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TESA ’16 Recap

The GVSU Teen Entrepreneur Summer Academy (TESA) is a week-long summer program for high school students. The program focuses on cultivating awareness of and interest in the unique entrepreneurial ecosystem of Grand Rapids, while also providing students the knowledge and tools for starting their own businesses. It is an exceptional opportunity for high school students to interact and learn on a college campus. During the five day program, students work with college faculty and current GVSU students to solve a real-world problem through entrepreneurship. The program provides students with fundamental business concepts and essential entrepreneurship skills through hands-on, creative workshops. On the last day, the teams present their five-minute business idea pitch to a panel of judges from the local community for a cash prize. To aid the students in this presentation GVSU faculty, current entrepreneurial college students, and local entrepreneurs provided training and mentorship.

The 2016 TESA program saw 36 students from 23 different high schools across the state of Michigan. Sponsors included Amway, KENT ISD, Ernst & Young, the Seidman College of Business, and the Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Together they provided cash and prizes for the student entrepreneurs that totaled over $5,000.

Each year, TESA features a theme for the students to focus their ideas toward. This year’s theme was healthcare. To assist students in understanding the challenges associated with healthcare, we kicked off the week with an intensive poverty simulation conducted by Access West Michigan. The hour and half long exercise grouped students into fictitious families experiencing poverty and challenged them to meet their basic needs within a certain time frame. We followed this exercise with a trip to Spectrum Health Innovations to listen to a dynamic panel of health care professionals as they highlighted issues rampant in the current system. Later in the week, Kangaroo Kitchen hosted a healthy cooking workshop, Fulton Street Farmers Market gave a presentation on the value of local food markets, Start Garden introduced the students to what an entrepreneurial ecosystem looks like, and the David D. Hunting YMCA hosted us for rock climbing, volleyball, hula hooping, and basketball. Students were also given the opportunity to work with improvisation expert Amy Gascon from Dog Story Theater to improve their stage presence and team building skills. Throughout the week students were under the instruction of Peg Shoenborn and Dr. Tim Syfert. Shoenborn and Dr. Syfert guided them through ideation, prototyping, planning and market research, and management and operations.

At the end of the week, the student teams pitched their business ideas to a panel of judges made up of Tina Bain, Director of Global Special Events at Amway; Alaina Clarke, Conference Program Manager at Society of North American Goldsmiths; Michael Czechowskyj, Clinical Innovations Specialist at Spectrum Health; Paul Moore, Chief Marketing Officer at Start Garden; and Kevin Schnell, Executive Director at Ernst and Young.

Ravel Bowman, George Ebeling, Abigail Johandes, Alicia Mendez and Jennifer Puente took home first prize and $2,500 for Time to Get Fresh, a business that would utilize the school bus system to provide children qualifying for free or reduced lunch with fresh produce and recipes. Sofia Alfaro, Genevieve Doyle, Benjamin Janes, Miranda Pablo and Jaspreet Singh were awarded second place and $1,500 for Crane Care, a business that would equip elementary schools with health care clinics. Nicholas Baran, Michaela Gheorghiu, Joey Paliwoda, Alex Plouff and Allison Smart received third place and $1,000 for A New Page, a company that would utilize medical social work students to address mental health care in prisons.

2016 Students’ Testimonials:

“I was wavering with what to do after high school, but I really think I may have found my path.”

“I had a great experience at TESA. I look forward to what this camp has given me to use in the real world.”

“This camp is my favorite camp of the summer. I did it last year and decided to come back because I learned so much. I would like to thank the whole TESA staff for making this camp 10 times better than it already was. The experiences and lessons I’ve learned I will keep forever. I can’t wait until next year.”

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TESA ’16

Things have been a little quiet here at  NEU as of late, and for good reason; We have been dedicating our resources to preparing for the Teen Entrepreneur Summer Academy (TESA).

TESA takes place from June 27-July 1, and is a unique program designed to give high school students an immersive educational experience in entrepreneurship. At the the begining of the week, students are divided into teams and presented with a theme to create a business around. At the end of the week, each team will pitch their final idea to a panel of judges for a chance to win cash prizes totaling $5,000. Past TESA themes include arts, agriculture, and urban sustainability. This year’s theme is health and wellness.


We have an exciting schedule lined up for our TESA students this year. We are kicking things off on Monday with a poverty simulation designed to give them a full understanding of what it is like to have limited access to medical care, followed by a carefully curated panel of industry experts that will take them further into exploring barriers in healthcare systems. The rest of the week includes ideation exercises, improv activities, finance overviews, marketing research, prototyping, lunch in downtown Grand Rapids, field trips to the David D. Hunting YMCA, Start Garden, The Fulton Street Farmers Market and a cooking demonstration with Kangaroo Kitchen.

This is the 10th year that TESA has been giving high school students the skills to explore their passions while forging their own paths. We are pleased to be taking our programing to Detroit from August 1-5 to expand the impact of TESA.

NEU will resume posting after July 4. Stay tuned!



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Socks and Social Enterprise

This is the first in an ongoing series highlighting the stories of Grand Rapids’ growing small business community. Bold Socks is a recent addition to the Avenue for the Arts retail sector.

The Bold Socks store at 17 Division Ave S in downtown Grand Rapids is set up to look and feel like art gallery; colorful socks line the black and white walls, hung three at a time so as not to crowd the displays. The space is small but open, with minimal floor displays to allow to customers to move freely and view the merchandise.

“I had a belief that if we opened the store, Grand Rapids would get behind it,” said Ryan Roff, co-owner of Bold Socks. “What I didn’t realize was to what effect they would get behind it.”

0 comments on “Marketing on an entrepreneur’s budget”

Marketing on an entrepreneur’s budget

When you are first starting out as an entrepreneur, you may have limited room in your budget for marketing. Fortunately, you don’t need to have a multi million dollar marketing department to create recognition for your brand. You just need to know how to tell your story.

Dr. Kevin Lehnert has taught marketing at Grand Valley State University for six years.

“There’s no easy tool to create brand recognition, but the best thing to do is to understand your story,” Lehnert says.

0 comments on “Introducing Entrepreneur in Residence Matt Larson”

Introducing Entrepreneur in Residence Matt Larson

Matt Larson has always been a self-starter. One afternoon when he was 3 years old, he told his mother he was going to play in the front yard. Instead, he walked eight blocks to downtown Ludington to go to work.

“I walked to a store where her friends used to work,” Larson said. “They would pay me to pick up price tags and different things off the floor while my mom was shopping there.”

He didn’t stop there. When Larson was in third grade, he charged his fellow students one snack a month to hold their lunch money in a lockbox. Students who kept their money with him were even assigned an account number, foreshadowing the bookkeeping business he would start after college.

“Early on, I knew that I didn’t want to work for someone,” Larson said.

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Grand Valley student team receives Honorable Mention at TCU Values and Ventures Competition

On Saturday, April 9 Zoe Bruyn and Jordan Vanderham of Grand Valley State University received an honorable mention and $2,500 at the Sixth Annual Texas Christian University (TCU) Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Competition. The invite-only undergraduate business competition is known to be one of the most prestigious in the nation and saw 47 teams present ideas for products or services that would improve the quality of life for a specific population while turning a profit. The competition awards a total of $77, 700 to winning teams.

Bruyn and Vanderham presented on behalf of a U-Col, an external female catheter solution for women that suffer from fistula. They were one of nine teams to make into the final round, including The George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University.


0 comments on “Four must-have books for entrepreneurs”

Four must-have books for entrepreneurs

The literary market is flush with books that aim to inspire entrepreneurs, tell the story of successful startups and let readers in on the secrets of those who made it big. From the practical to the absurd, there’s a lot out there. We have compiled a short list of highly regarded startup literature that would do any entrepreneur, from the beginner to the seasoned, well to have on their shelf.

0 comments on “2016 MWest Competition”

2016 MWest Competition

On Friday, April 1, 134 students from colleges and universities across West Michigan gathered at Grand Valley State University’s Eberhard Center to compete in the third annual MWest Challenge for a chance to win a total of $40,000 in invest capital.

The MWest Challenge was first held in 2014 as a collaboration between the West Michigan Colleges and Universities Group (WMCAG). The competition aims to give students the opportunity to take their business ideas to the next level while receiving feedback from a panel of expert judges.

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SBIR/STTR Community Program and Networking

On April 20, Biotechnology Business Consultants (BBCetc) will be hosting an information panel and networking event at Blue 35 in downtown Grand Rapids that will address recent changes  made to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program.

The SBIR/STTR program is a competitive program that provides funding for small businesses engaged in research and development (R&D) from the excess funds of federal agencies whose R&D budgets exceed $100 million.

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Unstoppable! A Day of Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs & Makers



On March 26, the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) will host Unstoppable! A Day of Celebrating  Women Entrepreneurs & MakersThe event is a collaboration between the GRAM, Local First, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW), Avenue for the Arts and Creative Many, and will feature an all women artisan market, along with workshops and panels geared towards the business end of creativity.

“We really wanted the opportunity to showcase innovation in both design and in entrepreneurialism,” GRAM Communications Manager Cia Segerlind said.