WKU Student Business Accelerator encourages entrepreneurship

Brittiny Moore

The WKU Student Business Accelerator helps make dreams come true for some students.

Housed in the WKU Center for Research and Development, the Student Business Accelerator has aided students in the growth and development of original business models since its opening almost four years ago.

“The mission of the Student Business Accelerator is to foster and support entrepreneurship,” Jeff Hook, the director for the Student Business Accelerator and Center for Research and Development, said.

The program provides students with a space to grow and develop business ideas. Students can work with mentors who provide business consulting at no cost.

“Western initiated the program as an extension of the Small Business Accelerator,” Hook said. “We provide space and mentors and put [the students] in a real world experience.”

The program also helps students find funding for their businesses.

“We treat the students like any other business that we work with,” Hook said. “We help them seek out funding resources whether it be (sic) borrowing money from a bank, seeking out a private equity, or something else.”

All students are welcome to join the program regardless of their major and must be sincere and motivated to start a business. “Our job is to understand where students are at with their [business], help plot a path for a successful business, identify potential pitfalls and the requirements to move forward and to seek out leverageable resources,” Hook said.

Some of the students who have graduated from the program now run their own businesses.

Program graduates Joel Nivens and Blake Blackburn created Hangout Creative Group LLC, “a digital marketing company that strives to help small business owners utilize web and smartphone-based marketing services,” according to the company’s website.

Nivens, a 2011 WKU graduate, said the company got its start in June 2012.

“We grew fast at the end of 2013, and I left my marketing job at Bowling Green Athletic Club in February of 2014,” Nivens said. “That is when we really hit the ground running.”

Due to the company’s successful startup and a soar in profits, the company moved to its own space in downtown Bowling Green.

“Business is very well (sic),” Nivens said. “We moved into an office on the Square downtown last November when we brought Cody [Turner] on as a third partner. Since then we have started another LLC and are growing at a consistent pace.”

According to the Student Business Accelerator website, small businesses are the fastest growing segment in American commerce and create 98 percent of all new jobs. However, over 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first year, and 80 percent fail within five years.

“The goal of the [Student Business Accelerator] is to improve the success rate by bringing mentors and business development,” Hook said.

Nivens also credits the company’s support from the Student Business Accelerator for its success.

“The WKU Student Business Accelerator was an integral part of our startup,”  Nivens said. “We had office space there for over the first year of business. The knowledge Jeff Hook provided in actually starting the business, advice in certain situations, was outstanding. Without the WKU Student Business Accelerator, I don’t believe we would be where we are today.”