Starting a business from scratch is not easy, but a new and unique business accelerator is creating a “win-win” for both community entrepreneurs and college students seeking to become innovators and entrepreneurs.
Through ConVerge–the branded name for North Central College’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship–North Central is bridging academics with business.
Our accelerator is “creating a thriving network of opportunities for our students,” said Troy D. Hammond, president of North Central College.
Hammond said the principles of innovation and entrepreneurship are part of a comprehensive liberal arts education at North Central. The College is one of few in the country offering entrepreneurship and small business management as a combined major, and its new 125,000-square-foot Science Center will serve as an interdisciplinary facility where students can explore opportunities for innovation in STEM fields.
“As the branded name suggests ConVerge is about many resources coming together to help a business prosper,” said Martha Carney, executive director of the College’s business accelerator. “People become involved with ConVerge for help when preparing for, launching and growing a business. They meet with an entrepreneur coach to receive guidance and support in implementation activities involved in creating a viable business venture,” she said.
ConVerge provides co-working space in downtown Naperville, a business startup process, sources to access capital, subject-matter mentors, business roundtables, workshops and more. Its advisory board is comprised of key industry and community leaders and supported by North Central College connections “of all types,” Carney said.
A differentiating factor of ConVerge is CardinalLaunch, which is structured to connect current students to work on short-term projects with entrepreneurs or existing businesses owners. North Central College students “have the capacity to match their liberal arts studies and apply it to real business projects, engage in problem-solving,” according to Chetan Chawla, assistant professor of entrepreneurship. Businesses involved with ConVerge have access through CardinalLaunch to a pool of talented students who can serve as interns. Students gain real-world experience by working on the front-lines of a startup creating an opportunity to “differentiate” their resumes.
“ConVerge offers the opportunity for businesses to connect with college students to work face-to-face with a cool startup to understand the mindset of an entrepreneur and prepare them for a job,” said Carney. “It’s a business accelerator that offers people the opportunity to learn and collaborate with each other in ways that reflect the diversity of the regional business community.”
“It’s a win-win,” said Carney, adding that former successful entrepreneurs are “coming to ConVerge just to give back. In what we’re calling ‘entrepreneur spotlights,’ successful entrepreneurs and alumni are sharing their stories and offering knowledge and encouragement to both students and ConVerge members working to accelerate their businesses.”
Carney and Chawla participated in a “Fireside Chat” Jan. 26 at the Brand Innovation Quest held in North Central College’s Wentz Concert Hall to announce these new services. The event was presented by Living the Brand Institute in collaboration with the College’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
For more information about ConVerge visit convergenaperville.org.
Photo: North Central students with Chetan Chawla (left), assistant professor of entrepreneurship, and Martha Carney, executive director, Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (seated right)