“The first couple weeks of the course are like an awkward high-school dance.”
Though Entrepreneurial Media was first offered at UC in fall 2016, Orzechowski spent several years co-teaching a similar course at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. The curriculum is fast-paced, and forces students to “solve real problems, rather than deal with hypotheticals from a textbook,” says Orzechowski. Throughout the course, which is open to all majors, students learn the basics of startup culture, digital marketing, and entrepreneurship funding—all with the high-stakes presentation looming at the end.
“Students quickly learn that they’re operating without a net,” he says. “But that’s exactly what being part of a startup is like."
“Students quickly learn that they’re operating without a net."
In addition to receiving A’s in the course, shortly after the final presentation, Team SucSeed was approached by a local businessperson with a surprising proposition: a purchase offer.
“This person saw real value in their idea and made a cash offer,” says Orzechowski. “I think their mouths kind of dropped at first, but then they looked at it from an intelligent, financial perspective.”
After weighing their options, the team turned it down.
“We saw more value and potential in SucSeed than what this person was offering,” says Vennero. “We felt like we could do more with the idea if we continued to pursue it ourselves.”
And so they have.
On April 1, the team competed in the Mohawk Valley Collegiate Business Plan Competition, where SucSeed earned second place in the IT/software category and qualified for state competition in Albany on April 28.
While they didn’t place in states, the team received positive feedback from the judges and their peers, which inspired them to push on. They’ve been working to refine SucSeed with Ryan Miller, director of thINCubator in downtown Utica, which helps aspiring entrepreneurs take their ideas to market.
“Working with thINCubator has been huge for us,” says Coope. “Ryan has connected us with a web developer and given us tons of feedback. It’s cool that we’re taken seriously and given the opportunity to see where this can go.”
Agrees Vennero: “We went into this not knowing much about startups or how entrepreneurship works,” she says. “Now we’re going to business meetings a few times a week and making decisions about real money. It’s been a transformation.”