For the next six weeks, a group of Roanoke College students are walking in the shoes of small business owners.
As part of a program called the Roanoke College Innovation Challenge, 15 students are tasked with building a business plan for three entrepreneurs.
Each five-person team is paired with an entrepreneur and will spend the next month and a half on Roanoke's campus developing a business plan for the venture.
The plans must be extensive - and include everything from structure and marketing to finance, accounting and strategic planning.
Students also attend workshops and lectures by business leaders and college faculty on topics that include legal issues for small businesses, intellectual property, accounting software, technology issues and human resources.
“It’s almost as close to a real life experience of being an entrepreneur – outside of actually becoming an entrepreneur.”
Steve Baker, a Roanoke professor who directs the Innovation Challenge and the Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurial Innovation at Roanoke
The program began in 2001, with the College's partnership with the Egg Factory, a Roanoke company that invents, patents and develops innovative products. In 2006, the College took on the Innovation Challenge as its own.
The students, who largely are business majors or are interested in related careers, apply for the program. Of this year's participants, 12 attend Roanoke College, while three are enrolled at Cedarville University, Virginia Tech and Elon University.
They will work with the following small business startups, some of which hope to attract outside investors:
Frost Gear, founded by Roanoke College students, sells cold weather gear for various uses, including specialized gloves to help baseball players grip baseballs in frigid temperatures. Students with the Innovation Challenge will work primarily with the business' tactical solutions division, which designs cold weather clothing and gloves for law enforcement.
First Medicine On Demand is an app through which users can request a home visit from a medical professional who can perform diagnostic testing and help to treat acute and chronic issues. The medical professionals or nurses have direct access to physicians to determine if a patient's condition requires further attention.
Vertebrae created industrial gas-powered weed trimmers with several features that are meant to ease back pain in users. One prototype machine has a longer arm to allow the user to stand straight while using it. Another prototype has a longer arm plus is adjustable for a user's height and spins in a 360-degree radius.
The Innovation Challenge ends July 27, when teams present their business plans for review by a panel of business leaders and Roanoke faculty.