The new Entrepreneur Connect club is creating a collaborative space for students in Broome County to share ideas, forge partnerships and push themselves in the world of business.
Open to both Binghamton University and Broome Community College (BCC) students, Entrepreneur Connect helps students connect and collaborate on their business ideas and strategies. The club serves as a connective arm between students and the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator, a local hub for growing entrepreneurs directed through BU and managed by BU’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Partnerships.
Founding members include Jaiden Price, vice president of membership recruitment and retention and an undeclared freshman, Mallory Fowler, vice president of marketing and a sophomore majoring in business administration, Chinomso Eyegheleme, vice president of culture and community and a first-year electrical engineering graduate student, and Thomas Miller, president of Entrepreneur Connect and a junior majoring in business administration.
The team started the club to connect innovative students with each other, as well as with alumni and the resources of the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator, to prepare them to launch their business ideas.
Miller decided to start Entrepreneur Connect after having trouble finding other entrepreneurial students to collaborate on a product idea.
“I searched around for resources around campus to put me in touch with other entrepreneurial students who had the technical skills I required to no avail,” Miller wrote in an email. “This led me to contact [Laura Holmes, director of operations at the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator], who mentioned [BU] lacking an entrepreneur club in general. This initial message from [Holmes] is what led me to my interest in starting an organization.”
The Koffman Southern Tier Incubator is located at 120 Hawley St. in Downtown Binghamton. It offers areas for testing and pitching ideas and products, including wet and dry labs, event presentation spaces, offices and co-working spaces. They host various programs, such as the Southern Tier Clean Energy Incubator Program, which fosters clean-energy startups. Cory Kimmell, marketing communications specialist for the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator, spoke to the wealth of resources that it offers.
“The Koffman Southern Tier Incubator is the best-kept secret on the [BU] campus with programs, space and an ecosystem of entrepreneurs ready to support growth,” Kimmell wrote in an email.
Laura Holmes also spoke of it as a hidden gem for students. Holmes led the effort to support entrepreneurship in students before the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator opened in April 2017. Before then, she noted, there wasn’t much support for students interested in entrepreneurship. Now, the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator creates a web of connections for students to take advantage of, including partnerships with the Binghamton Small Business Development Center, the Coughlin & Gerhart law firm and internships with various startup companies.
Even with its wealth of opportunities, Holmes said many students remain unaware of the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator.
“We just can’t seem to reach students,” Holmes said. “When students do find us they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is such a great resource, why didn’t I know about it?’ And we just don’t know what the answer to that is.”
Holmes said she believes this is why Entrepreneur Connect is so important, as it is a direct line from students to the resources that the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator offers.
According to the club’s Instagram page, @entrepreneurconnectbinghamton, the club recently held a virtual “Co-Founder Meet-Up,” where students were placed into teams to discuss and collaborate on problem-solving activities.
On Thursday, March 25, at 5 p.m., Entrepreneur Connect will be hosting a pitch event. At the moment, the club is holding icebreaker events and short research workshops for members to learn and get to know each other. By the fall semester, they plan to have weekly or biweekly meetings in a hybrid format with both virtual and in-person components. They are currently developing a program to initiate partnerships with local and e-commerce businesses.
Eyegheleme is looking forward to the evolution and growth of entrepreneur connect.
“I hope this group accomplishes a sustainable culture whereby students that are interested in entrepreneurship can enjoy the network, resources and camaraderie of the group,” Eyegheleme wrote.