Rossana Weitekamp, 516-792-1462, email@example.com
Barbara Pruitt, 816-932-1288; firstname.lastname@example.org, Kauffman Foundation
'The Launch Pad' provides hands-on guidance to all students on an entrepreneurial career path
(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) Oct. 1, 2009 – The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation announced today that it has awarded a grant to the University of Miami to help sustain and grow The Launch Pad, a unique career center program that helps students explore and launch new firms while they are still in school, before they have other commitments such as mortgages and full-time jobs.
The Launch Pad is the first college entrepreneurship program in the country that is offered as part of the university's career center. As such, it is not tied to any particular academic program or department, and requires no prerequisites or coursework – which makes it extremely accessible to students from any discipline. By providing practical "just in time" skills training and mentoring, The Launch Pad is proving to be a magnet for students who want to pursue a "career" as an entrepreneur.
"We have long known that college students are interested in entrepreneurship, but the University of Miami is the first to make resources available to its entire student body through its career center. It's a real breakthrough that holds promise for every campus in the country," said Bo Fishback, vice president of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. "Shrinking job opportunities and a rising unemployment rate have likely made the concept of entrepreneurship as a career path even more appealing, but The Launch Pad gives students and alumni concrete tools and guidance to make it a reality."
Since its inception in September 2008, more than 750 students and alumni have signed up on the site, and more than 300 ventures have received consulting from the entrepreneurs, inventors, business professionals and students who help participants in every stage of their entrepreneurial journey. Of the ventures that have gone through the program, approximately 35 have been existing companies, and 20 new companies have been launched. In addition to maintaining and growing The Launch Pad, the Kauffman Foundation grant funds the development of a plan for how other universities can start career center entrepreneurship programs as well.
"Our goal is to make entrepreneurship a viable alternative for every discipline and major. Nearly 80 percent of the budding entrepreneurs in The Launch Pad have come from outside the business school," said William Green, senior vice provost and dean for Undergraduate Education at the University of Miami. "The Launch Pad also is successful because of the strong civic involvement component."
Eight community partners provide resources to The Launch Pad participants: Enterprise Florida, the Beacon Council (the economic development council for South Florida), the Florida Venture Forum, area Chambers of Commerce, Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). Additionally, The Launch Pad works with several women's groups and technology-focused organizations for programming and outreach.
About The Launch Pad
The Launch Pad is the entrepreneurship resource component of the Toppel Career Center at the University of Miami. The Launch Pad presents entrepreneurship as a legitimate career path for students and helps both students and alumni create new enterprises, with a particular focus on the University's home in South Florida. The Launch Pad's regular and ongoing programming provides advice and guidance; connects ideas, people and resources; and builds relationships within the local business community. The Launch Pad was the top-ranked U.S. Global Entrepreneurship Week partner in 2008. For more information, visit www.thelaunchpad.org.