LaunchPad Program Will Support Entrepreneurship at CWRU

Students inspired by the MEM program’s strong emphasis on entrepreneurship soon will have tools and guidance to transform their ideas into thriving businesses through Blackstone LaunchPad resources being readied at the CWRU Career Center.

MEM students who have the entrepreneurial bug will be able to plug into the LaunchPad program to take their ideas further,” says Dr. Gary Wnek, MEM Faculty Director. “Instead of going to the Career Center just to look for jobs, they’ll be encouraged to think about creating jobs.” Gary and Adjunct Professor Dr. Colin Drummond, who teaches the two-semester MEM Engineering Entrepreneurship class, were members of the group involved in writing the grant proposal to bring Blackstone LaunchPad to CWRU, which will give all students, faculty, and alumni—regardless of school or major—the skills, knowledge, and guidance to start new companies. Currently in the planning process, the program is expected to be up and running in early 2012.

The university is one of four Northeast Ohio institutions receiving grants from a $3.2 million, three-year partnership between The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and The Burton D. Morgan Foundation to expand the Blackstone LaunchPad program in this region. Blackstone LaunchPad replicates and implements a program developed at the University of Miami in 2008, which has generated 65 start-up ventures, 120 new jobs, and drawn nearly 2,000 participants. The first Blackstone LaunchPad, an innovative program that presents entrepreneurship as a viable career path and engages local entrepreneurs to mentor students, was opened in 2010 at two schools in Detroit.

Funding for this program is made possible through The Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s $50 million, five-year Entrepreneurship Initiative and The Burton D. Morgan Foundation’s commitment to invest in organizations and institutions that foster entrepreneurship in Northeast Ohio. Influenced by the urgent need for job growth in the United States, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation seeks to support innovative projects and catalytic ideas that can accelerate start-ups, job growth and economic activity.

The groundbreaking partnership of the two foundations to train the next generation of entrepreneurs in Northeast Ohio was announced Nov. 18 in celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, in the Kelvin Smith Library at CWRU. The grants to expand Blackstone LaunchPad were awarded at the event to CWRU, Kent State University, Baldwin-Wallace College, and Lorain County Community College.