Earlier this month, Greenfield Community College students did more than join over 600 students from 14 area colleges at the twelfth annual Grinspoon, Garvey & Young Entrepreneurship Conference at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. Ten GCC students staffed the Franklin County Community Development Corporation exhibit as part of a course project to increase use of FCCDC’s Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center. Those students are part of Tamara Stenn’s Farm and Food Entrepreneurship course at GCC. Another GCC student, Gina Roy, was selected by her table to advance in the first bracket of Idea Madness, an idea jam. Altogether, fifteen GCC students attended the event and participated in hands-on workshops and networking with entrepreneurs and other students. They worked in cross-college groups in break-out sessions including Pitch Like an Entrepreneurial Pro, Social Entrepreneurship Opportunity and Impact, and The Shark Tank. Organized by the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation and the 14 colleges, the Entrepreneurship Conference is held annually to inspire, motivate, and support college students to turn their ideas into businesses.
Stenn’s students have spent the semester working with the FCCDC’s Food Processing Center to help grow participation in the Center to more than 70%. They learned how to research the industry, market and target clients, and then strategize a tabling approach with goals and actions. The students’ tabling effort at the Conference was a way for the students to help their client, the CDC, learn more about the students as a potential client market, get feedback on their work and message, and increase visibility in the entrepreneurship community. Stenn, author of Social Entrepreneurship as Sustainable Development, said “The conference was inspiring, empowering, and motivating for the students. It was a wonderful opportunity for them to connect with peers, see real results of their work, and fine tune their communication skills.”
Joshua Chito, 28, currently living in Buckland, is studying toward a degree in Farm and Food Systems at GCC. As a student in the Farm and Food Entrepreneurship course, Chito has worked with the CDC and helped staff the CDC exhibit at the Grinspoon Conference. Commenting on his experience at the Conference, Chito said, “Tabling for the CDC, we took the time to engage with students and faculty that didn’t know the CDC and Food Processing Center exist. I enjoyed engaging the people at the conference. It is a wonderful experience marketing for a service such as the CDC. Having spent a lot of time working at farmers markets, it was refreshing to try my hand at marketing something else. One solid thing I learned is that I should never doubt my ideas, as there is always a good chance that I might have something significant. Many people there had great ideas for businesses, products, and applications. Attending the workshops and seeing people pitch ideas inspired me to keep coming up with projects, and to keep dreaming about what is possible, especially in the food and agricultural industries. The possibilities are endless, and you never know what ideas could be game changers. My philosophy is to always be challenging myself and to create something every day. The CDC and events like the Grinspoon Conference give us the tools to take those creations to another level.”
Michelle Barthelemy, Faculty in GCC’s Business Department, teaches Introduction to Business and Human Resources Management. Students from her courses attended the Pitch Camp organized by Valley Venture Mentors and Shark Tank where students pitched their ideas and got feedback from prominent members of the business community. They also heard Parker Burr, founder of Feat Socks give a keynote address and attended an Ice Cream Social and Pitch Camp at Valley Venture Mentors.
Students in Barthelemy’s Introduction to Business class are working on a business idea they conceived to address a social issue. At the end of the semester, they will present their business in a format similar to the Grinspoon Conference (table/posted session/prototypes of business, pitch their business to people who stop by their table.)
Barthelemy said, “The students who attended left energized and encouraged to take their ideas further. One wants to compete in two local pitch camps and work on developing her business. This is an opportunity for students to realize that ‘Yes, They Can!’”
Gina Roy, 39, of Leyden, owns Dust Bunnies Cleaning and is studying at GCC toward a liberal arts degree and Business Management Certificate. After many years owning her business, Roy is eager to learn ways to improve her business. At the Conference, Roy learned how to develop a 60-second elevator pitch and presented it to a group of students who voted Roy’s pitch the best of their group. Roy said, “I was so inspired by the conference, it opened my mind to many different possibilities. There was a huge amount of energy and excitement. In my business, I work for many disabled and elderly people and I get great satisfaction from helping people. What I learned at the conference was the importance of presenting myself well. Especially in a service business like mine, how I present myself is what sells. At the conference, I had many opportunities to introduce myself and my business to people of all ages from a wide range of backgrounds.”
Anita Eliason is the Business Development Specialist at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation is supporting the student WMFPC case study project. Along with tabling at the Grinspoon Conference, the students are helping the Center publicize the 15th anniversary celebration of the WMFPC being held on Friday, November 18. Eliason said, “We have enjoyed a long standing collaborative relationship between the CDC and GCC. We enjoy the energy and ideas of the students and are looking forward to their presentation later this semester.”
The 25 exhibitors included former Grinspoon student awardees who started their businesses while in college. Participating colleges included American International College, Amherst College, Bay Path University, Elms College, Greenfield Community College, Hampshire College, Holyoke Community College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Springfield College, Springfield Technical Community College, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Western New England University, and Westfield State University.
College students from the participating colleges are able to attend the Conference thanks to the generosity of the Conference sponsors: Gold Sponsors – UMass Amherst Isenberg MBA Program and the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation; Silver Sponsor – AAA Pioneer Valley; and Bronze Sponsor – Northwestern Mutual.
By Mary McClintock, ‘82
# # #