Venturing Forward

A $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. has created new entrepreneurial opportunities for students at Huntington University.

The Fast Forward program will enable HU to build on its existing small business program by adding a certificate in entrepreneurship and a seed accelerator space for students with business ideas.

"Lilly Endowment's $1 million grant opens the door for Huntington University to lead our region in demonstrating excellence in developing career pathways that work," President Sherilyn Emberton said.

Through the program, a variety of key topics will be available in brief courses which will fit for students in almost any major field. Also, a versatile on-campus space will be developed for students to share as they work on bringing their ideas to life. Students also will gain competencies through applied learning experiences and internships in their chosen area of focus.

"This is both an exciting and unique opportunity for HU students and the HU business program," said Troy Irick, assistant professor of business at HU. "In its most complete form, Fast Forward will result in job creation, business formation and the commercial application of entrepreneurial ideas that will impact our local community and our broader economic region."

Through a partnership with the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (NIIC), students will be challenged to build concept teams, develop commercially viable ideas, present plans to potential investors and network with fellow entrepreneurs. In addition, the Lilly Endowment grant will help fund the development of winning business plans.

In recognizing the need to foster the next generation of entrepreneurs, Fast Forward will work with Huntington North High School's Viking New Tech program to provide a select number of high school students with the opportunity to participate in the program.

"Gallup poll data indicates that 70 percent of high-school students surveyed want to start their own businesses, but fewer than 11 percent of adults actually fulfill that goal," Irick said. "Huntington University's Fast Forward program will provide a vehicle for young people to realize their entrepreneurial dreams."

"We are actively working to put the many pieces of the Fast Forward program together so it is in place and available to interested students this fall," Irick said.