Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Sarah Roche, co-founder of Platypus TV, a graduate of the Syracuse Student Sandbox and a Community Connector for IDEA. You can find more of her blogs about entrepreneurship here and here.
On his first day in his new position, Chancellor Kent Syverud and his wife, Dr. Ruth Chen, a professor in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science, stopped by one of the hubs of the Syracuse Entrepreneurship ecosystem, The Syracuse Student Sandbox.
Chancellor Syverud (2nd row, 5th from left), and his wife, Dr. Ruth Chen (2nd row, fourth from left), with student teams at the Syracuse Student Sandbox. Also pictured: John Liddy, Student Sandbox Entrepreneur in Residence.
Chancellor Syverud and Dr. Chen took some time to chat with student entrepreneurs about their projects. Danny Goldberg of Golden Gear showed the Chancellor the boxing gear he works with a hand surgeon to create. His gloves offer better protection to those in the ring.
Nick Dorfer discussed his project with the Chancellor; a garage rental space for car enthusiasts called Openlift, and found it to be a great networking opportunity. Chancellor Syverud and Dr. Chen even left with some gifts, taking home some dog treats from Full Circle Feed, which uses buffet leftovers from Turning Stone Resort & Casino to make pet treats, and an infinity scarf from Celestine Currie of Soulscarf, who donates 20% of the proceeds from each scarf sold to charity.
The Student Sandbox was created in 2009 as a partnership between Syracuse University and CenterState CEO. IDEA at SU, back when it was called Enitiative, seeded the Student Sandbox with a $150,000 grant to get started. To support the Sandbox, IDEA and The Tech Garden partnered to secure a $500,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration for an entrepreneur in residence. The Tech Garden donates the Sandbox space and utilities to support that space while IDEA funds the assistant director of the Sandbox and the Sandbox Demo Day, an annual August event where teams that have been working in the Sandbox pitch their ideas to investors and the entrepreneurship community.
The Syracuse Student Sandbox has seen over one hundred teams work on their businesses over the past five years, including BrandYourself, who assists with improving personal Google rankings and was recently listed as the fastest growing online reputation management company, Regattable and Centscere, who are part of this year’s StartupLabs competition, my team, Platypus TV, and Building Pathways, mind mapping software built to assist those with reading comprehension difficulties built by Koby Brandstein, a 2014 Engagement Scholar. Although not all the businesses move on to space in the Tech Garden or local accelerators, the education received in how to create and manage a business and how to overcome common hurdles has proven beneficial whether graduates continue with their idea or move into a more traditional employment role.
The Syracuse Student Sandbox is only one of the many spaces on campus that focus on assisting students in making their ideas reality. The Whitman School of Management offers the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship, the Newhouse School has the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, and IDEA focuses on bringing students into the entrepreneurship ecosystem through events like Emerging Talk, IDEA Juicers, and events showcasing on campus Maker Spaces.
Syracuse University and the City of Syracuse’s focus on entrepreneurship assistance and growth have helped to create a vibrant culture of participation and assistance, both for students and community. Student access to the Student Sandbox allows them to work with and get assistance from other resources as well, such as Centerstate CEO and the WISE business center, to network with other entrepreneurs at events like Tech Meetups and Rounded Presents, and to participate in business accelerators such as Startfast and Startup Labs.
The spirit of entrepreneurship on the Syracuse University campus creates an atmosphere of collaboration, innovation and creative problem solving that I have found very beneficial. I hope that Chancellor Syverud sees how valuable this resource is and continues to encourage the creation and nurturing of student businesses.