Burlington business incubator teaches student entrepreneurs at Middlebury College

The Middlebury Entrepreneurs class came to Burton to meet snowboard company leaders and team members. Photo courtesy of Middlebury Innovation Hub

Thirteen Middlebury College students are spending their January term learning about entrepreneurship from the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, a Burlington business incubator.

To qualify, each student must have their own business to promote. About a third of the students in this year’s class have already graduated, according to VCET president David Bradbury.

Bradbury and vice president Sam Roach-Gerber teach the course, which is in its ninth year.

One of the students, James Heath, founded a website called Dormplex that allows students to offer goods and services to others on their campus. Heath, a sophomore, said Tuesday that he and his colleagues plan to launch a beta version of the website this week at Claremont Colleges in California before launching it at Middlebury in February. (One of his colleagues attended Pitzer College, one of the seven Claremont Colleges.)

Heath said he hopes the class will teach him some of the fundamentals of building a company.

Also Read :  7 Financial Steps to Take at the End of the Year

As part of the course, students go on field trips and work on their business plans. They are taught sales, accounting, pricing and how to raise capital, Bradbury said. The course includes guest appearances from venture capitalists and other entrepreneurs.

Ultimately, students decide whether to pursue their business while in college, and about a third of them continue to do so, according to Bradbury.

One concept he and Roach-Gerber teach students, Bradbury said, is to discover their customers.

“And that means going out and talking to people who aren’t your roommate or your mom or your teammate,” he said. They need to prove that their idea is an opportunity – something that they can make money over and over again, and that they can scale so they can support a team.

Bradbury said VCET helps start-up companies at as many as six colleges in the state, but he sees Middlebury as the best entrepreneurial campus in Vermont.

Also Read :  Shen Yun ‘The Perfect Way to Celebrate Christmas’: Atlanta Business Owner

“They have been focusing on student creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship for over a decade now,” he said. “It’s an unexpected area of ​​entrepreneurial energy.”

Each year the students attend a dinner with the founders of the business at the home of Elizabeth and James Robinson in Weybridge. Photo courtesy of Middlebury Innovation Hub

Heath, who is from Detroit, agrees. “I think it’s probably one of the best places in the country,” he said.

Middlebury launched its first entrepreneurship program about 15 years ago, said Heather Neuwirth Lovejoy, director of Middlebury’s Innovation Hub. He said the college provides student entrepreneurs with courses, mentorship, funding and space.

“This is a wonderful vehicle to show students how much Vermont has to offer,” he said of the course in January.

One of the better-known entrepreneurs to come out of Middlebury is Corinne Prevot, who founded Skida, the Burlington ski hat company. He grew the company while at Middlebury, though Bradbury says he never took his course.

Also Read :  Elizabeth Holmes and Sam Bankman-Fried: How wonderkids go wild

Senior Sophie Hiland, whose business Over Easy makes faux-fur hoods, is using the space Middlebury made available at its Old Stone Mill to run her company. He took the entrepreneurship course in January last year.

“Getting together with other students and teachers to actually talk about challenges and commiserate is invaluable,” she said.

Hiland, who grew up in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago, said it’s unlikely he’ll stay in Vermont to run his company after graduation. She plans to move to New York and focus on getting a job in elementary education. But he said he plans to continue running Over Easy on the side.

VCET President David Bradbury taught a January course on entrepreneurship at Middlebury College. Photo courtesy of Middlebury Innovation Hub

Want to stay on top of the latest business news? Sign up here to get a weekly email of all VTDigger reporting on local companies and economic trends. And check out our new Business section here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Articles

Back to top button