Students explore opportunities in Vermont’s business community, expanding confidence in their goals
4 minute read

The Governor’s Institutes of Vermont (GIV) hosted their ninth year of the Entrepreneurship: Creativity and Innovation Institute, one of eight specialized areas of interest they offer for Vermont teenagers and highschoolers throughout the summer. Each residential institute is an adventure that focuses on a topic and offers an in-depth experience built around learning, interacting, and sharing. From June 25 to June 30, 2023, 32 students stayed at Vermont State University in Randolph and engaged in a multitude of activities guided by proven entrepreneurs and experts that challenged their abilities in problem solving, communication, and innovation. This fast-paced program started with idea generation and evaluation, then moved through the business development stages using the business model canvas approach including marketing, finance, design thinking, culminating in a “pitch” presentation where teams of students pitched their venture ideas in five minutes to a panel of business professionals. The panel included VtSBDC Business Advisor Sarah Kearns, Vermont House Representative Marc Mihaly, and founder and Chief Visionary Officer of William Calfee. 

Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) Advisor/Student Entrepreneurship Specialist Laurel Butler and VtSBDC Consultant and CVU faculty member Tamie-Jo Dickinson created and facilitated a comprehensive curriculum that allowed students to infuse their own creativity and innovation in hands-on activities. Students were encouraged to think about how to leverage their own unique business ideas to propel them to future success. Committed to making the program accessible, GIV provided help with transportation and finances, offering tuition on a sliding scale based on family income. Some students attended for as little as $10. 

On June 28, the group went on a field trip to tour Burlington, Vt business centers Generator and Hula, and participated in an improv workshop at the Vermont Comedy Club. The objective of the day was to explore the opportunities Vermont offers in the business community, and to provide a newfound sense of confidence in the students’ aspirations for their future careers. 

Generator is a combination of an artist studio, a classroom, and a business incubator at the intersection of art, science, and technology. The facility provides tools, expertise, education, and opportunity to enable all members of our community to create, collaborate, and make their ideas a reality. Students saw members’ projects and interacted with entrepreneurs at various stages including PinBox 3000, a company that created the ultimate DIY that encourages imagination to run wild as you craft your own game. Students got to try out different models and see the company’s work in progress. 

Next, Hula, located on the shore of Lake Champlain, is a technology-driven coworking campus, business incubator, and venture capital fund focused on elevating Vermont-based start-ups and entrepreneurs. Hula is home to BETA Technologies, a Burlington, Vt based aerospace manufacturer developing electrical vertical takeoff and landing with specially designed charging infrastructure in addition to pilot training for future electric aircraft pilots. Students admired the open concept and naturally lit space that utilizes 100% renewable energy through geothermal heating and cooling. 

The Vermont Comedy Club hosted the students for lunch while co-founder Natalie Miller, a VtSBDC client, led improv exercises that seamlessly integrated both valuable entrepreneurship lessons and life lessons. The room roared with laughter and excitement as the group networked and utilized their negotiation skills alongside improv tactics like saying: “Yes and…” 

The day left the students, RAs, and facilitators feeling enthusiastic and motivated. Many students come into the program with little to no background in business and entrepreneurship, but what they lack in experience they make up for in inquisitiveness and determination. Students became more aware of the resources available to help them achieve their goals. 

“I plan to use what I learn at GIV to make me more confident and secure in my ideas. Everyone is so supportive; I feel like I’m part of a community when I’m here.” -Daisy 

“I signed up because my friends did it last year and enjoyed it. My dad works at Hula, so it was fun getting a tour of the office.” -Petra 

“I like working at this institute because of all the creativity the students bring. The pitches are super fun to watch.” -Hannah (RA, University of Vermont graduate)

“The improv activity is my favorite thing we’ve done so far. Everyone felt comfortable participating, and it created a strong sense of community.” -Daniel 

“I’m interested in being an entrepreneur and I like learning about business, so I came here to get inspiration and learn more. I didn’t realize all of the resources there are to help businesses get started.” -Briden 

“Seeing Hula was awesome; I’m interested in the tech industry and there were a lot of companies there that I’ve heard about, so it was cool seeing their space. It made me feel excited for my future.” -Jayden

“The atmosphere is very exciting and inspiring and I’m learning a lot. I would definitely do this again.” -Allison 

“I loved seeing the artists at Generator. I love the creative aspect of business and it’s exciting to see the opportunities and tools that they have there.” -Kaiya

“This year, we were able to enroll more students than we have in previous years. We want to promote diversity and equity through our program and offer the students a chance to learn and grow. We are opening the pathways to thinking creatively. No matter where each person’s career takes them, the entrepreneurial process and mindset crosses all disciplines and helps individuals either be more successful in creating their own venture or being a more confident and knowledgeable employee.” 

-Laurel Butler, Business Advisor/Student Entrepreneurship Specialist 

“Attending the GIV Entrepreneurship: Creativity and Innovation week each year is a highlight of mine. Interacting with the students confirms my feelings of optimism toward the future for Vermont entrepreneurs and the support VtSBDC can provide to cultivate their goals. I am impressed with how the program has thrived, offering opportunities to shape the future ambitions of these students, several of whom have already started their own businesses. We look forward to continuing our statewide educational opportunities that are essential to Vermont’s economy, beginning with our youngest generations, and continuing through all stages of entrepreneurship.”

-Linda Rossi, State Director, VtSBDC

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