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Conway Center Entrepreneurship

Being entrepreneurial is a mindset, a way of thinking. The CIEC supports members of the Smith community that are attracted to opportunities, innovation and value creation and those who are calculated risk takers and thrive in an ambiguous environment. If you have a great idea for a business, product or service we invite you to participate in our hands-on activities and learning workshops throughout the year and practice.

Develop Skills

Through curricular and co-curricular initiatives, students delve into a range of subjects and develop specific skills such as leadership, resiliency, self-reflection, selling, managing people and communication.

Work Together

We partner with academic and other departments on campus, as well as visiting experts, to infuse entrepreneurial practices and perspectives throughout the college.

Test Ideas

We offer opportunities for the Smith community to generate, share, test and refine their ideas through a variety of activities, including competitions, challenges, pitch contests, business model workshops, start-a-thon and trade shows.

Mentor Program

The center facilitates the matching of student entrepreneurs with faculty and alumnae mentors. To request a mentor or to volunteer to become a mentor, please complete the appropriate form below:

Students: Mentor Request Form

Faculty/Staff/Alumnae: Mentor Volunteer Form

Students are also strongly encourage to meet with Rick Plaut, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, for assistance with the Business Model Canvas, market size estimates and finacial projections for launching and scaling their ventures.


Tuesdays  |  Campus Center 102, noon
Student teams are encouraged to attend these drop in hours to get help with materials, ventures, ideas, etc. Mentors will be on hand to provide one-on-one feedback. (Lunch provided)

Draper Application Resources:

Special Events

September 5: Quest: Breakfast Edition

1—3 p.m., Capen Annex

Breakfast Quest scavenger hunt for incoming students kicks off at the Design Thinking Initiative lab. New students are encouraged to find a partner ...or two or join in the fun.

September 8: Open House and Ice Cream Social

2—4 p.m., Conway Center (146 Elm Street)

Meet the faculty and staff of the center, learn about student involvement opportunities, and pick up workshop and course schedules while enjoying a scoop of Herrell’s ice cream. Quest: Breakfast Edition scavenger hunt winners announced and prizes awarded.

October 18: Conway Center Dedication

Open House

3:30p.m., 146 Elm Street

Elizabeth Miller '81 Lecture

5 p.m., Campus Center Carroll Room

Diane Hessan, founder of Salient Ventures and chairman of C-Space, is a successful entrepreneur, researcher and author. She is currently working on a variety of projects in the Boston tech ecosystem and in the political realm, and is also an active angel investor. Diane has received the Pinnacle Award and the Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Most Admired CEO Award and Boston Power 50 awards from the Boston Business Journal, and a range of Best Boss citations. In 2014, she was inducted into the Boston Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs and she received the Asper Award for Global Entrepreneurship from Brandeis. She earned her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and her B.A. in Economics from Tufts University. Reception to follow.

October 20-22: 3Day Startup

Valley Venture Mentors (Springfield, MA)

3DS facilitates a 72 hour intensive experience that takes students from idea through early customer discovery to developing an early-stage investor pitch. A professional facilitator (EIR) from 3DS leads the weekend event. The structure of the weekend is based on many elements of Lean Launchpad. Sponsored by Mount Holyoke, Smith College, and Western New England University. Registration fee and transportation (to VVM offices in Springfield) provided for Smith students by the Conway Center. All Smith students who register (below) are guarantee a spot.

REGISTER HERE (required)


November 3: Grinspoon, Garvey and Young Entrepreneurship Conference

8 a.m.—2 p.m., MassMutual Center (Springfield, MA)

This annual entrepreneurship conference is organized by the EI advisors from 14 area schools and sponsored by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Open to college students in western Massachusetts, it is an opportunity for attendees to meet like-minded individuals from nearby schools, pitch ideas, form leadership teams for new ventures, and learn about current industry trends. Free transportation is provided by the Conway Center. Continental breakfast and buffet lunch provided.

REGISTER HERE (required)


November 27: Annual Elevator Pitch Contest

5—7 p.m., Carroll Room

90 SECONDS—the approximate time an investor gives you to convince them to take things to the next step where they can learn more about you and your idea. This is all the time each contestant has to present a business, product or service idea to their peers, local entrepreneurs and a panel of judges. No props, just one 3x5 index card, 90 seconds, a great pitch and an even better idea! Up to $1,000 in cash & prizes will be given away. The best back-of-the-napkin idea pitch receives $100 and the right to represent Smith College at a regional pitch competition in the spring where first place is $1,000. Dinner provided.

PRE-REGISTER HERE (not required)

March 19: Prototyping for the Entrepreneur

5—6 p.m., Capen Annex

The Prototyping Studio, part of the Design Thinking Initiative, is a makerspace on Smith campus that is open to all students. The studio is a mixture of emerging technologies, like laser cutting and 3D printing, and classic tools, like drills, rulers, sewing machines, etc. It’s the perfect place to prototype your product, or create assets for your tradeshow, like jewelry hangers, custom product packaging, and professional signage. Leo Selvaggio, the coordinator of Prototyping Studio, is happy to work with Smithies one-on-one on their projects and introduce them to the resources the studio has to offer. 

March 26: Shark Tank

5—8 p.m., Campus Center Carroll Room

Smith teams who have been selected to move on to the second round of the Draper Competition have an opportunity to perfect their pitches. Each team leader has 90 seconds to pitch to a room of mentors. Teams then receive feedback on ways to improve the content and quality of their presentation. Dinner provided.

March 31: Smith Prize in Entrepreneurship

2—5 p.m., Davis Ballroom

CIEC sponsors monetary prizes for entrepreneurship to be awarded to Smith students for Best: Overall Venture, Social Venture, Sustainable Venture, and STEAM Venture. Students are judged on the viability of the venture and the quality of their presentations. Winners are determined based on a combined score from a written application and pitch to local business owners and investors. Teams participating in the 2018 Draper Competition are also expected to showcase their ventures during this event. Special Prizes: $1,000 Brodsky Prize for Entrepreneurship in Engineering; $1,000 Altrevida Prize for Best Pitch; and $1,000 Best Trade Show Exhibit.

Note: Judges for the Smith Prize in Entrepreneurship are not affiliated with the Draper Competition. Winning a Smith Prize in Entrepreneurship has no bearing on a Smith team’s status in the Draper Competition.

April 6: Draper Business Plan Competition

2:00—6 p.m., ITT

The annual Draper Business Plan Competition is designed to hone the skills that undergraduate women need to advance through the process from idea to venture creation. Through three rounds of competition, students demonstrate an understanding of a problem, why the problem requires a new venture to address, how their idea presents the best solution to the problem, and what resources, partnerships and activities it takes to successfully launch the venture. Additional activities: Local foodtruck vendors and Battle of the Bands.



November 13: Pitch Camp

5—6:30 p.m., Carroll Room

Hands-on workshop designed to help students craft a concise 90-second impactful statement of their idea.

PRE-REGISTER HERE (not required)

Febraury 5: Smith Smart Start

5—6:30 p.m., Campus Center 103/104

Students will learn how to turn the content of their Business Model Canvas into a compelling narrative for investors. Dinner provided.

February 6: Green Businesses and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): Organizational Rationale, Goals and Impact

12-1 p.m., Campus Center 102

An overview and analysis of diverse green businesses (capitalist and non-capitalist) and their organizational practices, goals and rationale in response to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). We will explore the impact within organizations in adopting SDG in their operational structure and the extent to which they redefine business practices. Also we will look at community impact of such green businesses and their potential for entrepreneurship driven social change. Lunch Provided.

February 12: Smith Smart Start

5—6:30 p.m., Campus Center 103/104

Students will learn how to turn the content of their Business Model Canvas into a compelling narrative for investors. Dinner provided.

February 19: Smith Smart Start

5—6:30 p.m., Campus Center 103/104

Students will learn how to turn the content of their Business Model Canvas into a compelling narrative for investors. Dinner provided.

February 20: Alternative Businesses: Sustainable Models of Trade, Community Development and Social Transformation

12-1 p.m., Campus Center 102

Alternative models of businesses are explored to navigate their differing or similar focus on issues of sustainability, community development and social transformation.  We will explore global case studies of ethical entrepreneurial practices that are being practiced to create sustainable business communities. We will look at the expanding global network of diverse alternative businesses to study their role in fair community building--- and the creation of alternative global and local economic systems that have a larger goal than an exclusive focus on profit maximization. Lunch Provided.

February 26: Smith Smart Start

5—6:30 p.m., Campus Center 103/104

Students will learn how to turn the content of their Business Model Canvas into a compelling narrative for investors. Dinner provided.

March 5: Pitch Camp

5—6:30 p.m., Campus Center 103/104

Hands-on workshop designed to help students craft a concise 90-second impactful statement of their idea in preparation for the Shark Tank, Smith Prize in Entrepreneurship and 2018 Draper Competition.