During the spring 3-week semester, students taking the Integrative Entrepreneurship course travelled 40 minutes north of campus to LaunchHouse in Highland Heights. LaunchHouse is a coworking space and business incubator where entrepreneurs gather and work to grow their start-up businesses as well as meet like-minded business owners and freelance workers. Initially developed in 2008 in empty office spaces above a pizzeria, LaunchHouse opened its Highland Heights location in 2016, which includes shared and private office spaces, conference rooms, and workshop and event areas.
David Kukurza, MBA, instructor of entrepreneurship and academic program director, has taken students to LaunchHouse several times for his Integrative Entrepreneurship course and has found that teaching students on site is ideal for Hiram’s three-week intensive study model. “The LaunchHouse experience offers the Hiram students a highly experiential approach to learning,” says Kukurza. “They are immersed in the overall process of how a start-up company comes to market. Additionally, they see firsthand all of the challenges and creative thinking that is necessary for new ventures to survive.”
While at LaunchHouse, Kukurza gave students the task of meeting with business owners who were either starting their companies or developing a new product. These businesses then became clients for student teams, with each team addressing real needs and goals for their clients. Often, these needs included market research and analysis, resulting in new ad campaigns. This spring, students worked with the International Student Services Association, a non-profit organization aimed at helping immigrants to the United States further their education; Nutritional Roots, a plant-based wellness company; and Whoa Dough, a cookie dough snack company founded by Todd Goldstein, founder and CEO of LaunchHouse.
Each week, students would travel to LaunchHouse to meet with their clients, strategize on how best to reach their goals, and create their presentations and reports to deliver to their clients. Students also had the chance to talk with other entrepreneurs who were making use of the coworking space. In this casual office environment, students could gather insight into the start-up process from local entrepreneurs.
Dave Strukel, Ph.D., director of the Center for Integrated Entrepreneurship, visited the students at LaunchHouse to document their presentations and thoughts on the project.
At the end of the course, students delivered the data they’d collected along with their suggestions to their clients. Using this feedback, these business owners can refine their approaches and reach new customers. In previous years, students have helped companies with ad campaigns through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and other groups have created profiles to help companies understand the demographics and needs of their customers.
According to Kukurza, “There is no set path for how each student team will achieve their assigned company goals. The students learn how to research their target markets and meet with end users to get actual input on these products. The students have milestone reviews with their assigned companies and make pivots as required. This consultative process is a win-win for the companies and the students.”