Celebrating the community of entrepreneurship

Centre County entrepreneurship and innovation will be on full display the week of Nov. 13 when Global Entrepreneurship Week Penn State officially gets underway. Organizers are hoping that an even greater connection between the university and the community will also be clearly visible at this year’s event.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation initiated Global Entrepreneurship Week in 2007 to showcase how entrepreneurship can drive local economies worldwide. That year, 37 countries participated. The Penn State Small Business Development Center got involved on a small scale two years later. Since then, GEW Penn State has grown substantially, earning recognition as one of the top programs in the nation.

Building on this success, Penn State Outreach and Online Education and the Penn State SBDC have joined forces in an effort to take the GEW student experience to even greater heights, and immerse attendees more into the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

To do so, organizers are taking an approach that involves the entire community.

“State College is a collective of independent thinkers who work together to get important things done,” said Rose Cameron, Penn State Outreach and Online Education director of innovation strategy. “Global Entrepreneurship Week 2016 will celebrate that vision; the vision of community enabling a better world through collective effort.”

Organizers also plan to offer programming that is not limited to specific industries, and that expands beyond traditional areas of entrepreneurial focus. They hope to involve experts from academia and the community that can serve as mentors as well.

This approach to GEW Penn State 2016 started with considerable student/academic and community feedback. Organizers believe the result will be an even stronger program this November.

With planning fully underway, Cameron said the idea for GEW 2016 is that each themed program day will follow a clear learning path. Each day will progress from traditional keynote addresses to interaction with academic leaders including workshops/hands-on learning and application, direct networking opportunities between students and local entrepreneurs and business leaders at all levels.

“As always, this has been GEW Penn State’s hallmark, to include compelling content with tangible learning outcomes for students — and important community connections,” added Heather McWhorter, Penn State Small Business Development Center director..

Organizers said the initial response from the community is encouraging.

“We are excited about what this year holds for students participating in Global Entrepreneurship Week,” McWhorter said. “We also hope that greater community support of GEW will reinforce to students the value of staying in town post-graduation.”

Vern Squier, president and CEO of the Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County, said the CBICC is proud to help support GEW Penn State. The chamber and members of its Connect young professionals group are coordinating the closing activity of each GEW program day. Dubbed “Flavor Flights,” the evening events will feature local food/beverage/agriculture entrepreneurs telling the story of how they started their businesses, and showcasing their products and services.

“Centre County is fortunate to have a healthy and supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem, which is on full display during Global Entrepreneurship Week,” Squier said, noting that State College was recently named the 10th best U.S. city for entrepreneurs to live and launch by Entrepreneur magazine. “This environment, along with ample job opportunities, is part of what is needed to keep more young talent here. That is certainly one of the CBICC’s goals.”

“That’s the value of the community embracing GEW,” Cameron stressed. “There are tremendous opportunities for young professionals and budding entrepreneurs in Centre County. Making that connection is what GEW Penn State 2016 is all about.”

Lesley Kistner is vice president of communications/marketing for the Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County.