Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology has launched an initiative to help connect alumni entrepreneurs with each other and current students. The Sawmill Society Entrepreneurial Network includes a mentor/mentee program that will allow alumni to share knowledge with students who may want to launch their own businesses.
“We really wanted to find a creative way to engage our entrepreneurial alumni. We have more and more alumni entrepreneurial who are really successful, and we wanted to find a way to engage them,” Coons told AgriNovus podcast and Inside INdiana Business host Gerry.
The society gives entrepreneurs a forum for sharing insights, experience and inspiration with each other.
Coons says during the development stage, a group of alumni entrepreneurs gathered in Indianapolis, along with Rose-Hulman staff, and together they developed a list of concepts that would interest other alumni to join the not-yet-launched network.
“We had in mind some core concepts, but the form and function of the sawmill came out of a group of entrepreneurs…these were individuals who were deep in the startup community and came together primarily for support of the institution.”
Coons says the new initiative serves as a catalyst of collaboration, resulting from a change in mindset about student development at the STEM-focused school in Terre Haute.
“In the past, our ecosystem was really somewhat left to develop on its own. We offer a minor in entrepreneurship. But our focus has always been on creating great engineers. And we’ve let entrepreneurs develop independent of that,” explained Coons. “Some faculty worked independently with students on their entrepreneurial goals, but not in a structured way. With the Sawmill Society in place, we’re being much more intentional about fostering a healthy ecosystem by providing these different areas of support.”
In addition to the entrepreneurial network, the society has also created the ventureship program which allows Rose-Hulman students to apply for paid positions during summer break to develop and launch startup projects.