Smart Start at UNA Benefits Students and Entrepreneurs

Students Imagine Innovative Products and Bring Them to Life

FLORENCE, Ala. – This past Friday night kicked off Smart Start Weekend, a two-day event for students to exchange business startup ideas, directed by the University of North Alabama’s College of Business.

With over 50 students registered, the event focused on 6 team ideas that covered the course of the period to develop a company. This annual program uses a format based on the very successful Innovation Engineering tool set. Students who attend come away with a clear path towards building a company and then present their ideas to a panel of local investors.

“Watching the students grasp an understanding of what it takes to develop an idea is extremely rewarding,” said Mitch Hamm, director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UNA. “Smart Start gives them a wonderful opportunity to work with mentors from the community to see what is needed for an idea to make it to the marketplace.”

Smart Start Weekend offers a hands-on environment designed to teach students through a series of modules so they learn by doing. Students learn about ideation, team formation, customer discovery, rapid prototyping and pitch workshops.

The event culminates with student teams pitching their ideas to a mock venture capital panel. The panel then gives the teams constructive feedback to help them refine their ideas and business models. The mission of Smart Start Weekend is to kick-start new student-run companies and build entrepreneurial capabilities in students and their university communities.

The program was sponsored this year by Bank Independent and First Metro Bank and is a part of the Shoals Shift movement which is partially funded by a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.


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