The Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) Center at Penn State Berks is looking for some budding entrepreneurs interested in exploring the commercial viability of their idea or innovation.
The center will once again host its Penn State Berks Customer Discovery Lab — a four-week series of boot camp-style workshops starting March 28. The lab is open to Penn State students, recent alumni, faculty, staff and community members.
Participants can be individuals or teams, and early stage entrepreneurs who have scalable ideas with unclear or unknown business models are encouraged to apply.
Applications must be submitted by March 13. The applications can be found at https://sites.psu.edu/ceed/. There is no charge to participate in the Customer Discovery Lab.
Over the four weeks, participants will learn how to develop a business model; validate their business model through a scientific process; get feedback from faculty experts and other entrepreneurs; and work one-on-one with experienced entrepreneurs who serve as mentors.
The program is based on the Lean LaunchPad, an entrepreneurship methodology to test and develop business models based on querying and learning from customers.
“You can’t test your business idea inside the classroom,” Sadan Kulturel-Konak, director of the Flemming CEED Center, professor of management information systems and one of the lab’s lead faculty members, said in a statement. “Through the Customer Discover Lab, we can easily see whether a business model can succeed or what it needs to do.”
When the applicants are accepted into the program, Kulturel-Konak said the teams or individuals will commit to attending the program workshops, which are delivered by the program organizing faculty members. In addition, they will commit to starting their customer interviews by the second week of the program. According to the CEED website, participants must perform a minimum of 30 customer interviews by the end of the four-week program.
The program will end with a pitch competition in the last week, Kulturel-Konak said in an emailed response to questions.
The winning team from the pitch competition will receive $500, as well as a micro-grant of up to $500, which can be used to develop prototypes to help with the customer discovery process.
“All teams are eligible to continue receiving mentoring help,” Kulterel-Konak added.
In addition to Kulterel-Konak, the Customer Discovery Lab’s lead faculty members include Abdullah Konak, professor of information sciences and technology. Kulturel-Konak is also the program chair for the entrepreneurship and innovation (ENTI) minor. In addition, Ada Leung, associate professor of marketing, supports the marketing segment of the program.
Alina Rodriguez, an information technology major at Penn State Berks and a former program participant in the Customer Discovery Lab, said the lab was an eye-opening experience.
“The program exposed me to why listening to potential customers is crucial and allowed me to apply real-world applications of concepts as we learned them,” she said in a statement. “The entire lab shifted my perspective on how startups work and how to develop a product/service idea properly.”
Another goal of the Customer Discovery Lab is to increase awareness of and interest in the Penn State Berks entrepreneurship and innovation minor, according to the release.
The CEED Center was established in 2011. Its mission is to inspire an entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking in the Penn State Berks community. It provides student entrepreneurs with an incubator in which to develop their startup ideas and receive mentoring from faculty, as well as volunteers from the local business community.