Campus incubator helps student businesses succeed

Wheaton, Ill. Junior Eric Reid lounges in one of his own Octopus hammocks on Thursday afternoon. Baylee VerSteeg | Mulitmedia Journalist

By Corrie Coleman | Reporter

The 1846 Business Incubator provides students with the support they need to develop, launch and grow their business ventures. Through resources such as faculty aid, mentorships and office space, students are given the tools to succeed. After an involved application process, an average of five business ventures are chosen every academic year.

Dr. John Laurie, program coordinator for the business incubator, said the program is intended to help students turn their ideas into a sustainable businesses.

“The business incubator is designed to help take students from the concept or startup stage to a viable business,” Laurie said. “It’s designed to be a three semester program. Hopefully by the end of the third semester, they should be generating revenue.”

The business incubator provides students with mentors who can give them advice and connect them with other business professionals.

“By the second semester, what we want to do is get students set up with mentors who are familiar with their industry … to help them overcome some hurdles that they might not even be aware that they have,” Laurie said.

By the end of the three semester program, Laurie hopes students will have a developed a profitable business that can continue even after they graduate.

“The goal is, when they graduate, students have created their own jobs,” Laurie said.

Wheaton, Ill., junior Eric Reid started a business called Octopus last spring. The outdoor equipment retail company primarily sells hammocks but hopes to eventually expand to other outdoor gear.

“Our big sales proposition is that we make our hammocks stronger, smaller, lighter, more portable and less expensive,” Reid said.

He and his business partner Jesse looked at mainstream hammock brands and asked, “What can we make better?”

Reid sees the business incubator as a way to build relationships with both faculty members and fellow student business owners who can help him improve Octopus.

“It’s kind of like a brain trust to work together and improve your own businesses but also help improve other people’s businesses,” Reid said.

After college, Reid hopes that Octopus will provide him with a job.

“I’ve realized that this is definitely a company that can succeed. It’s not just going to be a school project,” Reid said. “If I can work on Octopus after I graduate, I’ll be a happy guy.”

Long Beach, Calif., junior Cole Streelman is also a part of the business incubator. His business also has to do with the outdoors.

“Boat Monger … connects boat owners, whose boats are in disuse for most of the year, with potential boat users who would like to use the boat,” Streelman said.

Streelman heard about the business incubator while in Laurie’s class.

“After talking to Dr. Laurie during office hours a couple times and his encouragement to apply, I decided to actually go forward with it,” Streelman said.