Through their Community Possible program, the U.S. Bank has invested $100,000 to the College of Business in order to support and grow the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.
According to Jeff Street, director of CEED, the donation money will be focused on student entrepreneurs and will be used to encourage students to participate in events and seek help from CEED.
CEED, which was started last spring, is a campus wide effort to collect service programs that were already provided on campus into one center. Such programs include the Small Business Development Center, TechHelp, Bengal Solutions and the Eastern Idaho Development Corporation. CEED is intended to help students and faculty with potential business ideas get started.
Most of the the work done at the center is funded by grants or from the College of Business’ budget, Street said.
When a student or faculty member first seeks help from CEED, Street said it’s a “little bit like a triage in an emergency room.”
“We discuss their idea, what the problem is and what their solution to the problem is,” Street said. “Then we discuss what can be done to keep the idea confidential, start thinking about important questions they should be asking to pitch their idea to an investor, then we start the process of organizing their idea.”
This is followed by the creation of a prototype, which Street said is often accomplished with help from the College of Technology. He added that the donation money may also be used to help pay for the cost of prototypes, and, if students are invited to present their ideas, help pay for the cost of the trip.
“Some students are participating in the North West Entrepreneur Competition,” Street said. “And if any of them make it to the finals, the money can be used to help fund their travel.”
Since its beginning, CEED has been growing steadily each semester. When the program first started in the 2016 spring semester, there were no students involved, which Street credits to a lack of knowledge about the program.
However, after reaching out to different colleges and gaining support from faculty all across campus, the program was helping 13 students in the fall semester. In spring of 2017, the program had 22 student entrepreneurs, and this fall semester it is helping 49.
“It really speaks to the support deans, chairs and faculty are giving to CEED,” he said.
He added that the donation from the U.S. Bank may also help to grow support for and knowledge of CEED.
“It gives the program credibility because a successful business sees the value and potential of a center on campus helping students develop their ideas,” Street said. “It’s the first outside donation we’ve had, and an endorsement like this can help us get donations from other companies and really continue to grow the program.”
The student entrepreneurs participating in the program have a challenge or milestone at the end of the semester, Street said, which “forces them to form their idea concretely.”
In the fall semester, this challenge is the Idaho Entrepreneurship Challenge held in Boise and funded by Zion’s Bank. Students compete against other colleges and universities in the state and present their idea to a panel.
Street said that he hopes to use the money from U.S. Bank to fund a spring semester challenge, called a “pitch-off” just for ISU students.
“Ultimately, we just want to help students move along in developing their idea and achieving the goal of presenting it to a group,” Street said.