Lehigh Valley Programs Offer Space for Aspiring Entrepreneurs to Create
By Colin McEvoy on July 2, 2015
The Lehigh Valley has always had a wide range of resources for young entrepreneurs and startup companies. From business incubators like Ben Franklin TechVentures or the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, to Lehigh University programs like the Baker Institute or the master’s-level technical entrepreneurship course, the region offers many ways to help turn a creative idea into a full-fledged business.
This summer, two separate programs with connections to Lehigh University are offering space for aspiring entrepreneurs to work, think, meet, collaborate, and have access to resources, opportunities and economic development mentors, providing launchpads for ideas that could become future businesses here in the Lehigh Valley.
They include Hatch House, a live-work community for young or early stage entrepreneurs based in a historic home on Bethlehem’s South Side, and the LaunchBayC Student Accelerator, a full-time summer program giving students 10 weeks to develop their products and ventures in an open-ended format.
Located just a few blocks from the Lehigh campus, the Hatch House provides five students or recent graduate entrepreneurs with space to live and launch businesses. Its mission is to enable the best and brightest student entrepreneurs to create new opportunities for themselves and others, create local and nationwide networks, and entice companies to launch at a local level.
Although not affiliated with Lehigh University, it was launched by Steve Boerner, a 2015 graduate of Lehigh’s Technical Entrepreneurship program. The Hatch House space is designed to cultivate collaboration and creative thinking, and includes an on-site garage “makerspace” and access to regular networking events, guest speakers, mentors, demonstration days, investor pitches and to angel investors.
“My passion for entrepreneurship, both running companies and teaching entrepreneurship, matches the mission of Hatch House,” Boerner said. “Our organization strives to serve the needs of early seed-stage companies. Many of these business owners are recent graduates of our local universities. In order to continue their ventures past graduation, they need the resources we provide.”
Two of its first residents also have Lehigh University connections. They include Lisa Glover, creator of KitRex, a flat-packed kit letting customers build their own cardboard dinosaurs, and Justin Jacobs, founder of 65 Roses Guitar, which raises money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation by creating and auctioning guitars. Both are graduates of the technical entrepreneurship program.
Hatch House will host a grand opening launch party on July 21.
Located in a former Bethlehem Steel research bay at Lehigh University’s Mountaintop campus, the competitive and selective LaunchBayC Student Accelerator gives students 10 weeks to immerse themselves in a culture of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking and doing. It is Lehigh University students regardless of their major, year, or area of study.
The live-work program offers three tracks: the creativity tack, usually rising sophomores seeking to start the creative process, even if they do not have their own idea; the innovation track, designed for students who have a project or idea and are seeking to take it to the next level; and the entrepreneurship track, typically for seniors or graduate students with advanced projects ready to become ventures.
The ideas students bring to LaunchBayC are as varied as they are creative. There’s the blender that removes fructose and glucose, the product that can accurately detect whether food has spoiled, the three-dimensional blocks for spatial skill development, and the IV catheter placement device that mitigates the risk of fluid infiltration, to name a few.
“’Entrepreneurship, Creativity, and Innovation’ have always been the key ingredients in the Institute’s focus,” said Lisa Getzler, co-director of the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation. “Moving forward the ‘E,’ the ‘I,’ and the ‘C’ additionally remind us that Engagement, Immersion, and Culture Change are the new watchwords. Through these, we see transformation.”
Lehigh University also offers a Startup Internship Grant, which is open to students to apply for a grant that covers their living expenses while working at a low-paid or unpaid internship at a startup or a company that services startups. This gives them professional experience in the startup environment, and helps the startups receive highly qualified student interns who may not have felt they could have accepted the position otherwise, according to Amy White, Baker Institute spokeswoman.
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