New program helps WKU students launch business ideas

Cameron Koch

Students who believe they have great business ideas, but lack the guidance and funding to get them off the ground may be in luck with the launch of WKU’s Student Business Accelerator (WKUSA).

The WKUSA, located in the Center for Research and Development with the Business Accelerator, provides business mentors to further develop student ideas. Additionally, WKUSA provides office space and, in special cases, funding from the WKU Research Foundation.

Students interested in accepting guidance and help from the WKUSA can contact Doug Rohrer, Jeff Hook, Wil Clouse or Krist Schell. However, those who are seeking funding from WKU must speak to a mentor before the Friday deadline and come prepared with a business presentation on Nov. 28.

Gordon Baylis, vice president of Research, said he wants to make it clear that students need to be prepared for their presentations.

“Some people who really know business are going to be asking tough questions of students at those meetings,” Baylis said.

Hook, director of the Center for Research and Development, is one of those business mentors and said the purpose of the mentors isn’t to rip to shreds student business ideas.

“We’re not going to shoot holes through it,” Hook said. “If we see obvious concerns with their business model, we’re going to educate them on those issues. Our job is not to say good idea or bad idea.”

WKUSA mentors will help in preparing students for their presentations, but in order to receive funding, the business idea and plan must be top notch, Baylis said.

There is a catch, however. If WKU invests in the student business, WKU essentially owns 30 percent of it. Businesses that only use the office space within the Business Accelerator and mentoring services will be required to pay rent. Students can stay within the program for two years, and after graduation can become a regular tenant at the Research and Development Center.

WKU graduates Adam McDonald and Antonio Bruna, who recently reached out to the Business Accelerator for help and are currently working on a business endeavor that carried over from their college days, wish they would have had the opportunity to receive the guidance and aid the WKUSA now provides.

“There would have been nothing more Antonio and I would have enjoyed,” McDonald said, “than to do that on the side while we were in school and have the support of the school trying to start a business.”

Hook said five to 10 students have already applied — a success for the just-launched program.

“We’re all about supporting students in their business creation efforts,” Hook said. “There is a lot of interest, clearly there are students out there that are looking for support in starting their business and that’s what we want to provide.”