Columbia College Announces Micro-Seed Funds and Ideas Incubator Space as Part of McNair Center for Entrepreneurism

(COLUMBIA, S.C.)—Columbia College announced new initiatives around its McNair Center for Entrepreneurism.

On Tuesday, September 26th, Columbia College’s McNair Center for Entrepreneurism opened a new ideas incubation space for students on campus and awarded six students micro-seed fund grants, which combined with coaching and mentoring services, is designed to propel the students’ ideas and startup businesses.

The McNair Center for Entrepreneurism, funded by a generous $5M gift from The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation in July 2015, opened its new campus home in the center of the iconic campus in the North Main Business District.  The Center will house the campus’ multi-faceted programming related to entrepreneurship, women owned businesses and ideas incubation.  The space is outfitted with student work spaces – both dedicated and open, flexible meeting and design areas, soft seating areas and a comprehensive resource collection.

The McNair Center is also the backbone for a new Columbia College Micro-Seed Fund, initially seeded by The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation gift.  Columbia College students applied for idea/business funding through a rigorous application process and six courageous students were awarded micro grants on Tuesday totaling $19,000.  Student business ideas range from a Vietnamese food truck, leather bowties, and a natural soap subscription box to a language and STEM online tutoring service, a user-friendly umbrella and authentic African custom clothing.  The student fund recipients will work with the Center over the course of six months on building their business foundations, honing their pitch and building their business model.  The Fund, which is unique to liberal arts colleges, will provide two application rounds per academic year, and is actively seeking match funding for this important initiative. The McNair Entrepreneurship Cabinet, a group of local entrepreneurs and business leaders, advises both the selection of the micro-seed fund recipients and the students once selected. Cabinet members include:

  • John Wilkinson, USA eShop
  • Agata Chydzinski, Foltex USA
  • Kevin Felder, Millennial Radio/Big Redd Productions
  • Katie Fox, Sagacious Partners
  • Tina Herbert, City of Columbia Office of Business Opportunities
  • Lasenta Lewis Ellis, LLE Construction Group

As Co-Directors, Christine LaCola and Katherine Swartz Hilton, of the Center put it, “There is no better use of start-up funds than to support students with big ideas in a learning and success-oriented environment.  We are confident and excited that the Columbia College McNair Center will transform student lives and the Midlands entrepreneurial ecosystem.  We are grateful to The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation for sharing their resources to build the entrepreneurial spirit in all of us.”

Student Quotes:

Cecily Wise |Global Business Major ---- The Columbia College Micro Seed Fund has provided me with the unfathomably fantastic opportunity to put my business plans into motion. By the end of this journey, my goal is to have a product that comes to fruition and creates a more productive, effective solution for all potential customers.

Khiarra Miles | Business Major ---- The Columbia College Micro-Seed Fund is helping me follow my passion.  I want to work hard and pursue my dreams and it is now possible with this program!