Huntington, Ind.—Four Huntington University students plan to parlay an internship experience at the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center into their own web-based business.
While the would-be owners – Jason Eberly, Chris Hoffman, Ryan Imel and Ben Wulpi – have decided to keep details under wraps until the launch, they say their time at NIIC gave them the tools to make their effort a success.
“The Huntington students jumped into this experience headfirst and immersed themselves in the process of creating a new business,” said Remound Wright, director of the NIIC’s Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence and the students’ internship advisor. “They identified a problem, assessed the pain in the marketplace and clarified the unmet need with a very creative and credible solution. I was extremely impressed. They created a cadre of initial ideas before they settled on the idea they will launch later this year. Once focused on their business concept, the creativity really began as they had to make their concept dramatically different than anything else in the market place. The Innovation Center was proud to be a part of this important initiative that grows our own for the future of our community.”
The students spent their summer working with clients of the Innovation Center doing research, writing business plans and revising those plans in addition to working on their own plan. NIIC develops ideas and grows businesses through providing resources and training to owners.
“My business plan writing skills have improved significantly,” said Hoffman, a senior entrepreneurship/small business major from Fort Wayne, Ind. “I also have become much more business-minded and have become much more confident in my ability to start up something on my own. I’m looking forward to applying what I’ve learned in my classes this fall and spring and after graduation.
“I learned so much from having to do hours worth of market, competition and technical research," he added. “It’s one thing to find information in books, but entirely another to just ask, ‘Where can I find this information?’”
Through the experience, Eberly discovered that being successful in business takes more than just technical skills.
“I have learned ‘the basics’ of small business start-up,” said the sophomore film studies major from Fort Wayne. “I have learned how to write a winning business plan, and I have learned how to administer ‘positively outrageous service.’”
Wulpi, a sophomore Bible and religion major from Fort Wayne, is looking forward to applying what he has gained not only in the new business venture, but also in his ministry endeavors.
“I knew coming into this program that this experience would be beneficial to me because part of being in ministry and running a church is much like running a business,” he said. “There are many things that go on behind the scenes of a church, and it’s important to be skilled in those areas. So I feel like I will really benefit from this experience in the future.”
The university’s Enterprise Resource Center connected students to the NIIC through “Huntington Scholars,” a program of Venture Works and a collaboration between Huntington University, Huntington County United Economic Development Corporation, the Huntington County Commissioners and the NIIC. Venture Works is a business incubator accelerator that assists entrepreneurs with starting a new company or reinventing an existing one.
The students were selected for the experience after an application and interview process with the Innovation Center and the ERC.
Imel emphasized the challenge and commitment required and would encourage students with a passion for business to pursue an internship with NIIC.
“I would recommend this experience to anyone searching for a full-time internship that enjoys business and knows that already,” said the sophomore Bible and religion major from Roanoke, Ind. “It’s not really something you want to get involved with and realize halfway through that you don’t like it. Be sure you want it before joining up.”
For more information about NIIC, log on to www.niic.net. To learn more about the ERC, visit www.huntington.edu/erc. For more about Venture Works, log on to www.hcuedventureworks.com.
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