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Coca-Cola Intergenerational Leadership Mentoring Program

Fostering Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Spelman

Spelpreneur Hosts First Pitch Night to Empower Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Most millennials don’t expect to spend their careers climbing the corporate ladder in a traditional company.

Dubbed the entrepreneur generation, they are passionate about self-employment and making a social impact. They also are highly sought after by employers looking for go-getters and innovative problem-solvers with an entrepreneurial spirit.

A 2014 Bentley University survey of millennials from ages 18 to 34 found that two-thirds are interested in starting their own businesses. Black women-owned businesses are the fastest growing sector in the U.S. economy, according to Fortune magazine.

To prepare students, Spelman College has expanded its Spelpreneur program, a 4-year-old initiative that fosters entrepreneurship and innovation by exposing students to real-world problem solving, design thinking, and guided, hands-on teamwork.

“The world has changed. Millennials are not looking to settle into one job,” said Erika Preval, C’98, founder of Charm Etiquette and the initial funder for Spelpreneur. “They have ideas on how to solve problems in their communities and want to fill those gaps.”

blue-quote-leftEntrepreneurship and tech startups are all the rage for several different reasons, and so educational institutions have to prepare their students for the future," said Joey Womack, CEO of Amplify4Good, an Atlanta-based agency that produces hackathons and innovative programs to help organizations create social impact. Womack, served as producer and coach for Spelman’s startup competition, is correct. A 2014 Bentley University survey of millennials from ages 18 to 34 found that two-thirds are interested in starting their own businesses.

10 Day Start-up Winners
“Millennials want to innovate. Part of what’s fueling the increased interest is the availability of technology, such as 3D printers and laser cutters, which make the means of manufacturing accessible to everyone,” said Jerry Volcy, Ph.D., Innovation Lab director and Brown-Simmons Professor of Computer and Information Sciences at Spelman. “Then how do you bring the cool thing you made to the masses? Spelpreneur provides that for our students. It’s a fantastic program that complements what we do in the Innovation Lab.”

Spelpreneur is a program sponsored by Spelman’s Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement or LEADS.
blue-quote-leftIt is important that we have an entrepreneurship and innovation program,” said Jane Smith, Ed.D., C’68, vice president of College Relations and executive director for LEADS. “One of the goals of the College’s strategic plan is to elevate the Spelman difference, and what we mean by that is the culture and strategies that we use to educate our students to be leaders in the world. This program elevates and takes the primary instruction at this college to a new place.”

The 2017-2018 program kicked off last fall with an eight-week education series that introduced students to entrepreneurial fundamentals and the importance of innovation.
Two student entrepreneurs were among the education series presenters – psychology major Kristen Bray, C’2018, a freelance artist; and economics major Patrisha Hedgemond, C’2018, founder of Cultural Cosmetics Inc.

The Speaker Series, held Jan. 30-Feb. 13, presented three inspiring entrepreneurs, from a tech start-up and hair pioneer to a social “do-gooder,” who talked to students about their entrepreneurial journeys.

New this year to the Spelpreneur program was the empowerment series, featuring the 10-Day Startup Competition and Pitch Night.

“I was very much impressed by the presentations,” said Preval, who served as a judge on Pitch Night. “For the students, it really wasn’t about the stipends, but gaining experience in how to pitch ideas and their belief in their product.”

InHous celebrating their winEconomics major Alyssa Daniel, C’2019, and her InHous teammates plan to put their stipends into building their business. “I feel like one of the greatest things I gained from the Spelpreneur experience was understanding how businesses operate from the beginning to end and understanding the market and what it takes to truly run a business and establish it,” she said. “We are very excited about the possibilities [for our project]. We definitely see a future for it.”

Daniel will be part of fastest growing sector in the U.S. economy — Black women-owned businesses, according to Fortune magazine. As Spelpreneur continues to thrive, program leaders expect even more participants. Participation has increased from 20 students the first year to 120 this year.

As Spelpreneur continues to grow, program leaders expect even more participants. Participation has increased from 20 students the first year to 120 this year.
blue-quote-leftBecause of the different components, we are now able to reach more students,” said Spelpreneur lead consultant Sonya C. Rush. “For students to volunteer to commit 10 days to this competition shows that there’s definitely an interest in entrepreneurship and innovation, and it shows that we are satisfying a need on Spelman’s campus.”
Womack said the Pitch Night projects and presentations exceeded expectation

“These amazing Spelman College students have that ‘it’ factor,” he said. “They have what it takes to go from nothing to something in very strenuous, stressful, arduous circumstances and make things happen. They have absolutely shown me what it takes to become a top-tier entrepreneur.”