Many of us chose to attend Sarah Lawrence because of its independent nature. We aren’t limited to one major or confined to a class subject, and conference work allows for exploration. At Sarah Lawrence, we learn how to argue for our ideas and then turn those ideas into informed twenty-page papers.
The average entrepreneur may not write a lengthy paper on their chosen field, but he or she will defend their ideas in a similar way. And whether their idea turns into Twitter or bombs like Backfence, each entrepreneur learns by building and rebuilding, consulting mentors and adjusting accordingly.
Sarah Lawrence is a fertile environment for entrepreneurship to grow; students have always taken it upon themselves to instigate invention. But now, they have more help. Like business schools across the country and increasingly, liberal arts colleges, Sarah Lawrence hosts a program to educate and support budding entrepreneurs. Here, it’s called SLCeeds. The Office of Career Counseling officially launched it as a pilot program last year. Starting this fall, Program Manager Jennifer Stam is looking forward to involving more alumni and engaging even more students.
Initially, over 135 students participated in SLCeeds programming. “This year, I’m charged with bringing in more people from the outside, involving more alumni and trustees,” Stam said. “And then I’m also focused on creating more programming for all students, not just those who want to embark on the SLCeeds ‘track.’”
Stam has always worked with entrepreneurs, though she also managed events for the president’s office at Emerson College. While Stam handles the marketing and events, she’s grateful to partner with Tracey Riese ’79, who is immersed in the world of entrepreneurs and a Managing Director of Golden Seeds, an early stage venture capital firm. After Karen Lawrence came up with the idea for SLCeeds, Riese was eager to take part. “Tracey saw a great need for a program like this,” Stam said. “And she had so many fabulous contacts that are investors and entrepreneurs who are willing to get involved with SLCeeds.”
Riese adds, “A Sarah Lawrence education is essentially an entrepreneurial, inventive education: rather than follow a path laid out for them, students here start with their own ideas and their own passions and construct a unique educational route — sometimes taking several detours along the way. Through conference work, they learn to connect a particular subject to other areas they care about, envision an outcome and figure out how to take the steps to get to that outcome. Often, they have to modify their process or even their goals as they get into the work. But in the end, they have to produce something. This is what entrepreneurs do.
We wanted SLCeeds to provide an opportunity for SLC students to more intentionally take the entrepreneurial and inventive skills they are acquiring in the classroom and with their dons and apply them to work and service in the world.”
Between them (and with help from Career Services, Development, and the Office of Alumni Relations), Stam and Riese have wrangled a crew of entrepreneurial alumni and friends of the College to serve as ideation leaders, program speakers, site visit hosts and pitch judges. This Tuesday, October 15, students are invited to attend an Evening of Inspiration and Exploration, where leaders like Lesley Feinberg ‘07, founder of Lower East Side’s Prohibition Bakery, a Boozy Cupcakery and Sarah Rosner ‘08, founder of A.O. Pro(+ductions), will speak on their experiences.
On Wednesday, October 23, Richard Harriman will lead an Idea Generation Workshop in the Faculty Dining room. Harriman is a Harvard Professor and Senior Fellow at SynecticsWorld, an “innovation consulting firm.” His exercises and strategies will help students prepare for PitchFest! on November 14, when they will present their ideas in front of a panel of judges. PitchFest winners go on to attend an entrepreneurship boot camp during spring semester before competing in FinalPitch! on April 17.
Last year, pitches ranged from Eli Colasante’s compost business to an online tool called Challenge Me!, which allowed people to motivate one another. Challenge Me!, created by Connor Miller ’15 and Zachary Doege ’15, was the Judges’ Choice winning team. Stam hopes that with more introductory events and support in ideation, a greater number of students will feel confident enough to pitch this year. “I’m hoping that I can encourage all students to just go for it and pitch. In the experience alone, they’ll learn so much,” she said.
Stam thinks we’re the right recipients for such a space: “Sarah Lawrence students are inherently entrepreneurial just by being here. We want to help cultivate that innovative spirit and give students the tools, skills and experiences to do what they love after graduation.”
Find more information at my.slc.edu/slceeds