Students across the New Mexico State University system with an idea for a business now have access to an online entrepreneurship curriculum and network of expert advisers, thanks to Arrowhead Center’s Next Generation Entrepreneurship program.
Known as Next Gen, the program brings Studio G, Arrowhead’s student and alumni business incubator, to NMSU’s community college campuses throughout the state.
Arrowhead Center, NMSU’s economic development engine and technology commercialization hub, received a $368,760 grant in 2016 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to expand Studio G to students at campuses in Alamogordo, Carlsbad and Grants, as well as students at Dona Ana Community College in Las Cruces.
DACC President Renay Scott said she welcomes the chance for her students to build on their entrepreneurial thinking.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity to offer our students access to Arrowhead Center’s Studio G and other programs to support their entrepreneurial opportunities,” Scott said. “Our students have many experiences at DACC that lead to new ideas, scholarship and items that they wish to market. Next Gen allows students to have access to programs and experiences that will help them develop their intellectual property, develop business plans and work with others who also seek to start their own businesses.”
Studio G, which was founded in 2011, has seen tremendous growth in recent years. Since its inception, Studio G has helped more than 250 ventures involving more than 450 student entrepreneurs. An economic impact study in 2015 found that Studio G clients had an impact of $2.4 million during that fiscal year, and Studio G members have raised more than $2.5 million in investments, grants and contracts since 2013. In fiscal year 2016, Studio G ventures hired 93 paid employees.
Student entrepreneurship programming is also supported by the Arrowhead Innovation Network, a 2012 i6 Challenge project funded by a U.S. EDA grant that ended last year.
With Next Gen funding, Arrowhead Center has already converted the effective Studio G curriculum, modeled on MIT’s Disciplined Entrepreneurship and Lean Launchpad methodologies, into an online format that uses “gamification” to engage student and alumni entrepreneurs in learning tracks that are tailored to different types of businesses and situations.
“Students at our community college campuses now have access to the very same learning system, advising opportunities and mentorship meetings as our clients at the Las Cruces campus,” said Kramer Winingham, director of Studio G and a principal investigator on the Next Gen project. “The online curriculum allows us to scale up what we can offer to students here in Las Cruces, as well as those in communities around the state.”
Three of NMSU’s four community college campuses are located in rural communities with less than 50,000 population, and those areas are also economically dependent on single industries like government enterprises and mining, so developing support systems for the next generation of entrepreneurs in those areas will be crucial for providing employment and workforce development, said Arrowhead Center Director and CEO Kathryn Hansen. It’s also the key to enhancing the commercialization of research, regional connectivity and innovation in New Mexico.
“This program will ultimately help our state and region create and retain jobs, not just through the new businesses registered and products launched by our student and alumni entrepreneurs,” Hansen said, “but also by bringing in private investment in businesses and helping move intellectual property through the commercialization pathway.”
NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers said the Next Gen program is one of several important ways that Arrowhead Center supports NMSU’s land-grant mission of serving the educational needs of New Mexico’s diverse population through comprehensive programs of education, research, extension education and public service.
“One of Arrowhead Center’s greatest strengths is that it has gathered a wealth of resources under one roof,” said Carruthers, who helped found Arrowhead during his tenure as dean of NMSU’s College of Business and vice president for economic development. “The network of experts and mentors that are working with student, faculty and community entrepreneurs continues to grow, and we’re able to offer a strong foundation of support, not just here in the Borderplex region, but throughout the state.”
In addition to scaling the Studio G curriculum for use at the community colleges, Next Gen funding has been used to address the challenge of matching entrepreneurs with funding and technology licensing opportunities on a broader scale. Two new web-based portals, TechMatch and FundMatch, provide a user-friendly online system to steer students toward opportunities and facilitate connections for entrepreneurs who are ready to seek funding for their projects.
With all of these systems in place, the next step is to start funneling community college students into the entrepreneurial pipeline. Each of the college campuses has selected a leader with strong connections to both the students and the local business community to champion the effort to recruit students to Studio G and build engagement with those local business networks. At DACC, that’s Joan Keeney, a college assistant professor in the Business Department.
“I’m really excited about this program, and we’ve already got a handful of students who are getting signed up and beginning to work with the Studio G team to validate their business ideas,” Keeney said. “I’m looking forward to seeing this program grow over the next few years and become a sustainable part of the economic development that DACC helps drive in this area.”
NMSU is one of the 25 awardees that received funding under the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s 2015 Regional Innovation Strategies program. The 2015 RIS program is managed by EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and is designed to advance innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country through two competitions: the i6 Challenge and the Seed Fund Support Grants competition.
For more information about Studio G, or to apply from any of NMSU’s system-wide campuses, visit http://arrowheadcenter.nmsu.
Author: Amanda Bradford – NMSU