The NEO Center Helps Student Startups Launch
A joint effort between Spartan Innovations and The Center for New Enterprise Opportunity (NEO Center), 5 teams are currently participating in The NEO Center’s Entrepreneur Education Program. A new endeavor taught by Tom Stewart of the NEO Center, the program sets out to prepare student entrepreneurs for life and business outside of Michigan State University.
The pilot program, taught over the course of 8 months has four, overarching, entrepreneurial elements; Knowledge, Practice, Process, and Execution. Within each element, different steps are taken.
Knowledge covers an assessment based on Nine Organizational Competencies;
- Strategy and planning
- Accounting and finance
- Human resources
- Business law
- Operations management and logistics
- Branding and identify management
- Strategic communications
- Product and customer development
- Organizational leadership
These competencies apply to any sort of business no matter what is being made or provided. During this phase, the areas where a business needs the most help will be identified.
The Practice phase offers resources, contacts and tools to help each business in the areas they are struggling with. They are given exercises that allow them to practice within a particular competency.
The Process element contains six core questions that get to the heart of the business’s customers, product, and development.
- Who are your customers?
- What can you do for your customers?
- How does your customer acquire your product?
- How does your company make money from your
- How do you design and build your product?
- How do you scale your business?
These questions break down into a 24-step process that takes the businesses through various stages such as customer acquisition, scaling, product definition and more.
To measure their progress, the NEO Center meets with each entrepreneur every two weeks for an hour and a half.
In the Execution stage, The NEO Center uses widely accepted strategic benchmarks to track the progress of the business. Some of those benchmarks include, whether the company has a Minimum Viable Product, a Business Model, a Revenue Model, a formal investor pitch and more.
The teams chosen to participate in the pilot program are; Carbon Cash, Folyo, Lykeme, TechTwurl and York Apparel. The teams chosen are typically juniors, seniors, or recent grads from MSU with businesses that are fairly far long and that have explored their market but may need help with organization.
The program is meant to prepare these student companies to stand alone and create revenue by the time they graduate from college. “We want to keep this talent in Michigan,” says Tom Stewart. “We want them prepared to run their business so they don’t have to leave the state just to make money.”
The pilot program will run for about 8 weeks and if it hits all it’s benchmarks and goals, they will add more teams and continue. After the pilot, the typical length of the program will be anywhere from 18 to 36 months.