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Conway Center Entrepreneurship

Whether you have a great idea for a business, product or service, want to be a venture capitalist, or simply want to explore self-employment options and what being your own boss would be like, we invite you to participate in our hands-on activities and learning workshops throughout the year.

Special Events

October 12: Entrepreneurship@Smith Kick-Off

Special Guest: Melissa Parker Draper ’77

Former Draper Competitors Panel: Tasbiha Chowdhury ’19 (2016, 3rd Place Winner), Emily Levy of Babson College (2016, 1st Place Winner), Julia Franchi Scarselli ’18 (2016, 3rd Place Winner) and Yashna Sureka ’18 (2016, 3rd Place Winner)

Pick up your copy of the complete 2016–17 schedule of entrepreneurship activities and information about the Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs. Co-sponsored by Smithies in Business. Light snack food provided.

November 4: Getting Out of the Building

The Annual Grinspoon, Garvey and Young Entrepreneurship Conference is open to college students in western Massachusetts. This year’s conference features the world’s largest Idea Jam, five different repeating breakout sessions and a keynote address by former Grinspoon winner and founder of FeatSocks. The more than 500 student attendees have multiple opportunities to pitch ideas and win fabulous prizes. Continental breakfast and buffet lunch provided.

Free transportation to the MassMutual Center in Springfield provided by the Conway Center. Registration is now closed.

December 5: 14th Annual Elevator Pitch Contest

5–6:30 p.m. Campus Center 103/104 Light supper provided.

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! The winning pitch receives $100 and the right to represent Smith College at a regional pitch competition in the spring where first place is $1,000.

March 20: Shark Tank

6–8 p.m., Davis Center Ballroom

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. **Note new date and time

March 27: Prototyping for the Entrepreneur

3–4:30 p.m., Capen Annex

The Prototyping Studio at Capen Annex, part of the Design Thinking Initiative, is a new makerspace on Smith campus that is open to all students. The studio is a mixture of new 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. 

April 1: Smith Prizes in Entrepreneurship

2–4 p.m., Davis Ballroom

CIEC sponsors three monetary prizes for entrepreneurship to be awarded to Smith students: Best Venture, Best Sustainable Venture, Best STEAM Venture. Winners for each $2,500 prize are determined based on a combined score from a written application and pitch to local business owners and investors. Special Engineering Prize: $1,000 Brodsky Prize for Entrepreneurship in Engineering.

Students are judged on the viability of the venture and the quality of their presentations. 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 7: Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs

The annual Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs 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.


November 14: Pitch Camp

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

Product → Market Fit: Creating Customers and Value

This mini crash course introduces students to the first four panels of the Business Model Canvas—the core of evidence-based entrepreneurship and the Lean Launchpad methodology. Learn from current entrepreneurs how they figured out what to do (value proposition), who would care (customer segments), how they would reach their customers (distribution), and what it would take to get, keep, grow their customer base (relationships).

November 29 Dr. Tamara Stenn, professor of social entrepreneurship and founder of Kusikuy
December 1 Danielle Tate, founder of MissNowMrs and author of The Elegant Entrepreneur
December 6 Sarah Sherburn Case, founder of TechGen
December 8 Dawn Leaks, cofounder of Lioness Magazine

Search then Execute: The Process of Building a Venture

5–6:30p.m., Campus Center 103/104

These workshops are intended to help students turn the nine panels of the Business Model Canvas (BMC)—the core of evidence-based entrepreneurship and the Lean Launchpad methodology — into a cohesive and winning Executive Summary. Students planning to submit applications for the Draper Competition are encouraged to attend.

February 6 Value Propositions and Customer Segments
February 13 Channels and Relationships
February 20 Key Activities, Resources and Partners
February 27 Cost Structure and Revenue Streams

Mentor Program

The center facilitates the matching of student entrepreneurs with faculty and alumnae who serve as mentors in the development of the idea and business model.

Student Team Request Form

Faculty / Alumna Volunteer Mentor Form

Following are faculty, staff and alumnae who have mentored student entrepreneurs in the past:

Ben Baumer, Statistics
Debra Carney, Jacobson Center
John Connolly, Philosophy
Jordan Crouser, Statistics
Kim Dionne, Government
Rob Dorit, Biology
Nancy Erba ‘88, VP Finance, Strategic Growth Initiatives
Gary Felder, Physics
Nat Fortune, Physics
Suzanne Gottschang, Anthropology & East Asian Studies
Nicholas Howe, Computer Science
Susannah Howe, Engineering
Abigail Joslin ‘01, Business and Executive Coach
Zaza Kabayadondo, Design Thinking Initiative
Roger Kaufman, Economics
Barbara Kellum, Art
Daniel Kramer, Theatre
Lianna Kushi ‘06, Director of Communications and Strategic Marketing, Institute for Nonprofit Practice
Susan Levin, Philosophy
Brenda Lewis ‘67, Principal, Transactions Marketing Inc.
Merrilyn Lewis, College Relations
James Miller, Economics
Naila Moreira, Jacobson Center
Joyce Palmer-Fortune, Physics
Rachel Payne ‘97, Co-Founder, Fem Inc.
Rick Plaut, River Valley Investors and Conway Center Entrepreneur-in-Residence
Phil Peake, Psychology
Deana Prest ‘12, Human Resources Consultant
Al Rudnitsky, Education & Child Study
Katherine Schneider, Art
L. David Smith, Biological Sciences
Dominique Thiebaut, Computer Science
Helene Visentin, French
Christine White-Ziegler, Biological Sciences
Michelle Wick, Psychology
Deborah Wijnhoven, Lazarus Center
Gail Zauder ‘79, Managing Partner, elixirADVISORS
Jie Zheng ‘05, Co-Founder, Material Wrld

If you are a student in need of a mentor, or a faculty/alumna interested in providing mentorship, please contact Susannah Howe, Faculty Mentor Coordinator.