GLASGOW, Ky. — Western Kentucky University faculty, staff and student entrepreneurs attended the Glasgow-Barren County Industrial Development and Economic Authority Board of Directors meeting Nov. 9 to share opportunities WKU offers to student entrepreneurs, including the new Student Business Accelerator at WKU in Glasgow.
The WKU Student Business Accelerator (SBA) in Glasgow is a free program for WKU students which supports new ideas, offers practical resources and promotes mentorship from business leaders to create opportunities for students as they explore starting their own businesses.
Representatives from the WKU Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and WKU Small Business Accelerator, as well as two student entrepreneurs, spoke about the success of current student incubator programs and the need for similar programs in other communities.
WKU Associate Vice President of Extended Learning & Outreach Dr. Beth Laves and Stephanie Pritchard, former administrator of the program at WKU in Glasgow, presented plans for the Glasgow SBA, slated to launch spring 2019.
IDEA board members, chamber leaders, state representatives, area school systems, state and local elected officials and business leaders throughout the region were in attendance to learn more about the SBA and its potential impact on the community.
Dr. Whitney Peake is the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at WKU. She, along with Jeff Hook, director of the WKU Small Business Accelerator, works closely with WKU students to help them develop their business ideas. She stressed the importance of providing resources for students who don’t yet have the finances, space, assets or knowledge to successfully start a business from the ground up.
“Many students have great ideas,” said Peake, “but they need the support of others who have gone before them. I’m excited about the ways WKU and our communities work together to support student entrepreneurs.”
Two students shared their business success stories and examples of what students can achieve with support from WKU and local business leaders.
Robert Bowden, a sophomore from Atlanta, is founder and CEO of Spartan 4×4, an after-market off-road vehicle business he originally started in his parents’ garage.
After enrolling at WKU, he ran his business from a makeshift office in his dorm room. He learned about free office space and resources through the Small Business Accelerator at WKU. He moved his office to the WKU Center for Research & Development.
“Through WKU, we’ve had numerous opportunities,” he said. These opportunities included networking, visibility and the ability to establish contacts with others in the industry. His business has since expanded, and he plans to open an installation center later this year at the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park.
Bailey Dahlquist, a senior from the Chicago area, started Raw – A Cookie Dough Experience located in downtown Bowling Green. His cookie dough parlor serves eggless cookie dough and Blue Bell ice cream and will soon open a second location.
“Being so young and not having the resources that someone older might have – the opportunities WKU has provided and the relationships with Dr. Peake and others at WKU helped me tremendously,” stated Dahlquist.
Laves said she wants students in Glasgow-Barren County and the region to have the same opportunities to develop their business ideas.
“Through this new SBA at WKU in Glasgow, we want to provide a space for students to cultivate their business ideas and to enlist engaged local business leaders who can provide their encouragement, resources and expertise to help young entrepreneurs throughout this region succeed,” said Laves.
According to Laves, local business leaders can get involved through mentorship, internships, speaking to student groups and sharing SBA with young people throughout their community.
“I hope you will partner with us,” she said. “We have created a space at WKU in Glasgow dedicated to this program, and we need you to help us fill it.”