Since January of this year, students interested in starting their own companies have had the opportunity to develop their original ideas through the use of the Peter T. Paul Entrepreneur Center (ECenter). Thoughts and ideas of some student entrepreneurs can be first seen upon a sticky note filled bulletin board that is located at the entrance to the center.
The sticky notes on the bulletin board are divided into two sides: one side features yellow-colored notes by students with business ideas looking for people with applicable skills, and the other side has green-colored notes by students with skills they want to put to use.
Located in Madbury Commons at 21 Madbury Road, the ECenter shares a lobby with the UNH IOL Center. There is a sign across from the doors that directs visitors into the maze-like path that leads to the ECenter, which officially opened in January 2016 and is already inspiring students on a regular basis.
The basis of the sticky notes is to connect ideas and get students working together with a combined goal of forming something that was once merely a thought. The purpose of keeping the two connections off a digital version is to encourage students to go the center and truly interact with both the ideas and each other.
There is no approval process for placing the notes on the board.
According to ECenter Director Ian Grant, the sponsors have built the necessary resources for students to be able to use; most of the ECenter’s resources come directly from donation. All of the money for funding the ECenter is received externally and not from the university.
One such sponsor is UNH alumnus Harry Patten, ‘58, who funded the Paid Student Internship at Start-Ups Program where in which four students will get experience working at a start-up company during summer 2017.
“Arguably, we don’t even know when the match happens [between the two sticky notes],” Grant said. “You start to see people have skills like, ‘Oh I’m really good at marketing, I would love to help out somebody,’ and someone goes, ‘Well I can design it but I have no sense on how to market it.’ It’s an instant connection.”
Grant said that how these ideas are developed is through the Business Model Canvass (BMC), which is essentially a one-page business plan. This model includes nine steps to be made in order to make the idea more obtainable.
One of those first steps includes the idea of customer discovery. In regard to UNH students, it is typical for them to go out and talk to around 10 people and use the feedback to rework the idea. According to Grant, it’s all about the customer.
“If it’s not a good idea and they don’t want to pay for it, you’re living in a bubble,” Grant said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen an idea that ended up where it started. It’s, by definition, a process to get to the thing.”
According to Grant, Peter T. Paul originally gave the money to be funded for three years. However, the program isn’t part of Paul College and is open to all UNH students.
The program is also funded by the Wildcatalysts Network (WCN), which is comprised of alumni, parents and friends of UNH who believe in the notion of ideas in innovation. One of the fundraisers put on by WCN gathered $33,000 and began the kick-off for the Makerspace area in the ECenter that many students put to use. There are also coorperate sponsors, such as Kennebunk Savings, which assist the program as well. Another role WCN has is to be a mentor to the student entrepreneurs.
On Tuesday, Nov. 15, there will be an ECenter Startup Speaker Series titled “Serial Entrepreneurs: What Makes Them Successful?” The event will feature ezCater Co-Founder and CEO Stefania Mallet, UNH alum and Koya Leadership Partners Founder and CEO Katie Bouton,’96 and Wagz, Inc. Founder and CEO Terry Anderson. English Lecturer and ECenter Faculty Fellow Meghan Heckman will moderate the event. Scheduled to take place in the Memorial Union Building’s (MUB) Theater 2 from 6:30-8 p.m., the event will have limited space, though all are welcome to attend. Register to attend at unh.edu/ecenter/speaker-series.