Entrepreneurship blooms at UVM


Ben Elfland, Senior Staff Writer

Entrepreneurs are popping up all over campus. In dorms and downtown, Burlington businesspeople want to do it themselves.

A survey on the UVM website found that about 10 percent of respondents, or 156 undergraduates, said they operate their own small businesses.

This information is consistent with findings from a Kauffman Foundation study, said Dan Harvey, assistant dean of the graduate college.

The Kauffman Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to helping entrepreneurs start their companies.

The study found that Vermont leads in creating startup companies, but lags in its ability to grow and sustain the companies. In Burlington, this may be the result of the fluctuating population, Harvey said.

BTV Ignite is a nonprofit that aims to jumpstart Burlington’s tech industry by bringing educators, entrepreneurs, government and other institutions together, according to a company press release.

It collaborates with a nationwide network of efforts called U.S. Ignite.

The nonprofit’s new growth acceleration program is an effort to aid the growth and longevity of Vermont businesses, according to the press release.

The program is a new take on what entrepreneurs call an accelerator: a tool that provides advising, training and workspaces for new businesses.

BTV Ignite will provide these services for free. In exchange, companies will be asked to commit to building their businesses in Vermont, according to the press release.

Gov. Phil Scott has long shown concern with the state’s ability to retain residents, build industry and expand Vermont’s workforce, he said.

In addition to the entrepreneurship clubs at UVM, students have the Catamount Innovation Fund, an accelerator for student startups that provides them with expertise and potential funding.

Senior Frankie Lyon is the co-founder of Design for America, a UVM club that takes an entrepreneurial approach to redesigning everyday objects. He is currently working on acquiring two patents for potential businesses, Lyon said.

Vermont’s most valuable resource is the information, funding and expertise available in the community, he said.

The results of the survey are promising for UVM and Burlington, said senior Evan Greenwald, president of the UVM entrepreneurship club, one of the eight startup related clubs on campus.

“[The buzz around entrepreneurship] is really something that’s going to be beneficial for students, as well as the local community,” Greenwald said. “There’s really value for the University in promoting student business.”

Accelerators and other similar programs are an invaluable resource for young entrepreneurs who may be untrained with more technical skills, like hiring a staff, Greenwald said.