Fourteen Santa Fe College students recently graduated from the Entrepreneurship Academy (EA). This group is the fourth class to graduate from the EA. The graduates are Stephanie Ali, Charles Touché, Gregory Sledge, Shawn Mello, Sabrina Newman, Bernardo Gonzales, John Coffill, Darrell Linzy, Lucas Driaza, Jean Cherisma, Giselle Zamorino, Neil Wingfield, Thomas Carter and Ryan Demuynck.
The EA is a program designed to promote entrepreneurial activity among Alachua and Bradford County college students. This private/public alliance between Energent Ventures, SF Student Life and the Center for Innovation and Economic Development (CIED) provides seed capital, business training and mentoring in order to energize entrepreneurial endeavors.
Participating entrepreneurs are all SF students, who are recruited and selected in the fall and begin classes in the spring. Students attend eight class meetings, one every other week. Each class runs for about two hours and addresses a different topic associated with entrepreneurship and business startup, such as “refining your elevator pitch” or “identifying your market.” Following completion of the eight workshops, each participant receives a $250 grant, or “seed capital” investment, to help turn their idea into a business. The entrepreneurs are also given three months of free incubation at the CIED.
The program grew out of a discussion in 2009 between co-founders David Whitney (Energent Ventures) and Dug Jones (associate vice president of economic development at the CIED) and was launched with $5,000 in funding from Energent Ventures the following year. Bill Dorman, the CIED’s Entrepreneur in Residence, joined the team in the EA’s second year and serves as one of two primary instructors. Guest speakers are often chosen from among the many successful entrepreneurs in the Gainesville community. To date, no less than a dozen have supported the program in some way.
Each year, the program is tweaked to be more responsive to the current group of students. Concepts and materials from a number of different curricula have been used, including Guy Kawasaki’s “The Art of the Start” and the Kauffman Foundation’s Ice House Entrepreneurship Program. In addition to classroom sessions, the students have attended events like the Gainesville Area Innovation Network (GAIN) Fast Pitch event.
“The EA program reflects the mission and purpose of Santa Fe College. EA stakeholders proudly align their efforts with that of the college’s mission and purpose and are rewarded by seeing EA students grow and prosper,” says Whitney. “EA stakeholders provide financial support and professional encouragement to EA students, helping them become successful entrepreneurs in pursuit of promising, fulfilling careers.”