Northeast Ohio universities may be fierce competitors on the athletic field, but where entrepreneurship is concerned, collaboration rules.
A decade has passed since Oct. 9, 2009, when a group of entrepreneurship champions from Northeast Ohio campuses gathered at the Knight Center in Akron to brainstorm ideas about what would happen if colleges and universities joined forces around entrepreneurship. On that day, the region launched JumpStart Higher Education Collaboration Council (JSHECC) as a platform for learning and networking among campuses. What started as a loose association of like-minded faculty and campus program directors has matured into a well-oiled JSHECC community of professionals dedicated to supporting aspiring student entrepreneurs.
Since that banner day, the JSHECC platform has spawned plenty that influences how collegiate entrepreneurs are supported in the region and how they connect to the regionwide entrepreneurial ecosystem. Indeed, our region is a national model for how intercampus collaboration can effectively knit together programs and opportunities for the benefit of ambitious collegiate entrepreneurs. Intercampus programs and competitions draw together students from diverse backgrounds and skill sets, leading to dynamic idea generation and powerful educational experiences.
While JSHECC provides an overarching strategy to draw the campuses together and build pathways from one level of entrepreneurship support to the next, the region’s collegiate ecosystem boasts other transformational programs that propel collegiate entrepreneurs to success.
■ Entrepreneurship Education Consortium. A 10-campus network that sponsors idea competitions and immersion experiences
■ NEOLaunchNET. A five-campus network providing experiential entrepreneurship opportunities for students.
■ Northeast Ohio Student Venture Fund. A six-campus network that delivers a training ground for college students seeking to understand the startup investment process
What does all this mean for Northeast Ohio? This level of collaboration among university entrepreneurship leadership breeds a robust peer-to-peer learning forum that raises the bar for all campuses and enhances programmatic effectiveness. JSHECC members are forthcoming about failures and challenges such that everyone learns from the experiments of colleagues. JSHECC panels have explored topics related to food ventures, mentorship and artist as entrepreneur. (Videos are available at bdmorganfdn.org.)
Cathy Belk, president of JumpStart and a supporter of JSHECC, notes, “One of our region’s greatest assets is the pipeline of graduates who benefit from higher education entrepreneurship programs led by the JSHECC members. These grads bring entrepreneurial skills to their jobs, whether the role is at an established corporate leader or an enterprising growth firm.
“Those taking the entrepreneurial plunge have access to mentors through the Burton D. Morgan Mentoring program, co-working space, prototyping tools at think[box], access to first capital and #givefirst coaching from our region’s experienced entrepreneurs. Fundamentally, JSHECC members prepare top talent so our community can keep them in our high-growth economy, and it’s hard to think of anything more important than this.”
Happy 10th anniversary to JSHECC, and kudos to the region’s entrepreneurship education champions who have committed time and thought leadership to create a unique learning community that benefits determined students as they develop the entrepreneurial mindset and ideas for new ventures.
Deborah D. Hoover is president and CEO of The Burton D. Morgan Foundation, which champions the entrepreneurial spirit, contributes to a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem and serves as a leader in the field of entrepreneurship education.