by Ryan Thorne
Boise State student HannaLore Hein was pretty excited about her new scholastic challenge, taking part in the inaugural class of the university's Venture College Program
“It’s a non-credit program that they were opening up to students from all disciplines,” Hein told Boise Weekly at Thursday afternoon's Venture College launch, which took place at Boise State's new downtown digs at Front Street and Capitol Boulevard.
Hein told BW that she graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in history, but applied to Boise State's Venture College to help pursue her dream of integrating history into local tourism, business brand recognition and community engagement.
“Being a history major, I kind of jumped on it because I didn’t want to go back and get a second degree in business just to have those skills,” Hein said.
The Venture College pairs 14 graduate and postgraduate students currently engaged in individual entrepreneur efforts, with nearly 200 seasoned business mentors throughout the larger Boise community.
One of the mentors, Scott Fischer, from Boise State's Idaho Small Business Development Center, said he's excited about the prospect of community-driven entrepreneurship.
“I want to support the growing, sort of burgeoning market here of people who are creating a new business,” Fischer said. “So I will be volunteering as much as I can here.”
The program evolved from a Boise State Division of Research-funded effort promoting Boise State faculty private enterprise, to a student-focused mentor program in which enrollees can develop individual business ventures.
“One day, a little light bulb went off and said, ‘You know, shouldn’t we also help students that want to start businesses?’” said Venture College Director Kevin Learned.
Applicants to the program were required to submit a 1,000-word essay, credentials and existing or potential project ideas in order to be selected for an interview with Boise State officials and a community business professional.
Program directors aimed to select applicants passionate about their ideas and intended to pick a first-year lineup with plenty of contrast.
“The numbers are really diverse: eight women, six men, graduate, undergraduate and every grade level is represented except freshman, I believe,” Hein said. Though, according to the Venture College's application requirements, all full-time, degree-seeking students are eligible to enroll.
Members must commit at least 10 hours of office time to Boise State’s downtown space, and maintain a standard GPA and full-time enrollment in the university in order to remain eligible for the 12-month program.
Hein and other program participants also compete for nearly $30,000 in project funding provided by the university, which will be doled out according to necessity and progress made. After that cash runs out, students must use their mentor resources to reach out and obtain funding themselves.
“I have summer homework where I am looking to write some small business grants,” Hein said. “There is a small amount of funding, and over the year the people in charge are going to be looking for additional funding from community members.”