Furman University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is christening another program for budding entrepreneurs in the Upstate, this time backed by the city of Greenville, Greenville Local Development Corp., VentureSouth, South Carolina Research Authority and the Commerce Department.
The program, called GVL Starts, is designed to connect aspiring, like-minded entrepreneurs and help teach them skills needed to fund their ventures.
GVL Starts builds on the success of a “business and innovation boot camp” that the institute started for Furman students in 2018, according to a news release. After the students completed the boot camp, a select number received internship placements, funded by GLDC, with early-stage NEXT member companies.
“Engaging with the Greenville community is nothing new to Furman,” Anthony Herrera, Furman University’s chief innovation officer and the founding executive director of the Furman Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said in the release. “GVL Starts is one of the many new ways we are collaborating with community partners to grow a culture of innovation and position Greenville as a national hub for entrepreneurship.”
According to Bryan Davis, managing director of the Furman Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the program director of GVL Starts, while startups and small businesses are critical to a vibrant economy, more than 70% of new businesses fail within five years due to problems that can be addressed with the right foundation.
“Fortunately, a community like Greenville, which is fueled by collaboration and driven by a can-do spirit, has the opportunity to flip the script in an inclusive and equitable fashion,” Davis said in the release. “There is a critical mass of collaboration partners around the table supporting the GVL Starts program, and ultimately, the aspiring entrepreneur or founder. To me, that is the magical element of this. It’s not just about the great training, it’s about the connections and experience you’ll have that will absolutely give you a leg up to be successful in Greenville, regardless of your background, race, gender, age, etc.”
The eight-week program, which will be offered twice a year, begins on Aug. 17, and is limited to 25 participants. Sessions will be held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Participants will have an opportunity to pitch their idea or new venture during the final week for a chance to win $5,000 to assist with initial startup costs and free desk space for one year in the heart of downtown, surrounded by other entrepreneurs, investors and support organization
According to Greenville City Manager John McDonough, GVL Starts helps address the challenges facing every aspiring entrepreneur — the accessibility of training, connections and resources — and exemplifies the type of partnerships that Greenville is known for.
“Greenville is more than a vibrant place to visit and an affordable place to live. It’s a thriving community for entrepreneurs,” McDonough said in the release. “We welcome, support and collaborate with innovators, and the GVL Starts program powered by Furman will provide the educational workshops, coaching and networking they need to build confidence and ensure success.”
GVL Starts is open to aspiring entrepreneurs from all demographics and business categories.
The deadline to apply is Aug. 6, and the cost is $299. Need-based scholarships are available. Applications will be reviewed by an outside committee, and the first group of participants will be announced on Aug. 11. The institute also offers a 30-minute virtual information session on Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m.