The Koffman Southern Tier Incubator offers resources for aspiring entrepreneurial students in Downtown Binghamton. But one Binghamton University student thinks it is an underutilized resource, and is working to fix that.
Andre Haykal, a sophomore majoring in business administration, launched the Bingtrepreneur Club at the beginning of the semester, aiming to boost visibility, accessibility and utilization of the Incubator, located at 120 Hawley St. in Downtown Binghamton.
Haykal said the club currently boasts about 70 members and meets every Friday evening, either for relevant workshops led by local business professionals or its monthly meetup event. Roughly 90 percent of its members are current BU students, and the remaining 10 percent is split between BU alumni and Broome Community College (BCC) students.
Paulina Weinreich, a senior majoring in business administration, said she first went to the Incubator because of a Bingtrepreneur Club meeting. After watching episodes of Shark Tank on television, Weinreich wanted to become an entrepreneur and saw the club as an opportunity to do so.
“I was on the Listserv and got an email saying we’re having a meeting at the Incubator, and I was like, ‘This is the time for me to do this,’” Weinreich said. “So I got involved and it’s been really great.”
Weinreich said the workshops inspired her to continue following her goals.
“The speakers that they brought to the workshops were the reason that I decided to take the jump, as opposed to just the idea,” Weinreich said.
In addition to starting the club, Haykal also acts as the Incubator’s student ambassador. He said the role includes scheduling events and recruiting local entrepreneurs to lead workshops, as well as networking to recruit new student members, both in person and through social media.
The Incubator, which opened in May 2017, supports regional startup business ventures in partnership with BU and BCC, utilizing 35,000 square feet of offices, science laboratories and a variety of other workspaces, conference rooms and study lounges for group and individual use.
The types of businesses that the Incubator supports range from hard sciences to information technology, product design, cinema, retail, restaurants and more, according to Haykal. Parlor City Vegan, owned by Sara Liu, ‘06, and Lei Liu, ‘07, is a local restaurant startup that developed at the Incubator and opened for business on Oct. 23 on Binghamton’s West Side.
Bharath Reddy, a second-year graduate student studying systems science and industrial engineering, became affiliated with the Incubator through joining the Bingtrepreneur Club. Reddy’s new business venture proposal develops reusable bottles out of hemp plastic, starting with protein shakers as his first product.
Reddy said he participates in all of the workshops and finds them very helpful. He also credited Bingtrepreneur Club and the Incubator for connecting him with Enactus, an international organization of 72,000 students that aims to promote socially responsible entrepreneurship.
“They encourage you to create a business that is sustainable and environment-friendly,” Reddy said. “Enactus is helping me with a business plan and an action plan. They have helped to construct my idea into a reality.”
Weinreich also started a project through the Incubator, but described her startup idea as being in the formative stages.
“I’m not quite sure how it’s going to end up,” Weinreich said. “But the idea is for a multimedia platform with contributing writers and editors writing content for University students.”
Weinrich said she recently participated in “Think, Link, Launch,” a startup business-pitch competition held at the Incubator and sponsored by International Business Machines (IBM). She said her startup business proposal was among those selected to advance to the second round.
“The experts in the field were coming up to me and talking about collaboration and stuff like that,” Weinreich said. “So those are some really valuable contacts that I will definitely try to optimize. It’s really exciting and I’m really happy that people see validity in this idea and this mission.”