Starting a company out of a dorm room may seem a little outdated these days, but what about starting one in an entire residence hall? For students at NC State University, this could be a reality.
On September 2, the Entrepreneurship Initiative will host the grand opening of Innovation Hall, a new residence hall, which is part of Wolf Ridge on Centennial Campus. It is the new home of the EI offices, the Andy and Jane Albright Entrepreneurs Living and Learning Village and my personal favorite workspace, the EI Garage.
The vision for Innovation Hall is to be the headquarters for student entrepreneurship on NC State’s campus, says Megan Greer, EI’s director of communications and outreach.
At NC State, anyone can be an entrepreneur, and the Entrepreneurship Initiative welcomes all students regardless of major. However, the campus is not small. I once was an emerging entrepreneur coming out of the English Department on Main Campus. If I needed to talk to a business student, I had to walk to the opposite side of campus. And the day I needed someone who knew about textile engineering? That called for Centennial Campus. NC State has a vision to be a leading institution in entrepreneurship and innovation. Innovation Hall, which is accurately named, is an example of how the university is executing that vision and promoting collaboration and unity among entrepreneurs of all backgrounds.
Not only do students have the benefit of living accommodations, but the EI Garage offers a 24/7 workspace for NC State entrepreneurs. It includes amenities such as a laser cutter, 3D printers, Smart Boards, a conference room, and various work spaces. Innovation Hall allowed the Garage to double in size from its previous location, a small suite located in Research Building IV.
As an alumna of NC State and the Entrepreneurship Initiative, I must say I am jealous that the new space opened just weeks after my graduation. I constantly find myself thinking of how I could still use the Garage as I continue to grow my company, Soutenu Dancewear. Visiting the Garage in recent weeks, I realized that the voices of alumni were heard when considering the design. We wanted more room, somewhere we could be vivacious and creative and other rooms where we could close the door and focus in silence. And color, we asked for color. Because nothing is less inspiring than white walls.
Entrepreneurship Initiative faculty offices have also integrated into the new Garage space. Greer believes that the “office space makes staff more available to students who are working during the day”. She is enthusiastic about the increase of students utilizing the area before 5pm.
Student entrepreneurs living in the village, known as Albright Scholars, fill the second floor of Innovation Hall. Although it is only the first year of the program, 33 residents have already settled in; and there are approximately 200 members of the EI Garage. The Andy and Jane Albright Village and Innovation Hall promise to grow the community of student entrepreneurs and help them engage in new ventures.
The opening event kicks off at 5:30 pm. Guests will hear comments from the Chancellor, EI Executive Director Tom Miller, and donor (and CEO of National Agents Alliance) Andy Albright before the ribbon cutting. Those in attendance may then explore the facility and also browse an expo of student-run companies, including Track2Quit, a cigarette tracking system that aims to help smokers quit the habit and Pennies for Progress, which enables donations to be made at retail checkout, allowing customers a simple and effective way to give to a cause.
Ryan O’Donnell, CEO of Pennies for Progress, likes the Garage’s proximity to Hunt Library, a dining hall and apartments. It will be easier for students to balance starting a company while studying for classes. He says, “It is the type of supportive and collaborative environment well-suited for entrepreneurial students like myself.”
So, keep an eye on NC State’s Entrepreneurship Initiative and Innovation Hall. I have a feeling it won’t be the first or last of its kind on campus. Positive things are guaranteed to come from this fresh, energized program.