Winona State implements entrepreneurship program

Kristin Kovalsky, News Reporter

StartUp Winona State is a program through Winona State University that gives students and community members opportunities to bring their ideas to life.

Will Kitchen, director of StartUp Winona State, said the program was designed for students and community members to build their ideas.

“Basically, what we’re trying to do is build an ecosystem for ideas and entrepreneurism, so that any student, faculty, staff, community member can come into this office with an idea, and through my network and people I work with, we can take those ideas as far along as they want to take them,” Kitchen said.

The ideas can be either a business or a product where a student needs support to implement them.

“[Talking to me about an idea] doesn’t mean they have to start a company, it may be an innovative idea, maybe just a thought, but as far as you can take it, you will learn along the way how to take ideas into implementation,” Kitchen said.

This program evolved from the WarriorsINNOVATE Challenge, which gave students the opportunity to put innovative ideas into action.

“I looked at [the competition] and thought ‘well, it’s a great idea and a lot of universities are doing things like that. But what we really need is an ecosystem and a culture of innovation and creativity and entrepreneurship,’” Kitchen said.

The competition aspect awarded students with a one-time fund, while StartUp Winona State has the ability to fund multiple ideas.

“The whole reason to move away from the competition was to be able to take that same money and provide seed money for more projects to get started. A seed grant could be from $100 to $1,500,” Kitchen said.

The program also gives students the opportunity to build networking skills.

“I want students to learn how to network, and if I can get them involved in real projects, to experience what it’s like to take an idea forward and then connect with local business people, local civic leaders, local non-profit leaders, then they get a chance to network and hone those skills,” Kitchen said.

Kitchen works with the students along with other faculty and community members to help push their ideas.

“I get people from the community who are experts, faculty who are experts on building business plans, understanding finance and really setting up these in-depth opportunities for students to learn from experts,” Kitchen said.

According to Kitchen, the goal of the program is to encourage students and anyone else who has an idea to pursue it.

“The focus isn’t on rolling out a new business, it’s developing ideas and feeling confident that any idea is worth looking at and learning from it. Our network of people, our ecosystem will support you or anybody else who wants to make something happen,” Kitchen said.

 

The opinions expressed in this paper are not necessarily those of Winona State University, the Minnesota State Colleges and University system, or the Winona State University student body.