Lexington, Virginia • January 18, 2011
Budding entrepreneurs at Washington and Lee University have banded together to develop a new organization, the Venture Club, to give students a chance to combine their interest and abilities in creating new businesses.
According to Jennie Norcini, a senior business administration major who is president of the new club, the students have multiple goals.
"Our aim is to spread the spirit of entrepreneurship around campus and we'll be taking on off-campus business start-up projects, for example, from parents and alumni who want to start their own businesses," said Norcini, one of five students who founded the club with the assistance of Jeffrey Shay, the Johnson Professor of Entrepreneurship and Leadership at the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics.
Membership in the Venture Club is open to all students, and Norcini believe non-business majors may be equally interested in participating, especially if they have ideas for their own new business, such as science majors who have ideas related to biotechnology. "We want students to realize that starting their own business when they leave W&L may be an option," said Norcini, pointing out that Shay started a consulting company in the Caribbean right after his college graduation.
"The skills students learn through the club can eventually apply to their own ideas later on," she suggested. "Also, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved when you join a club in its first year."
Shay has already put out the word about the new club to alumni and parents, and one parent has submitted a new business idea. Using resources available on campus, such as the marketing data base Mintel, club members plan to start writing a business plan for the fledgling business in the winter term. "We're a free resource, that's the main thing," said Norcini. "Because it's an entrepreneurial company it doesn't have a lot of resources, especially at first before it gets funding, plus it takes time to do the necessary research."
Besides a business plan, which new ventures will need to present to potential investors, the Venture Club will give entrepreneurs advice and contacts. Norcini said that although the first step may be a business plan, entrepreneurs might well come back to the club later on for advice on strategy and expansion.
"I think everyone in the club is very qualified and passionate about entrepreneurship," said Norcini. "It's exciting because this is real money in the real world, and we'll be able to have an impact and really help someone with their business."
The club's first informational meeting in January drew 75 students from throughout the University. Of those 55 submitted applicaitons and 22 were invited to join the group based on interviews.
"The large turnout and the fact that the students were really a cross-section of the campus validates our assumption regarding student interest in entrepreneurship education and opportunities," Shay said.