BY KAYLA PONGRAC | Daily American Correspondent | Posted: Monday, February 3, 2014 10:56 p.m.
The next great idea could be written on the walls of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown's Idea Lab.
Located in classroom No. 132 in Biddle Hall, the new Idea Lab is equipped with floor-to-ceiling whiteboards, a large bulletin board, writeable tables, comfortable chairs and a projection system.
The lab functions as a classroom space and as a meeting place. It's UPJ's latest effort to cater to not only students, but also community members who are -- or who would like to become -- local entrepreneurs.
"We're trying to create a pipeline of innovation," said assistant marketing professor Skip Glenn, who this semester is teaching Marketing Special Topics: Entrepreneurship 1670, or what he simply refers to as entrepreneurship seminar. It's the first class of its kind at the university. UPJ President Jem Spectar has expressed enthusiasm for giving entrepreneurs the resources they need to bring their ideas to fruition.
"Dr. Spectar has been a supporter of us developing an entrepreneur program," social sciences division Chairman Ray Wrabley said. "We think that there are students across the campus -- and not just on our campus -- in every discipline who are creative."
Glenn's seminar is held on Tuesday evenings in the Idea Lab. Twelve UPJ students are enrolled in this semester's class. He's hoping that members of the community will consider enrolling as word continues to spread.
"(The class is) in its pilot stages right now," Glenn said. "We're interested in gathering talent from the community, running it through resources in the community and getting students ready to test their ideas, develop them and present them in a way that would make investors interested in helping them reach that next tier of funding."
Glenn has designed the class to include group discussions, close readings of Bill Aulet's book "Disciplined Entrepreneurship" and the opportunity to network with local entrepreneurs. He has teamed up with successful entrepreneur Mike Hruska, who for the past year has been hosting monthly entrepreneur sessions at the Venue of Merging Arts
(VOMA) in Johnstown's Cambria City.
At the end of the semester, students will be responsible for preparing a 20-minute pitch to local entrepreneurs and business leaders with the hopes of securing funding. This part of the course is modeled after the television show "Shark Tank," which gives wealthy investors an opportunity to partner with entrepreneurs seeking funding.
With the fall semester well underway, Glenn said that his students are already developing commercially viable products and services. Katie Saylor, a junior from Hollsopple, is working to create a late-night ice cream delivery service tentatively titled Helado Para Ti, which means "Ice Cream for You" in Spanish.
"I have worked at a local ice cream stand (Windber's The Rambler) for the last five years, so I decided to do something with the ice cream industry since I am familiar with it," Saylor said.
Saylor, who is double majoring in marketing and accounting, said that she considers Glenn's seminar beneficial for those looking to establish their own businesses.
"I think it would be fun to have my own business, so this class has really helped me think of every aspect that goes into it," she said.
"I really encourage others to take this class. (It) is really extensive and professor Glenn is open to all the ideas that we have."
Glenn plans to teach the course every fall and spring semester.
Meanwhile, more work will continue behind the scenes as Wrabley meets with local businessmen and women who are interested in finding -- and working with -- entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds. He's also in the process of establishing working relationships with nearby colleges and universities, which is all part of a plan to make UPJ -- and the region -- a place where entrepreneurs surface and flourish.
"We're building a new world -- a world where creatives can bring their stuff to market," Glenn said.
View the article on the Daily American website here.