All events are held at the Starting Gate facility in downtown Kalamazoo (161 E. Michigan Ave.). Contact Lara Hobson to register. Workshops are free to WMU students. All others, please bring payment of $35/workshop (cash or check).
- Fall program kickoff meeting: September 18, 5 to 6 p.m.—Student teams accepted into the fall program will meet to discuss goals and objectives.
- Business Model Canvas Workshop: September 25, 5 to 6 p.m.—The Business Model Canvas is a strategic management and entrepreneurial tool. It allows you to describe, design, challenge, invent, and pivot your business model. It is a simple graphical template describing nine essential components: customer segments, value propositions, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, resources, activities, partnerships, and costs. The individual elements prompt consideration of a business’ full scope, while the layout encourages thought about how the pieces fit together. The Business Model Canvas is simple enough to sketch on paper and powerful enough to refocus the way you view your business. Guest speaker; Sandra Cochrane, Small Business Development Center
- Writing your Business Plan Workshop: September 29, 5 to 7:30 p.m.—Participants will learn how to write a comprehensive business plan. Business plans are important to help you set goals, determine resources needed to carry out your plan, and foresee problems. Guest speaker; John Schmitt, Small Business Development Center
- Mentor Meetup: October 9, 5 to 6 p.m. Student teams will be matched to mentors with various areas of expertise.
- Customer Discovery Workshop: October 10, 2 to 3 p.m.—This workshop will show how to quickly get feedback on an idea without spending a lot of time or money.The participants will also learn how to find talent to help them execute their idea and stay lean. How to create specification documents and manage a team to execute them will also be discussed. Guest speaker; Bob Armbrister, executive director of administration-information technology and services, and entrepreneur.
- Building your Team Workshop: October 24, 2 to 3 p.m.—The majority of entrepreneurial businesses are started by teams, but if you're a lone entrepreneur with an idea and a dream, how do you find, grow, and manage a team that shares your passion? This workshop will discuss this question, as well as ways to professionalize an entrepreneurial business with a team structure that can grow and change over time. Guest speaker; Laurel Ofstein, assistant professor of management
- Impromptu Selling: November 1, 11 to noon—This improv class will teach you the basics of how to form a winning sales pitch and the improv practice to hone your ability for "Impromptu speaking." You'll be prepared to sell to anyone no mater what they throw at you. Guest speaker; Christina Williams, Talented Audio Productions
- Financing Forecasting Workshop: November 3, 4:30 50 6 p.m.—In this workshop, attendees will build a financial forecast in Excel to better understand potential revenue and expenses. The end result will help founders know their largest financial shortfall and be able to adjust accordingly (e.g. raise external funds, slow down executing growth plans,etc.). Note: financial forecasts are inevitably wrong for startups (as startups are operating in a world of uncertainty, not known risks), but
the knowledge gained about one's business through the process of building a financial forecast is invaluable to company leaders. Attendees should bring a one paragraph description of their business idea to the workshop.Guest speaker; John Mueller, assistant professor of management
- Update Night and Mentor Meetup #2 with Starting Gate alumni: November 6, 5–6 p.m.
- Investment Structures and Networking to Identify Quality Strategic Assistance Workshop: November 13, 5 to 6 p.m.—This is a dialogue-centric block of time during which the participants will be introduced to the intricacies of a variety of capital investment structures and their related terms and conditions. In addition, the participants will be presented with how networking becomes a way of life that advances both professional and personal objectives while actually building communities of interest. Guest speaker; Pat Morand, Open Prairie Ventures
- Marketing and Social Media Workshop: November 14, 2 to 3:30 p.m. "Fundamentals of Developing a Marketing Plan" presents practical methods designed to grow small businesses. It covers basic marketing tools including market analysis and research, target marketing, assessing competitors, and key marketing implementation tools. A strategic, well planned approach to marketing is demonstrated, with several examples of effective hands-on marketing techniques. Focus is on developing the business’s marketing plan.Guest speaker, Tamara Davis, Small Business Development Center
- Demo Day: November 20, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.—Prototypes and business concepts from the student teams will be demonstrated to members of the University and business communities.
- Pitching Workshop: Learn the basic structure for a successful 8-10 minute pitch presentation to investors. December 4, 5-6 p.m.—Guest speaker; Sandra Cochrane, Small Business Development Center
- Business Storytelling: December 5, 2 to 3 p.m.—This workshop will apply the literature and craft of storytelling to various business purposes, including leadership, marketing and sales. Participants will be able to develop business narratives and adapt stories for different practical purposes. Guest speaker; Allison Downey, associate professor of education.
- Investor Day: December 18, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.—Student entrepreneurs will make formal presentations about their businesses to members of the investor community to receive feedback and, possibly, future funding.
- Spring program applications due: December 1
- Spring program: January 13, 2015 through April 22, 2015 (please note that there will be weekly team meetings held every Tuesday from 3-6 p.m.)