Business

Find CEOs in the basement: How CSU, StartUp Columbus is empowering young entrepreneurs

Meet the inventor of the Fanbrella

Loren "Luke" O'Connor describes his invention, the fanbrella, to onlookers on July 23, 2016 at Troy University's riverfront campus. O'Connor was among those on hand as RiverCity Foundry announced the launch of their 2016 StartUp Accelerator.
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Loren "Luke" O'Connor describes his invention, the fanbrella, to onlookers on July 23, 2016 at Troy University's riverfront campus. O'Connor was among those on hand as RiverCity Foundry announced the launch of their 2016 StartUp Accelerator.

Can CEOs be born in a basement?

Groups in the Columbus-Phenix City area that are dedicated to help small businesses thrive are banking on it. And so is Columbus State University, as the school announced this week it will be adding a new entrepreneurship and small business minor to its roster.

The minor will be available July 1 and is an option for all students, regardless of major.

Dr. Kirk Heriot, the Ray and Evelyn Crowley Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship in the Turner College of Business at CSU, said the minor will prepare students to contribute to, or create, start-ups in the community.

“Students that complete the minor will be familiar with business models, evaluating opportunities to start a new business, identifying customer needs, developing processes and writing a comprehensive business plan, to name a few things,” Heriot said. “The students will also complete a project for a small business as part of an outreach program we have had at CSU since 2006.”

CSU’s entrepreneurship concentration was approved about three years ago, Heriot said.

The new minor will address this gap in preparation that many people might experience before starting a new company by allowing CSU’s business students, as well as students with other majors, the opportunity to explore the world of entrepreneurship while earning academic credit for it, Heriot said.

“The curriculum for our ‘non-business’ students was tailored to their unique needs,” he said. “It introduces students to entrepreneurship in a very hands-on manner.”

StartUp Columbus is growing

Similarly, a service in uptown that helps turn ideas into successful businesses is also about to start a program to train blooming entrepreneurs.

Business incubator StartUP Columbus is set to start work with CO.STARTERS, a program designed to help entrepreneurs and communities thrive economically, later this month. StartUP Columbus’ first cohort for the nine-week program will be selected April 19.

The course will start April 30.

StartUP Columbus is part of an effort by the community to boost the number of homegrown businesses in the Columbus-Phenix City area, and is one of the strategic actions from Columbus 2025, a local initiative spearheaded by the Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce to increase prosperity and reduce poverty via economic development.

The incubator seeks out economic development grants for funding and is supported by CSU in the form of office space in uptown.

Ben MacMinn, who was appointed program manager in January, said CO.STARTERS participants will fine-tune their ideas with the ultimate goal of creating a business plan and, when ready, launch their own business.

“The object of the program is to create a foundation. We want business ownership to be a possibility for everyone in Columbus,” MacMinn said.

MacMinn said there is no formula, and participants may decide to start their business at any time during the program.

StartUP will offer help along the way through offering work space, mentors and assistance with finding financing.

StartUP moving to larger space

The incubator is planning a move after opening in the CSU-owned Rankin Building last summer.

Its home will still be within CSU: StartUP is set to move to the basement of Frank Brown Hall, the former Ledger-Enquirer building, at the corner of 12th Street and Front Avenue.

There, entrepreneurs will have access to 3,800 square feet of work space that can be rented at no to low cost, MacMinn said.

There will be four offices for businesses with a staff of up to four, three or four offices for businesses with a staff of up to two, and cubicle-type areas for a one-person business. There will also be open seating available, as well as a conference room and a lounge.

“It will be a hub and event center as well as a place where entrepreneurs can collaborate with one another,” MacMinn said.

The space will also house the incubator’s various workshops and programs.

MacMinn said renovation plans have to be approved by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division since the building dates back to the 1800s.

The plans have been submitted, and he hopes to hear back within the next 30 days, he said.

MacMinn said StartUP Columbus will continue that vital partnership with CSU.

“We want to involve the students and show them how they can serve our entrepreneurs and how they can become future entrepreneurs,” MacMinn said.

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