UW, WBC Launch Network to Connect Entrepreneurs and Mentors
LARAMIE -- Budding entrepreneurs across Wyoming will have access to experienced mentors through a new network being launched by the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming’s Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
The High Plains Mentor Network is intended to increase the chances of success of Wyoming entrepreneurs in their startup endeavors, providing cost-free guidance from those with experience in launching successful ventures.
Peter Scott, the entrepreneur in residence in the IIE and UW’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, said the university is putting a big push on entrepreneurship, both on campus and off.
“We started an entrepreneurship minor, so if you’re a student at any of the UW colleges – Business, Engineering, Art, Agriculture – you can learn how to be an entrepreneur.”
The university environment is the perfect place to match up a budding entrepreneur with a seasoned business mentor.
“I’ve been teaching entrepreneurship for about 8 years. An entrepreneur program at the university is typically in the College of Business. It’s not the business majors who have ideas for companies. It’s usually an engineer, or somebody in the agriculture school because they’re the problem solvers. They’re the ones who are out there trying to figure out how to do this and that. You could be an art major, a literature major, etc., and you can learn about entrepreneurship because you have an interest in starting a company.”
Scott said those signing up to be mentored should be new venture founders who are beyond the concept stage; be actively working (not necessarily full-time) to develop the businesses, and have invested time or money in the ventures.
The High Plains Mentor Network is intended to increase the chances of success of Wyoming entrepreneurs in their startup endeavors.
Scott said the mentor program is part of the university’s outreach efforts.
“The university’s mentor program was the first program that we launched. We’re busy marketing the program, we’re looking for both entrepreneurs and mentors. You could be in Cody, in Laramie, in Gillette, and be interested in participating in the program. If you’re in Cody and you have an idea for a company, what we want to do at High Plains is to match you with a mentor to help you start your company, run your company.”
Scott said the program will be a long term mentor relationship.
“So an entrepreneur and mentor will work together, hopefully for a number of months to a year.
“We will draw upon mentors from within Wyoming and the broader UW alumni network outside of the state to find successful entrepreneurs who want to ‘give back. These sorts of programs have worked well around the country, and Wyoming and UW have plenty of successful individuals whose expertise can be tapped -- as well as people who can benefit from that knowledge and experience.”
Mentors should have significant experience relevant to startups; be willing to invest significant time for three to six months; be altruistic and interested in giving back, and not expect compensation. They’ll generally fall under three categories:
-- Startup or role model mentor -- a person who has successfully started and grown a company.
-- Industry mentor -- a person with industry-specific experience and networks.
-- Knowledge/functional mentor -- a person with a specific set of business skills.
The network will endeavor to match an entrepreneur with mentors who are from a similar industry as the startup company and who have diverse skill sets, such as marketing, finance, and fundraising.
All mentors and entrepreneurs will be interviewed by the High Plains Mentor Network advisory board, which will evaluate and match the individuals. Meetings will take place at least once per month, in person or via distance technology.
The initial advisory board consists of Scott; Georgalas; Scot Rendall, director of UW’s Wyoming Technology Business Center (WTBC) in Sheridan; Director Dave Bohling and Assistant Director Fred Schmechel of the WTBC in Laramie; and Jack Mason, chief operating officer of the IIE.
The IIE’s vision is to foster innovation and entrepreneurship among UW students, faculty and staff, and across the state -- and to serve as an intellectual engine to grow and diversify the state’s economy. To learn more, go to www.uwyo-iie.org.
The WBC is the state’s economic development agency, working with private businesses, state agencies, local governments, local economic development groups, partners and nonprofits to grow and diversify Wyoming’s economy, create jobs and enhance the quality of life. To learn more, go to www.wyomingbusiness.org.
Those interested in serving as mentors -- or needing mentoring and coaching -- can learn more and apply at www.uwyo-iie.org/mentor.