While Grove City College has a wide array of majors and fields of study, one that particularly stands out and offers students some interesting and unique opportunities, is the area of Entrepreneurship.
VentureLab, which is a program offered to the entire campus community through Grove City’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, allows students to explore business ideas with funding raised by the college for this purpose. Students submit their ideas to Center, and, if chosen, enter the VentureLab program which gives them the opportunity to test the viability of their ideas and receive mentorship and guidance from professors, alumni and local business professionals. Students remain in the program for the better part of the academic year.
Last year, entrepreneurship majors Ashley Henderson and Haley Nerlich, who developed an idea called LunchTime, were the only social enterprise team accepted to the VentureLab program. LunchTime proposed taking advantage of a federally funded program that provides money for lunches during the summer to needy children. They found that while the funding existed for kids in Venango County, the delivery system did not. LunchTime created a delivery system in rural communities that would bring lunches to children that may not otherwise get food. The idea came from Haley’s summer experience in volunteering at her mom’s nonprofit company, with whom they later ended up partnering. Haley took this idea and joined forces with Ashley to successfully implement their plan into a real life, feasible business.
Through the funding of the VentureLab, they were able to set up twenty six locations including churches, playgrounds, and schools where a large number of children needing this type of program lived. Determining the optimal locations took a lot of hard work and dedication. They sent out over seven thousand forms to parents asking for addresses so they could create map out ideal serving locations to reach the maximum number of children.
As the end of the school year neared, Haley took over the project as Ashley went on to complete an internship at Two Men and a Truck. Haley, with additional support of her mom, was able to set up the 26 needed sites that were serviced by 33 employees and 15 volunteers. Fifty-five days later, LunchTime surpassed Haley’s original goal and distributed over 20,000 meals.
Although the hard work is credited to Ashley, Haley, and the members of the LunchTime staff, the opportunity afforded by the VentureLab and Entrepreneurship program at Grove City College helped to lay the groundwork.
“The Entrepreneurship Department sets you up to do the things they are teaching you in a safe environment,” reflects Ashley.
Through these different programs, students are able to take the lessons they are learning in class and put them to the test in a real world scenario that can lead to a successful business. Because this lab is done in a safe environment, students minimize some of the risks that a lot of business startups face. “The program itself is created so you can do these things we talk about every day in class and not have to be worried about losing investors or equity,” says Ashley.
For Ashley and Haley, the VentureLab allowed them to not only launch their own business, but also to help a community in need.