More than a decade ago, a seed was planted to create a center at Portland State that would support innovation and entrepreneurship across campus. Fast forward and the Center for Entrepreneurship has grown into a thriving hub for aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into action.
The center, which launched in 2012 as a way to bring PSU’s fragmented entrepreneurial programs, people and resources under one umbrella, is celebrating 10 years of impact and collaboration. One of its signature programs, the PSU Cleantech Challenge, will have its finals on Friday, April 15, with the top two teams advancing to the statewide InventOR competition.
“The spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship — the desire to have solutions to community and environmental problems — is equally spread across zip codes in Oregon,” said Juan Barraza, the center’s director of student innovation. “That hunger to help others is there; the opportunity is not. With the center, we’ve been able to eliminate some of those barriers and make it more accessible to students of all walks of life to explore what it’s like to be an inventor, innovator and entrepreneur.”
Barraza says there’s two sides of entrepreneurship — mindset shift and venture creation — and the center has been able to nurture students on both sides of the spectrum. For some, particularly students who are the first in their families to go to college and have never thought about launching a startup, the center helps them cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset so that when they’re ready in five or 10 years, they have a framework and network of support to fall back on. For others, they come to the center with the goal of creating a product or company.
Melissa Appleyard, associate dean of The School of Business’ graduate programs and a founding member of the center, said the Center for Entrepreneurship has accomplished what it set out to do: build community and foster entrepreneurial thinking around the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.
“It really empowers people with these skills and mindset to experience self-determination in their careers, whether that’s at work to effect change within an established organization or to found their own startup,” she said. “It also helps them think hard and understand the needs of the population they’re serving and with that comes empathy.”
You can get involved with the Center for Entrepreneurship through a number of programs:
- PSU Cleantech Challenge, an annual competition inviting teams of students to develop new products, processes, approaches and systems that help move society towards environmental stewardship and sustainability;
- Kickstart Weekend, an intensive two-day intro to design, research, industry and consumer trends, prototyping and UX with a special focus on consumer goods;
- PSU E-Club, a student-led organization focused on experiential learning in entrepreneurship and innovation; and
- The Cube, a student incubator program that is designed to prepare companies for launch and go-to-market by the end of four months
Business students who take the Pioneering Innovation course (Mktg 513), Essentials of Entrepreneurship (BA 436U) or the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship graduate certificate are also often connected with Barraza and the center if they want to take their ideas to the next level.
“So much of what we try to do is inspired by our PSU students who are just so entrepreneurial by nature,” Appleyard said. “We’re putting more structure around it so they can feel that they’re in community. We want to continue to support all of the entrepreneurial work that’s being done on campus in collaboration with The Center for Entrepreneurship.”