Since its doors opened last November, Neighborhoods Cafe has offered area residents direct-trade coffee and organic locally-sourced goods with the goal of connecting locals philanthropically while serving more than two dozen varieties of sweet and savory crêpes.
As its one-year anniversary approaches, the small cafe, one of the few independently owned coffee shops in Fenway, continues to buzz with customers. It was featured on an episode of HGTV’s House Hunters and sales have increased every month since it opened, said owner and Fenway resident Betsy Hill.
Hill said she never thought she would own a coffee shop. A Boston University graduate, she took a job working at Starbucks in Fenway as a temporary position while looking for a job in her chosen field of international relations. She stayed through the first three years of her marriage and the birth of her three children because she enjoyed the coffee—and the sense of community working there offered.
It’s becoming increasingly common for people to start their own businesses when they reach retirement age, either because they are financially unable to put work aside completely or because they want to explore long-neglected hobbies now that they have some free time.
While it is easy to idealize such a scenario, assuming now to be the perfect time to start a company because you have built up a great deal of expertise and still have the energy to put in a full day working for yourself, the experts we consulted all advise a high degree of caution. Starting a business takes money and keeping it going takes time – lots of time.
“The first consideration should always be ‘why am I doing this,’” said Peter Russo, a former CEO and the executive-in-residence at Boston University. “Are your goals philanthropic, or are you trying to build wealth or finance your lifestyle? Some retirees launch ventures just to keep busy. The rest of the choices you make should flow from the answer to this question.”
BU New Venture Competition Winner, Aeolus Building Efficiency Wins the MIT Clean Energy Contest in Energy Efficiency
A College of Engineering and School of Management team took first prize in the energy efficiency category of the annual MIT Clean Energy Prize on May 6, one of six premiere regional clean energy student business plan competitions in the U.S.
A collaboration between students and faculty from ENG and SMG, the team, Aeolus Building Efficiency, won $20,000 for its business plan and presentation for a full-service company that utilizes software to optimize airflow and reduce energy consumption in large office heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) systems. The technology could be a game-changer for today’s commercial buildings, which account for 18 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions and 36 percent of national electric utility demand.
Consisting of senior Ryan Cruz, Associate Professor Michael Gevelber and former Professor Donald Wroblewski from the Mechanical Engineering Department, and MBA candidates David Cushman, Jonathan Ellermann and Benjamin Smith from SMG, Aeolus outperformed 15 other teams from nine states, including three semifinalists representing Harvard University, MIT and the University of Chicago.
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Aeolus Building Efficiency will reduce energy use in large office HVAC systems at a significantly lower cost than available technologies, tapping into an entire market not adequately addressed with current offerings. Our full-service, software solution enables room-by-room measurement and optimization of airflow rates. Using a breakthrough technology (patent pending), Aeolus can reduce large building HVAC energy consumption by up to 20% without equipment installations, labor intensity or long payback periods. Our scalable business model will create significant financial value for our customers, reduce hidden energy use in the largest consuming building segment, and prevent millions of metric tons of CO2 emissions.
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Background: Universities’ roles in fostering entrepreneurship
Universities have long been the propellers for innovation but have not always offered the concrete and robust entrepreneurial programs that now exist today. For students looking to start a business after college, finding a college with a solid entrepreneurship program can help accelerate them towards their goals.
Participating in these programs gives students access to the hands-on learning, mentorship, networking, and even seed funding that translates innovative ideas into realities. Whether students aim to be traditional small-business owners, or seek to transform entire industries and spur social change, universities provide them with the first opportunity and resources to explore futures in entrepreneurship.
NerdScholar’s series of featured entrepreneurial programs
In celebration of National Small Business Month this May, NerdScholar launched a series highlighting our favorite college entrepreneurial programs. We’ll be featuring university programs each week during May that have entrepreneurial focused degree programs, university-sponsored hackathons, strong alumni support, university venture funds, and other entrepreneurship focuses. This week we highlight college entrepreneurship programs that have great incubator programs.
Our favorite university incubator programs with an engineering focus:
DUHatch Incubator at Duke University
Duke’s student business incubator seeks to educate young entrepreneurs how to turn their ideas into actionable business ventures. They are not your traditional commercial business incubator and tech accelerator as they place a high importance on multidisciplinary efforts to solve needs in medicine, law, tech, and business. They have space for 1-4 years. Professor Larry Boyd, a leader in orthopedic medical device innovation, is focused on helping students on the path to commercialization. They offer entrepreneurship resources for students looking to get into engineering fields from energy, tech, to biomedicine.
Boston University’s Office of Technology Development
In collaboration with the College of Business, the College of Engineering, and the Lavin Center for Entrepreneurship, BU’s incubator seeks to turn student ideas into companies. They currently host 15 tech start-ups spanning the fields of bio-tech, medicine, clean energy, engineering, and even publishing. Not only do they provide mentorship and professor support along students’ ideation and execution process, but they have the opportunity to get financing from angel investors, corporate, and government sources. For example, students have the fortune of getting guidance from Professor Peter R. Russo whom runs BU’s entrepreneurship curriculum and has previously served as the CEO of Honeywell Instruments. He is involved with student initiatives that undergo a diligent peer review process, thereby helping the students make connections to the wider financial and business communities in Boston.
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As part of the BU Urban Business Accelerator that launched in summer 2012, students intern as consultants in teams of four, including one MBA candidate, with local small business owners who need help managing their financial accounts. By the end of these 10 weeks, BUBA will have helped 13 small businesses, with 54 students participating.
This annual event is sponsored by Siemens Technology to Business (TTB) Berkeley, a venture innovation group that serves as a gateway to Siemens for entrepreneurs with great ideas.
Applications will be reviewed in the coming weeks and a group of promising startup companies, representing a range of disciplines, will be selected to attend the New Ventures Forum. These startups will visit the San Francisco Bay Area from June 10-12 for an all-expenses-paid interactive learning experience. Invited teams will build their professional networks and learn how to attract and engage Siemens – and discover how TTB can help accelerate their go-to-market plans.
Complete details on the 2013 New Ventures Forum are included in the following official link:
Nathan Bernard spent time traveling in Kenya, Tanzania, Ecuador and Ghana throughout high school and college, slowly gaining interest in microfinance. Yet, while he witnessed problems abroad, he soon realized those problems were right here in Dorchester, Roxbury and Jamaica Plain. And after surveying 180 small business owners to understand what their pain points were, he knew he needed to bring a program to Boston University that would make a difference and incite change.
Boston University’s Urban Accelerator Program: Helping Businesses and Social Entrepreneurs
Starting back in high school, Nathan Bernard dove into a succession of fundraising driven social endeavors in places like Ecuador, Kenya, and Tanzania. Through projects like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for charity, he helped fund AIDS orphanages, housing programs and more.
When he attended Boston University, the passion continued to grow with work in Ghana with Community Water Solutions, Inner Mongolia, with micro-lender ACCION International, and India with his first start-up, AnaGenesis.
Helping Small Businesses Grow – One Balance Sheet at a Time
On a macro level, lack of access to capital for businesses can stunt innovation, job creation and economic growth. However, at a micro level we know that small business owners are simply unprepared to manage the day-to-day cash flow challenges that accompany growing business and have difficulty understanding how to manage their finances. To address this challenge, Nathan Bernard, a recent graduate of the Boston University School of Management, launched the BU Urban Business Accelerator (BUBA). BUBA prepares small business owners to address key financial challenges and also provides a unique opportunity for students at the university to receive hands-on experience working with business owners. This allows student to observe and experience the difficulties that plague small businesses.
Supported by the BU School of Management and ITEC (Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship & Commercialization, BUBA is a unique training program that improves financial literacy for businesses in underserved communities, thereby creating bankable, businesses better positioned to grow while concurrently providing experiential learning opportunities for students.
Through a 10-week program, BUBA student teams provide over 180 hours of free, one-on-one financial literacy training to small businesses. By the end of the program, each business owner receives a financial dashboard that shows them how to benchmark themselves against industry averages and better understand how to manage their day-to-day cash flow challenges. The result is that they can now run their business by the numbers, improve business practices and ultimately generate savings that go right to their bottom line.
Bernard explains, “This summer BUBA ran a successful pilot program where teams of students worked closely with two business owners in the underserved and economically disadvantaged community of Dorchester, MA. The student teams targeted key issues like cash flow management in order to promote financial education, clarification, and organization and used the accounting software program QuickBooks as a tool to help the companies manage by the numbers.” The two business involved in the pilot were D’Benny’s, a sub shop, and A’Dalliance, a women’s clothing store, both located in Dorchester.”
BUBA is now expanding, thanks to the backing of the BU School of Management, gracious alumni who provided seed money and the BU Center for Finance Law and Policy. This fall the program includes 6 businesses managed by 6 MBAs and 18 undergraduate students. The goal is to continue expanding both on the Boston University campus as well as at other universities around the country, allowing students nationally to gain a deeper understanding of small businesses challenges and ensuring business owners benefit from the support provided by the students. As a BU initiative, Nathan, working with faculty at the School of Management, is focused on ensuring quality control measures are in place and the students receive proper training so they never lose the personal and individualized attention that every small business owner requires to be successful.