By Ferris McDaniel | LSU Student
Among the 50 or so exhibits of gizmos, gadgets and games showcased at the second annual TechPawLooza on the LSU campus this week was the 18-month-old Student Incubator designed to help student entrepreneurs prior to graduation.
Located in the Louisiana Business and Technology Park on LSU's South Campus, the Incubator is designed to allow access to an open-atmosphere office space, consultants, software, conference rooms, printers and a multitude of other resources
"Most students come to us with an idea," said Jennifer Fowler, Student Incubator director. "Some students have a business plan written or are currently running a business. We help students at any stage in the process."
The Student Incubator's neighboring exhibit was an offspring business called New Aperio. Founded by LSU student Logan Leger and Tulane University student Evan Cordell, the company designs web and mobile applications for iPhones, iPads and Android devices.
"It's a great resource for students," LSU marketing junior and Incubator intern Chelsea Bradford said, as she staffed the exhibit Wednesday. "A lot of students don't know who we are, what we offer. We're still trying to get the word out."
Christian Bankester, LSU math senior and New Aperio's senior developer, said the business idea existed prior to the Incubator, though the program fueled the flame. The Incubator's open office space allowed New Aperio to wrack the brains of other companies, appear professional for clients and unify, Bankester said.
New Aperio graduated past the Incubator to a more private space, Bankester said. He believes the company would have formed without the program but perhaps not as swiftly.
During the incubator's short life span, it has assisted 45 student businesses comprised of 56 students, Fowler said, adding that it also provided 470 one-on-one counseling sessions, 500 consulting hours, 12 speakers and workshops, five peer events and nine volunteer mentors.
Its services have resulted in five new business starts, 20 operating businesses, $425,000 in capital and 46 jobs.
The Incubator's first annual Venture Challenge will begin in March. Students submit business plans to the competition, which are reviewed by judges from the LSU business community for a chance to win big bucks, Fowler said.
The top four ranked businesses advance to a final round on April 20 at the Lod Cook Alumni Center where they will present to a judging panel. The judges allocate money to each team accordingly. No proposed business will receive less than $1,000 or more than $15,000.
Fowler said the program's success landed it a presentation at the National Business Incubation Association Conference in 2011 and is now instructing other schools how to create incubators.