Two Clemson graduates hope to invest in numerous Upstate businesses and nonprofits through the creation of a $2.5 million accelerator.
The program, designed to help students, faculty, staff and alumni succeed in constructing maintainable and expandable ventures, will be called the Brook T. Smith Accelerator after donors Brook Smith and Pamela Du Rant Smith, 1989 Clemson graduates, according to a news release.
The accelerator will offer participants workspace, networking, educational opportunities, mentorship and training through interdisciplinary coursework and collaboration with on-campus organizations, alumni entrepreneurs and funding sources.
In addition to cultivating entrepreneurial thinking in students, the accelerator’s development of leadership skills and research is meant to allow students to impact global businesses and innovation, according to the news release.
“As the leaders and innovators of the future, it is so important for our students to learn about entrepreneurship, and I am grateful to Brook and Pam Smith for their generosity that will allow us to do even more to help our students develop in this area,” Clemson President Jim Clements said in the release. “I am excited to see the results of the work that will happen in the Brook T. Smith Accelerator, and I know that it will give our students, faculty, staff and alumni a boost in their own entrepreneurial endeavors.”
The Smiths have experience backing projects designed to build job skills and generate regional economic impacts, as well as endeavors that record oral histories and promoting cultural and artistic undertakings, the release said.
“I’m fixated on identifying philanthropic organizations, projects and people with promise and working with them to get to maximum efficiency so they can reach their potential — organizations like AMPED in my hometown, the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky in my home state, and great nonprofits outside my backyard like unCommon Construction in New Orleans, Irie Foundation in Miami and HOLA in Los Angeles,” Brook Smith, founder of RSLP Ventures and a partner in Castle & Key Distillery, Barrell Craft Spirits and Post Parade Wines, said in the release. “The Brook T. Smith Accelerator at Clemson University creates a unique opportunity to share the entrepreneurial spirit and to support future generations of entrepreneurs and business leaders.”
Together the Smiths established the Smith Family Gravy Boat Fund, underwriting “Gravy,” a podcast produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance, and they recently founded the Appalachian Impact Fund with a multimillion-dollar commitment to advance opportunities in the region that support economic diversification.
“Thanks to the generosity of Brook and Pam Smith, this gift will allow us the opportunity to create this unique space for a host of entrepreneurial activities to take place in one location,” Clemson Vice President and Chief of Staff Max Allen said in the release. “This gift will help us develop something truly special for Clemson.”