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PC Poised to Host Entrepreneurship-Based ‘Startup Weekend’

Providence, R.I.--Providence College and its School of Business will host students from five Rhode Island colleges beginning October 21 for “Startup Weekend,” a 54-hour marathon of entrepreneurial brainstorming in which participants compete to create new business plans and present them to judges.

Startup Weekends are held around the world, but this weekend’s will be a first for PC and only the second for Rhode Island, said Dr. Matthew Eriksen, professor of management and department chair, who is organizing and facilitating the event.

Students from Brown University, Bryant University, Johnson & Wales University, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the University of Rhode Island will join PC students in the competition. Faculty from those colleges will serve as mentors and judges.

“We’re trying to appeal to all students to attend, not just business students,” said Shamus M. Noonan ’13 (Shrewsbury, Mass.), an organizer of the event. “I know a weekend commitment is a lot to ask. But everyone is going to work for a business at some point in their lives. It’s all about knowing about how a business works and how to develop a plan for it.”

Noonan is organizing Startup Weekend with Collin D. Kennedy ’12 (Stratford, Conn.) and Michael S. English ’12 (River Forest, Ill.). The event runs from October 21-23.

Kennedy, who is president of the Future Friars Executives business club at PC, said he is hoping it will be an opportunity to network with business students from other schools.

“I really want our students to bond with others, and network, and work on a common goal together,” said Kennedy.

Contributions from the participating colleges and fees paid by the individual students will cover the cost of food and transportation.

A bus will travel to each college to collect the students, who will arrive at their weekend home, ’64 Hall in the Slavin Center, at 6:30 p.m. Friday for registration. Following dinner, they will take turns standing at a microphone and pitching their ideas for a new business product or service, hoping to entice others to join their teams.

Once teams are formed, the goal will be to develop a business plan that includes objectives, strategies, marketing, and a financial forecast. Mentors will be available to students throughout the weekend, including representatives from Betaspring, a Providence-based incubator for entrepreneurial projects.

Students will also have the opportunity to learn from speakers. At dinner on Friday night, they will hear from Edward M. “Ted” McNamara ’86, founder and executive vice president of “Rue La La,” a Web-based retail boutique business. Ken G. Smith, a URI professor of entrepreneurial management who has written extensively about marketing, will speak at lunch on Saturday.

The winning team, to be announced after judging on Sunday night, will receive a free “Office Hours” counseling session with experts from the Rhode Island Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RI-CIE).

Key opportunity for PCSB

Eriksen said the College is hoping to build upon the first Startup Weekend, which was hosted last year at Bryant. The idea was developed by the Rhode Island Entrepreneurial Faculty, working with Brendan McNally, RI-CIE executive director, Eriksen said.

Eriksen added that hosting Startup Weekend is a significant initiative for the School of Business, which was established in 2007 and is in the process of seeking accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International.

PC has “never reached out in this way as a business school,” he said. “We’ve never brought other students to our campus. This is a chance to establish ourselves, to get our name out there, and to bring the spirit of entrepreneurship here. It’s an opportunity for our students to become entrepreneurs.”

In addition, through the RI-CIE, professors are hoping to foster opportunities for entrepreneurship to boost the Rhode Island economy, Eriksen said.

Entrepreneurship crosses academic disciplines, Eriksen said. For example, Brown is sending engineering students to Startup Weekend, and RISD is providing design students.

“Writers can start businesses,” said Eriksen. “The possibilities are endless.”

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