those students comprised five teams that participated in the second annual I4IE New Venture Roll Out.

“It’s fun to see the creativity and hard work that the students have put into it,” said Bill Provaznik, I4IE director, and College of Business (CB) management professor. “This was a milestone for them. These students found efficient, effective, and economical ways to solve problems. The rollout allowed them to formally introduce what their products and services involve.”

The participating juniors and seniors began imagining what they wanted to do in an earlier product development course, which is part of the curriculum for the CWU entrepreneurship minor. At the rollout, members of the university and community heard the student-entrepreneur presentations, which included information about the first clients for their ventures.

“That’s a unique characteristic of our program,” Provaznik stated. “We’re focused on finding customers first and then developing the appropriate and best technology for them, as opposed to other programs where they start with technology and then try to fit customers into that.”

That means the CWU students needed to learn to conduct market research. They did so including through collaborations with a variety of local and regional entities—such as the Ellensburg Senior Center—arranged by the entrepreneurship program’s Community Startup Director Lawrence Danton. He has also helped mentor the students.

“In our program, we see the role of an entrepreneur as someone who looks at how people live their lives and then help them overcome challenges, including through ways people may not recognize,” Provaznik added. “It may be through an idea with a limited lifespan. They either, then, refine their product or service or move on to develop something else. What drives entrepreneurs is finding those opportunities, which ends up creating value for everybody.”

Students from backgrounds not necessarily represented within entrepreneurship comprise a significant portion of those now pursuing the CB minor.

“In most programs, only 10 to 15 percent of the students are women,” Provaznik noted. “In ours, it’s more than half. We are excited about that. We make sure our students know that it’s not about if you can be an entrepreneur, it’s about what kind of entrepreneur you would like to be.”

The overall number of students involved in entrepreneurship at CWU is expected to grow to as many as 100 in the next several years, thanks to continuing expertise, financial support, and resources provided by the Bellevue-based Herbert B. Jones Foundation.

In addition, the CB is now hiring additional faculty, adding a program manager, and will launch of an entrepreneurship major, which could happen by fall 2019, Provaznik said.

The timing seems right for all of these measures.

“As the world changes, more and more entrepreneurs will be needed to identify where there are opportunities to benefit people in new and different ways,” Provaznik noted. “And there are more chances to do that now than ever before.”

Media contact: Robert Lowery, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-1487, Robert.Lowery@cwu.edu.

Photo: CB I4IE New Venture Roll Out.

Friday, December 22, 2017

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