Innovation Academy 2016 – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Innovation Academy 2016

As an exciting opportunity for advance level student entrepreneurs, the Centennial Center for Leadership (CCL) will hold the Innovation Academy from Monday, Jan. 11 through Friday, Jan. 15. The five-day workshop provides training in entrepreneurial leadership concepts while pushing students to think and act through innovation.

“It’s an intensive experience that really motivates students to further their entrepreneurial work,” says Amy Forbes, associate director of CCL. “The timing, before the spring semester, also allows students to focus on their idea in a high-energy environment with few distractions.”

Open to all HWS students, this year’s program will connect participants with a variety of consulting experts that includes faculty from HWS and universities such as Cornell University, Syracuse University, and the University of Rochester. Experts will lead a series of workshops on idea decision-making, innovation, marketing, branding, cost structures, legal concepts, pitch presentations and innovation strategies.

Although students are not required to enter the program with an idea for a product, service or organization, students who do so can apply the strategies learned through workshops to their own ideas, maximizing their potential to actualize their ideas. Forbes explains that this year’s participants so far are connected with the entrepreneurial studies minor or CCL’s entrepreneurial leadership programming. Since its first year, CCL has expanded the program to new groups of students – particularly those who are “socially driven entrepreneurs.”

Innovation Academy also provides a valuable opportunity for students competing in the annual Stu Lieblein ’90 Pitch Contest to refine their Pitch proposals. The 11 students named as The Pitch 2016 semifinalists are each given a spot in the Academy, raising the caliber of dialogue for all participants.

“The Innovation Academy will help us refine and improve our Pitch proposal by guiding us through the necessary steps that we otherwise would not have even thought about,” says Alex Williams ’16, a Pitch semifinalist. “By attending these sessions, we know that we will get the professional guidance that is crucial in developing a top-notch proposal.”

Williams is working with Eric Brady ’16 and Ryan McManus ’18 on developing “Ventri,” a funding website that allows entrepreneurs to imagine, create and execute their own business plans.  

Jeff Rizza ’16, a Pitch semifinalist who proposed “Future Farms,” a localized agriculture system that uses aquaponics to provide sustainably grown food year-round in any climate, is planning to use the Academy to develop the marketing aspect of his idea.

“I have a lot of technical knowledge and experience related to my idea, but virtually zero experience in selling a product,” Rizza says. “Being able to get feedback from people with real-world business experience will help me find ways to market my idea that I have not thought of. Overall, I expect it will push my idea much further towards becoming a reality.”

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