In partnership with the city of Greenville, the Greenville Local Development Corporation (GLDC) and the South Carolina Department of Commerce, Furman University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is launching a new program this fall called GVL STARTS. The program is designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs move from idea to action by connecting them with a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and teaching them the skills they need to fund and grow their ventures.
GVL STARTS builds on the success of a “business and innovation boot camp” that the institute launched for Furman students in 2018. 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,” said Anthony Herrera, Furman University’s chief innovation officer and the founding executive director of the Furman Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “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.”
Startups and small businesses are critical to a vibrant economy, but more than 70% of new businesses fail within five years due to problems that can be addressed with the right foundation, according to Bryan Davis, managing director of the Furman Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the program director for GVL STARTS.
“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,” said Davis. “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 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 the 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 organizations.
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,” said McDonough. “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 Friday, 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 Wednesday, Aug. 11.
The institute offers a 30-minute virtual information session on GVL STARTS on Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m. Those interested can register for an information session.