Rowan University’s new School of Innovation & Entrepreneurship established a Startup Opportunity Fund to provide resources for first generation and underrepresented business hopefuls.
The fund is supported in part by two private donors and will focus on students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. Grants are available from $500 to $2,500; and starting this fall, additional program resources including professional development and mentorship components will be added.
“This new fund, launched in partnership with the Rowan Innovation Venture Fund, will provide seed money to make students seeking to start their own business more competitive,” said Eric Liguori, who heads the SIE within the Rohrer College of Business.
According to Liguori, the new fund could provide as much as $30,000 per year in resources to aspiring entrepreneurs who can demonstrate their financial need and how that funding will lead to traction.
“Some students might just need, for example, $500 to get their business started, and while some of our students could simply pull those funds from their bank account or get it from family, not all of our students can,” Liguori said. “This fund is designed to help level the playing field.”
The funding could help support a variety of start-up costs like licenses and permits, supplies, prototyping, marketing materials, even provisional patent filing.
“When starting a business, these costs add up fast,” he said. “Just to have a basic table setup, a t-shirt with your company name on it, some product samples for demonstrations, it all costs money, so we continue to work to lower barriers to entry every way we can.”
Former PNC Bank Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion Greg Payton, an SIE lecturer and a Rowan alumnus, will oversee the program.
It’s a real opportunity to make a difference in the community and to help students start their own business, Payton said.
The SIE was founded this year, developed out of the long-running Rowan Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship within the Rohrer College of Business. The Startup Opportunity Fund program is one of its first ventures.
Funds are available to all first-generation students and students of color, including those graduating in the spring of 2023 or in the 12 months prior.