Last year, the Blackstone LaunchPad took off at Wayne State University with the goal of growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout the school. One year later, the program is well on it way to developing that ecosystem touching students of all concentrations, ages and interests.
In its first year, Blackstone LaunchPad has accommodated 170 participants, 45 of which have submitted business ideas. Of those 15 visit the LaunchPad's office in the undergraduate library multiple times and 10 are consistent users. Of all of those people, the program is currently helping four businesses either get started or grow.
"To be an entrepreneur you have to want it," says Aubrey C. Agee II, the senior program administrator for Blackstone LauncPad at Wayne State University. "We try to put those opportunities in front of them."
Those going concerns receiving help from Blackstone LaunchPad are Static Force, a graphic artist firm; Project Footprint, a non-profit that provides water filtration systems and books to villages in Africa; PayItForward, a nonprofit that places formerly at-risk teens into internships with nonprofits; and Bierut Baker, an existing business that needed help to grow.
These ventures have come from a variety of students, ranging from freshmen to a 3rd year medical resident to teens to middle-aged students. Blackstone LaunchPad plans to significant increase but not quite double its participation next year, welcoming in new businesses and helping the existing one it has grow.
"They are all real positive people," says Bill Volz, executive director of Blackstone LaunchPad at Wayne State University. "Nobody is like, 'don't do that.' If we can put a positive spin on a conversation, we will do it."
The Blackstone LaunchPad is funded by $2 million donated by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation
Source: Bill Volz, executive director of Blackstone LaunchPad at Wayne State University and Aubrey C. Agee II, the senior program administrator for Blackstone LauncPad at Wayne State University
Writer: Jon Zemke