Startup Aggieland Director Blake Petty interacts with the crowd at the Grand Stafford Theater. (Mays Business School)
By Stephanie Burns, Texas A&M University Mays Business School
If you entered the Grand Stafford Theater on the evening of August 13, you would have been surrounded by some of the biggest proponents of entrepreneurship in Bryan/College Station. Business owners, Texas A&M University faculty, and members of local agencies such as the Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation came together around one common interest: Startup Aggieland.
The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship hosted the Startup Aggieland Reveal Party after hinting that those in attendance would have a chance to “meet the new Startup Aggieland.” Attendees were treated to canapés provided by Chef Tai Lee and enjoyed the industrial-chic atmosphere of the historic downtown Bryan concert venue. Conversations drifted among clusters of attendees, each of them buzzing about what exciting new plans the McFerrin Center had in store for Startup Aggieland.
Director Blake Petty kicked off the night with a booming “Howdy!” and introduced Assistant Director LauraLee Hughes. Hughes joined the McFerrin Center in early 2018 and has brought with her a background in technology commercialization and an undeniable passion for early-stage ventures. “It is an exciting time for entrepreneurs at Texas A&M,” said Hughes. “There is more awareness than ever among students, faculty, staff, and the community about entrepreneurship and they are all looking for resources that can help navigate the path to becoming an entrepreneur.”
Unveiling the entrepreneurial journey
As the night unfolded, Hughes shared her new vision for Startup Aggieland, which is centered on a multi-phase “entrepreneurial journey.” Students and clients of Startup Aggieland will work with staff members to see which of the three phases they’ll most benefit from; Explore, Pursue, or Launch. Students who engage with programs in any phase will be introduced to a wide array of workshops, meetups, and mentor nights that will allow them to grow and develop their knowledge of entrepreneurship.
In addition, Hughes debuted Startup Runway, a first-of-its-kind pre-accelerator program that will allow students to determine whether their businesses will have a viable place in the market. Hughes also announced the development of the Startup Aggieland Business Incubator that will provide validated early-stage ventures with the resources necessary to formally launch and grow a business. The Business Incubator and many of the Startup Aggieland resources and programs will now be available to Texas A&M faculty and staff along with members of the local community. “Through our new programs at Startup Aggieland, we are providing an environment in which aspiring entrepreneurs can learn, test their ideas, network, and hopefully achieve their dreams of owning their own business,” Hughes said. “I am excited about the impact these programs will have in growing the community at Startup Aggieland and helping more people realize that entrepreneurship can be for them too.
The packed audience also enjoyed presentations from three student teams who have been a part of the Startup Aggieland Summer Program.
At the end of the evening, Hughes spoke to attendees directly, calling upon “the friends and supporters of the McFerrin Center” to help ensure Startup Aggieland continues its success. “The involvement and support of mentors is critical to the success of the McFerrin Center and Startup Aggieland. The real-world experience, expertise, and guidance mentors offer to our entrepreneurs is more valuable than anything they will learn in the classroom.”
During her closing remarks, Hughes announced one of Startup Aggieland’s newest programs, Mentor Network. The program is specifically designed to engage with mentors and professionals in meaningful and mutually beneficial ways. “As our programs grow, we hope to expand our mentor network and be able to provide more opportunities for our mentors to engage with the Startup Aggieland community,” she said. “Whether you are interested in being a speaker, holding office hours, or working with individuals or teams on their business venture, I’d like you to join us at Startup Aggieland and help us in developing the next generation of Aggie entrepreneurs.”
This article by Stephanie Burns originally appeared in Mays Impacts.