Suffolk University has introduced one of the nation’s first experiential courses on crowdfunding, where students are launching campaigns to fund their own start-up companies through Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Students in the Sawyer Business School class will launch crowdfunding campaigns the week of Nov. 14, coinciding with National Entrepreneurship Month. Startup products and services include an almond-based Alfredo sauce, a high-protein coffee product, a fishing tackle box/cooler combination and a yoga studio on wheels.
“While a few other universities are discussing crowdfunding as part of traditional course content, the real-world approach to this course makes it different,” said Management and Entrepreneurship Professor Jenni Dinger. “Suffolk students in this class are learning how to turn their business ideas into action, and they are going after the funding to support those enterprises.”
The course expands on the foundation of knowledge and skills honed throughout the Sawyer Business School curriculum, while fast tracking entrepreneurial activity through startups and the raising of capital.
In a cross-disciplinary approach that taps into the wider resources of Suffolk University, students in the class have teamed up with:
- Suffolk Law School’s Intellectual Property clinic for help with brand trademark applications
- Graphic designers in Suffolk’s New England School of Art & Design for logo development
- RamCam Productions in the Suffolk College of Arts & Sciences for campaign video production
In addition, there have been several external partners providing mentorship and expertise in business to the students. Bryan Caplan, founder of BJC Branding of Sharon, MA, was a guest lecturer early in the semester on the topic of digital branding and email marketing. And his firm has crafted social media advertisements for each of the campaigns, while also educating students on the strategy of targeted ads.
“The opportunity to contribute to the progress of student-led ventures is very rewarding. I wish that we had had a course in place like this while I was at the University of Oregon. It would have certainly accelerated the timeline for building my own business,” Caplan said.
The concept for the crowdfunding course came out of conversations between Dinger and Professor Chaim Letwin, a colleague in the Sawyer Business School’s Management and Entrepreneurship department. Dinger and Letwin both study crowdfunding platforms and how campaign components relate to people’s decisions to contribute money to a particular project. The course looks at factors that lead to crowdfunding success, including the idea, the pitch and the prototype.
“Small business and innovation are critical to the health and vibrancy of the economy,” Dinger said. “Experiential courses like this are aimed at accelerating the startup launch process and increasing the rate of startup businesses among our most promising young adults.”
Student-led ventures launching crowdsourcing campaigns Nov. 14- 16 are:
- WarmUp Protein Coffee: This venture, founded by Suffolk senior and Entrepreneurship major James Testa of East Boston, is targeting its first product, a high-protein coffee, to fitness-focused people on the go.
- The Wicked Fisha, founded by Suffolk senior Chuck Gibson of Malden, Mass., plans a line of innovative fishing equipment and accessories, starting with a cooler/tackle box combo that eliminates the hassle of lugging multiple boxes to a fishing destination.
- Buddha Bus Yoga provides traveling yoga classes out of mobile studio. Founded by Suffolk junior Sara Maloney, of Groveland, Mass., the business offers on-site classes at workplaces, college campuses, food markets and more.
- Goliath Gallon, founded by Suffolk senior Zack Smith of Methuen, Mass., makes a reusable, bisphenol A (BPA)-free and easily cleaned gallon bottle for ice, fruits, amino acids or whatever is needed. The Kickstarter campaign will fund the initial production run, including a plastic molding tool that is necessary for mass production.
- NEO Miners is a card game that focuses on resource management and economic principles, with a space-travel theme. Founder Jason Moker is a Suffolk senior from Georgetown, Mass. Be warned! The depths of space have encounters that can be dangerous and unpredictable!
- Vegitano is a health food brand offering alternatives to people who follow a vegan diet or are allergic to dairy and/or gluten. The first product is an almond-based Alfredo sauce. The startup was founded by Willied Hessein, a Suffolk senior from Miami.
- The Upward Bound + Startup Suffolk Partnership is aimed at raising money for the social good. The campaign, led by the student team of Manuel Lopez Campos, Ashley Cesero, and Carter Nuttall, is focused on funding Upward Bound students to participate in Startup Suffolk, a bridge program for rising high school seniors. Upward Bound is a federally funded academic success program that helps high school students who are below the poverty line and the first generation from their family to attend college. Suffolk Startup introduces high school students to entrepreneurial concepts.