A Waterville coworking space has started a pilot program to give aspiring student entrepreneurs a chance to jump-start their ideas as well as keep young talent in the community after college graduation.
Bricks Coworking & Innovation Space, in the Hathaway Creative Center at 10 Water St., has launched a collaborative incubator, Summer Startup, which provides college students with formal training, entrepreneurial speakers and events, and active sessions with mentors and local industry experts.
One goal of the program is to keep the students and their ideas in the community after graduation, said R.J. Anzelc, owner of Bricks Coworking & Innovation, in a news release. “The only way we can do this is through collaboration, encouragement and support from the local colleges, businesses and community.”
Students from Colby and Thomas colleges have been active in the program since early June, and some of the program’s students have developed early-stage businesses with the program’s guidance, according to the release.
Businesses percolating include Sklaza, an online marketplace built for the exchange of goods on college campuses; Piefolio, a solution that creates, in less than an hour, an online portfolio for students to share with potential employers; and Easy Eats, a food delivery service focused on the college campus.
Several of the students attended Startup Maine last month in Portland. They’ve also worked the Nick Rimsa, a product designer and co-founder of Eariously, an app that turns digital text into audio for listening on a phone or laptop. Rimsa has helped the students focus on identifying problems in developing ideas, and has guided them through the initial steps of getting the ideas off the ground.
Rimsa said starting is often the hardest part of making an idea a reality. “It’s really hard to share an idea when we’re worried about what others will think,” he said in the release. “But some ideas are just too good to keep secret.”
Anzelc said support from the area business community has been key for the program. Sponsors include Skowhegan Savings Bank, Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, the Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation at Thomas College and GHM Insurance, owned by Bill Mitchell.
The program also has some events coming up. It is partnering with Central Maine Tech Night on Startup Stories, a monthly event featuring founders of Maine-based startups. The series will launch Thursday with a discussion with Justin Hafner, CEO and cofounder of KinoTek, the 2019 Greenlight Maine Collegiate Champion. The firm uses virtual reality and motion-capture technology, creating “X-ray vision” to improve athletic output and reduce the chance of injury.
Hafner will talk about the University of Maine’s startup’s journey to success, offering entrepreneurship lessons and technological insight, the news release said.
On July 24, a four-part weekly Lean Startup Boot Camp will begin. The camp, like the Startup Stories series, takes place at Bricks, and is open to the public.
Mike Duguay, executive director of the Harold Alfond Institute, will guide aspiring entrepreneurs through the five stages of a business startup venture, including idea generation, market validation, business model creation, scaling and digital and social media marketing. Participants will assess their business ideas and concepts through a customer-centric approach.
“We hope this beta program yields great results,” said Anzelc. He said that if this summer’s Summer Startup is a success, the program will expand and run on a regular basis, “bringing in new aspiring entrepreneurs each time to grow their businesses and our community.”