Skip Navigation


Conway Center Entrepreneurship

Being entrepreneurial is a mindset, a way of thinking. The CIEC supports members of the Smith community who 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, or even if you don't, 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.

Special Events

September 7: Open House and Ice Cream Social

2:30—4 p.m., Conway Center (146 Elm Street)

Meet the faculty and staff of the Center who support our innovation, entrepreneurial and financial education programming. Learn about student involvement opportunities at the Center and with the four clubs we support: Consulting Club, Smith College Investment Club, Smithies in Business and Startup Smith. Pick up workshop and course schedules while enjoying a scoop of Herrell’s ice cream. Be sure to have your CORQ pass for easy check-in.

September 13: CIEC Information Session

12—1 p.m., CC 103/104

Can't make it to our open house? The Conway Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center staff and student leaders will be on hand during lunch to answer your questions and provide you with information about all the upcoming innovation, entrepreneurship and financial education activities. Lunch provided.

October 26-28: Western Mass Innovation Jam

Valley Venture Mentors (Springfield, MA)

Sponsored by Mount Holyoke, Smith College, and Western New England University, WMIJ weekend will take students through team formation, idea development, rapid prototyping and basics of investor pitching. Registration is required. The application deadline is October 19th by midnight. Transportation (to VVM offices in Springfield) provided for Smith students by the Conway Center.

November 2: 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.

SIGN UP on the Smith Social Network (required)

November 26: Annual Elevator Pitch Contest

5—7 p.m., Campus Center 103/104

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.

March 18: 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 19: Food Innovators Challenge

11 a.m.—1 p.m., Davis Ballroom
Live cooking demo: 11a; Tasting and judging begins at 11:45a

Four Smith chefs will face off in the first annual culinary battle designed to highlight innovation in the food industry. The winning dishes will be featured at the Draper Competition. Treat your taste buds to the delicious, inventive offerings and vote for your favorite!  This is a zero-waste, maximum fun event. Tickets are $5 (cash only).

Main Tasting Menu:
Lamb four ways: Jerk Lamb Lion; Stuffed Noisette of Lamb; Spiced Lamb Saddle & Lamb Roulade
Smoked Brown Sugar Sweet Potato
Caribbean Succotash
Plantain Soup Foam
Artichoke Barigoule
Crispy Polenta
Potato Gnocchi
Braised Collards

Additional foods (Vegan/GF options available)
Eggplant mousse
Curried Spaghetti Squash
Grilled Tomato/Red Pepper Bruschetta

Iced Green Tea with Fresh Mint
Honeydew and Ginger Bubble Tea

Fan Favorite - Abigail Lapan
Top Chef - James Burbidge

March 30: 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 5: 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 activity: Local foodtruck vendors.

April 5: Battle of the Bands

8:00—11 p.m., Davis Ballroom

Five local bands will battle it out it out for the title of Best Band in the Valley and professional recording studio time at Ghost Hit Recording in Holyoke, MA. After the main show, Springfield's own Malado Music Group will perform. Malado's music style stems from the roots of gospel, R&B, Hiphop, Neo-soul, Jazz, and more. They have played alongside the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, All Time Low, and more. This event is free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible.



Innovative Strategies Workshops

Thursdays, noon—1 p.m., CC102

How do you solve a problem from just a seed of an idea? Entrepreneurship often begins with an idea targeting a problem. But where do you go from there? During the Innovative Strategies Workshop Series, you will participate in a series of proven entrepreneurial exercises that will move your concept for a business or a project from an idea to an actionable plan. These workshops will guide you in defining a problem and then developing a robust roadmap leading to an achievable solution. We will examine six growing industries that you may choose to work on: green/renewable energy, augmented/virtual reality, 3D printing, blockchain, food/health/wellness, and internet of things (IoT), or any idea that you may already have.

September 20: Problem / Opportunity Identification

September 27: Problem / Opportunity Identification

  • Philip Silva, Chief Scientist of a new crypto-currency venture
  • Kebra Smith-Bolden, RN and Founder & CEO of CannaHealth
  • Jill McCormick, Director of Innovation at TechSpring
  • Randy Krotowski, serial social entrepreneur and IoT expert

October 4: Solution Ideation

  • Green/Renewable Energy
  • AR/VR
  • 3D printing

October 11: Solution Ideation

  • Blockchain
  • Food/Health/Wellness
  • IoT

October 25: Mendix

Noon—1 p.m., CC102

Does your innovative solution require that you build a web platform or mobile app? Do you lack the coding skills to get it done? This workshop is for you! Mendix is a *free* low-code application platform that allows students to experience the agile development process and quickly create a simple web or mobile application. Learn how you can gain access and start working on your solution today. Free food and stuff.

November 15: Pitch Camp

Noon—1 p.m., CC102

Do you have a big pitch or presentation coming up? Want to learn more about pitching? Come to Pitch Camp to hone your pitch design, content and delivery. Opportunity for students to prepare and practice a pitch for a venture idea, class project, upcoming presentation and receive helpful feedback. Free food and stuff.

January 31, February 7 & February 14

Draper Application Assistance

Noon, Campus Center 103/104

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

February 21: Prototyping for the Entrepreneur

Noon, Campus Center 103/104

Laura Lillenkamp, Design Thinking Studio Coordinator, will help student entrepreneurs think through a visual identity for their ventures in preparation for the Smith Prize in Entrepreneurship, Draper Competition and beyond. Lunch provided.