Many college students come up with ideas that could turn into a business. But not all students know where to start. Maybe their idea comes from a creative hobby; maybe it’s a novel skill; or maybe it’s an idea for a new smartphone app. As the saying goes, “Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.”
To help with implementation, UCI is unique in providing support for student ideas through the ANTrepreneur Center. The center teaches practical skills for undergraduate entrepreneurship, providing educational experiences through their daily workshops, individual meetings, and the opportunity to network with fellow student entrepreneurs.
The level of personalized support that student businesses receive has helped many anteaters become ANTrepreneurs. UCI was recently ranked first in the nation for helping students achieve the American Dream. There is nothing more central to the American Dream than the idea of starting your own business.
“Supporting students to find their American Dream through entrepreneurship is something we are very proud of,” says Michael Dennin, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning and Dean of Undergraduate Education at UCI. “Expanding the ANTrepreneur Center’s space has been a priority to accommodate the overflow of eager ANTrepreneurs who are inspired to come up with their big ideas.”
Breanna Bremer, Assistant Director of the ANTrepreneur center said, “We really loved how central our Student Center space has been for the past three years. But we grew out of our space because tons of students were coming in for consultations on their business ideas — frequently 3 or 4 teams at a time!” The tiny Student Center space was simply a “small area, that got very, very cramped for the events that we run every day of the week.”
The weekly speakers were drawing crowds of dozens of students. The new Banning House locations will allow 50 or more students to come together to experience an entrepreneurial atmosphere. There is now ample room for multiple coworking spaces, where groups of students can take conference calls, meet with their mentors, and refine their business strategies.
Providing students with free snacks and lunch is a smart business strategy in and of itself, and this helps fill the ANTrepreneur Center’s lunchtime workshops. Students come from all over campus to enjoy the friendly, “creative collaborative environment” that the ANTrepreneur Center has worked hard to build.
These weekly events–open to UCI students, faculty, staff, and alumni–include:
- Money Mondays 12-1 PM, discussing all things money for startups
- Talk-o Tuesdays 12:30 -1:30 PM, soft skills for selling ideas
- Workshop Wednesdays 11:15-12:30 PM, practical tools for business growth
- Traction Thursdays 12:30-1:30 PM, face to face with real success stories
- Friday Lunch and Learn 12-1PM, lunch with startup experts
When asked what new students should know about the Center, Breanna Bremer said that, “this is a safe place for them to come learn and experiment with entrepreneurship — it is friendly, and abundantly helpful in resources.” More than anything, the free resources that the center provides are personalized and confidential. “There are over 50 UCI-related resources on and around campus designed to help ANTrepreneurs. The ANTrepreneur Center is a great starting point to help you navigate this and get the most out of all that UCI has to offer to ANTrepreneurs.”
With one-on-one consultation sessions, the center is especially equipped for those just starting out. Many undergraduates need help with new lifestyle startups hoping to provide tutoring, t-shirts, dog walking, and other small businesses. Breanna reminded us, “Many famous entrepreneurs started with small businesses. Richard Branson first sold Christmas trees and parakeets while Mark Zuckerberg created ‘Zucknet’ for a dental office. Neither was successful–at first.”
The ANTrepreneur Center can also help scale and grow established businesses by connecting them with programs like the Wayfinder incubator and other resources through UCI Applied Innovation. The center provides funding in the form of micro-grants and periodic stipends but is more commonly used as a way to connect students to other funding opportunities.
To help students work out their ideas, the center’s specialists are experts at customizing a plan “depending on where they are and what they’re working on,” said Breanna. As “some are interested in entrepreneurship from the onset, while some find that talking with like-minded individuals allows them to somewhat absorb an entrepreneurial mindset — just by being there!”
Regardless of your dream, the ANTrepreneur Center can act as your concierge while you go through the process — providing resources, educational events, advice and providing access to resources. According to Breanna, “entrepreneurs rarely succeed alone. Regardless of how ambitious your dream is, we’re here to help you achieve it.”
Consider this your call to action students, faculty, staff, and alumni. After all, when you wake up with a big idea, now you know where to go!