Posted: November 29, 2017 at 7:06 pm

By Amy Pratt, Rayla Claypool and Mariah Congedo

Alex Fisher was the manager of a restaurant while in high school and knew that he wanted to create his own business, possibly a food truck, while in college.

“Coming from my past managerial experience, I thought if I started a business it would fill the blank space I had when I started college,” said Fisher, president of the West Virginia chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneur Organization.

For some students at WVU, classes and student clubs are not enough. Like Fisher, those students feel compelled to start businesses while still in school.

Some are doing it to get ahead of the game on their resume, some are expanding a hobby into a money-maker and some are turning their passion for the community into something tangible.

Federico Perez-Munoz is a sophomore accounting and finance student at WVU. He created Mount, a party hosting service, for college students. Perez-Munoz said he wanted to create a way for students to host safe parties while providing party equipment.

WVU offers resources and connections for students looking to become entrepreneurs before graduation. The WVU Launch Lab is one place budding entrepreneurs can go to receive help on their ideas.

Students from any major or background on campus can schedule an appointment at the Launch Lab, where they will be able to talk to a faculty member who has experience in the area of their interest. Their project could be anything from a prototype for an engineering invention to a business plan.

“At Launch Lab we have staff members who specialize in different areas, business, videography, graphic design, web design, coding,” said Director Carrie White. “We have our Maker Lab next door where we do our physical tangible prototypes with the engineering students.”

After the initial brainstorming appointment, Launch Lab will help students get materials to make a prototype or the connections necessary to start their business. Launch Lab has 3-D printers available for student use and basic building materials such as wood and pvc pipes.

“Most of the time we can purchase the materials for the student… They will make a list of materials they need to make a working prototype,” said White. “Generally we’ll order the materials, but sometimes it’s the students going to Home Depot to get the parts. If it’s a really expensive piece, which generally it isn’t, we’ll ask the student to pitch in for the funding for it.”

The Launch Lab will also help students with patent searching to make sure their ideas do not infringe on anyone else’s. Once a prototype is created, students receive help from the WVU College of Law Intellectual Law and Property clinic with filing provisional patents, which are good for one year.

The  Collegiate Entrepreneur Organization is another place where members can go to meet other student entrepreneurs and share ideas with each other.

“The organization is a coalition for entrepreneurs,” said Fisher, president of the club. “We all see ourselves as the driving force of whatever we end up doing.”

All members of the club enter into business plan competitions to gain experience with pitches and creating a business model.

The CEO club also helps connect students to the resources they need to create their businesses.

Having a business or invention on their resume can help students find employment after graduation, which is why organization like Launch Lab and the CEO club are so important to entrepreneurship students.

“Employers are really looking for innovative problem solvers. That’s really what we’re trying to create here: students who know how to innovate and how to problem-solve,” said White. “They can walk into any place and get a job or create their own job if that’s what they want to do.”

 

Matthew Byrd is a senior wildlife and fisheries student at WVU. In his senior year of his high school, he took a beekeeping class through WVU Extension. He kept beekeeping as a hobby and has since turned it into a business by selling honey throughout West Virginia.

Photos courtesy of Matthew Byrd.

 

Roark Sizemore is a sophomore political science student at WVU. For his senior high school project, he created Pantry Plus More, which is a food pantry that collects food and hygiene products to put in pantries in public schools in Monongalia County. Sizemore wanted to provide a way for school children to get food while at school because it is a place where children are required to be, which gives them easy access to the pantry.

Photos courtesy of Roark Sizemore.

 

Federico Perez-Munoz is a sophomore accounting and finance student at WVU. He created Mount, a party hosting service, for college students. Perez-Munoz said he wanted to create a way for students to host safe parties, while providing party equipment.

Photos courtesy of Federico Perez-Munoz.