Entrepreneurship Program Offers Opportunities For Students

Grace James
News Editor

Cover photo taken by Sean Newhouse 

From pitch competitions to one of the largest student-run businesses in the world, the entrepreneurship program at UD is hard at work training the next generation of innovators.

Students apply to the program in the second semester of their first year, and the structure of the major combines academic and experiential learning.

“Education is more than books,” said Vince Lewis, entrepreneur-in-residence and director of the Crotty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. “Students need to fully immerse themselves in the field to understand how it works.”

A popular event in the entrepreneurship program is the Flyer Pitch competition, which is open to all current Flyers and alumni. The winner of the competition receives assistance and mentorship on building his or her business.

The 2019 winner of Flyer pitch was Dani Ruffalo, who won for her Handy Hats design, a baseball cap that also acts as a cell phone holder. Other ideas that students have pitched include a hydrophobic t-shirt and a lanyard that could be used to charge cell phones.

“The ideas always really vary across the board,” Lewis said.

The first round of the 2020 Flyer Pitch competition was Oct. 19 at the Dayton Metro Library downtown. Competitors gave 60-second pitches for investors, and the field was narrowed down to 10 candidates. The first-place winner was awarded $1,500.

For round two in November, competitors will give five-minute presentations for a new panel of judges. The first five winners will receive prizes ranging from $500-$2,500.

During the third round in April, the remaining candidates will be assigned entrepreneurs-in-residence from The Entrepreneurs Center to act as mentors. They will give 20-minute presentations to show that their ideas have traction. The first prizewinner will receive $25,000, and the runner up will receive $15,000. Third place will win $10,000, fourth place will receive $5,000 and the candidate in fifth place will win $2,500.

The entrepreneurship program at UD and The Entrepreneurs Center will continue to work together as partners for the development of the Arcade. It will be the largest university-anchored innovation hub in the U.S., Lewis said.

Courtesy of Grace James

Lewis foresees between 200-300 students commuting to the Arcade for classes in entrepreneurship, engineering and arts. In addition to classroom space, the Arcade will offer 57,000 square feet of co-share space and 18,000 square feet of sub-leasable office space for startups.

Fostering a sense of community among entrepreneurs is one of the six components for startups, Lewis said. The other five include collaborative spaces, funding, education, events and mentoring.

In a class titled Management 220, students get their first opportunity to pitch ideas for companies. After everyone pitches, 11 ideas are chosen and receive a $5,000 loan from the university to create a “micro-business.”

For their senior year, students participate in a capstone, where they work with mentors on client projects for local startups. In the past, the companies have ranged from a gluten-free bakery to a hair care business.

Outside of the classroom, there are several organizations that entrepreneurship students can participate in. Flyer Enterprises is a student-run business that operates 10 facilities on campus. It employs 200 students and manages $1.2 million in revenue.

Flyer Angels is open for entrepreneurship students only and manages a $1 million angel investment fund. Angel investors are affluent individuals who provide funds to business startups. Students learn to put together reports and decide which companies to invest in.

Students can also get involved in Flyer Consulting, a program that works pro-bono to assist nonprofit organizations in areas such as technology or donor development. A component of Flyer Consulting is Flyer Development, which deals with microloan credit analysis.

Whether it’s in the classroom or in the office with real-world clients, the entrepreneurship majors are using creativity and innovation to shape the next generation of businesses in Dayton and beyond.