In an effort to boost entrepreneurial activity under way in Rochester and to entice more young people to stay in the area, the University of Rochester Center for Entrepreneurship has partnered with a regional organization of young business owners.
The UR center is allying with EO Western New York-formerly Entrepreneurs Organization-officials said. The groups will work together to bring prominent speakers to Rochester as well as give business owners and students opportunities to work together.
EO is a networking group for business owners in Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester. Members must be younger than 50 and own a business that generates more than $1 million in annual revenues.
The UR Center for Entrepreneurship was founded in 2006 with part of a $3.5 million grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The center runs several programs for students and young people in the area, including the Young Entrepreneurs Academy for high school students and a free, post-undergraduate program for science students interested in starting a business.
“We’re trying to get students to realize Rochester is a good place to start a business, and part of starting any business is getting into the network,” said Duncan Moore, vice provost for entrepreneurship at UR and director of the Center for Entrepreneurship.
EO has 22 members, with six in Rochester. Partnering with UR offers the group many benefits, such as the ability to participate in entrepreneurship events at the university and to develop relationships with students who could become employees of local companies, said EO president Frederick Beer, president and co-CEO of Rochester-based Potential Point LLC, which provides consulting on developing high-performing workplace cultures.
“All of our companies are growing businesses in this community,” Beer said. “Finding great talent is a key problem that we all have to grow our business. So having UR, obviously it’s a source of great talent-that unfortunately more often than not leaves the area.”
Getting students engaged with local business owners and letting them know more about companies here doing exciting work could help, Beer added. The local members of EO are running several types of businesses, some technology-based, some in food services and others in professional fields such as accounting.
EO is bringing Ken Blanchard, author of “The One-Minute Manager” and other “One-Minute” business books, to Rochester to speak April 25. UR is helping to organize that event.
Robert Tobin, UR entrepreneur-in-residence, said he contacted Beer to discuss the possibility of a relationship as a way to help students access a network of entrepreneurs.
“There is more and more interest in entrepreneurship on campus,” Tobin said, “and more and more students looking for direction and guidance.”
Local business owners can be tapped to give guest lectures, to judge competitions on campus or to serve on boards of companies that students create through the postgraduate program in entrepreneurship offered at the university, Tobin said.
EO-and its successful business owners, most of whom are in their 30s-is a great advertisement for starting a company locally, Tobin said.
UR is developing a strategic plan for keeping its entrepreneurship programs going after the Kaufmann funding expires in 2009. Moore said that plan would likely rely on tuition revenue, some endowment funding and gifts-probably from business owners who want to see students have opportunities to start companies.
Last spring, UR included in its annual survey of exiting seniors a question about entrepreneurship, Moore noted. Sixty percent of respondents said they thought such studies were important, which Moore viewed as significant coming from a liberal-arts institution.
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02/29/08 (C) Rochester Business Journal