In the span of their B-school careers, students are routinely asked to develop a business plan as part of their coursework. For most, the endgame is simply to earn a passing grade. At the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, those who want to turn those plans into viable businesses have a new resource—and it’s free.
The UNLV Business Startup Center was launched in the spring with a focus on helping anyone with a business idea—both students and members of the Las Vegas community—to get it off the ground. “We felt that if we could help startups in the napkin-to-execution phase, then the likelihood of those small businesses succeeding would also increase,” says Justin McVay, director of the startup center.
So far the majority of business ideas that have come through the door are technology or innovation related—think apps and websites. For those individuals who have the necessary knowledge to develop the products, McVay and his team will walk them through creating a one-page snapshot of the important things they should be thinking about as they build the business. Depending on where the business is in its life cycle, the center can assist with mock interviews with investors or lenders, financial forecasts, business licenses, trademarks or copyrights, even pairing the founders with an attorney or CPA in the area.
For individuals without the know-how to churn out a product, the center might match them up with a student in the computer science school and a business student who can assist in areas like marketing and financials. “A large part of it is connecting resources at the campus level,” McVay says. “There are a lot of opportunities for the students, whether they want to build their own business or if they want to get experience by helping other businesses develop and grow.”
For business students there’s also the option of joining someone else’s startup. “We’re bringing in students who may start as an intern with our center and help with a few startups actually join one of the teams and become a co-founder because the startup needed a skill set that the student was able to provide,” McVay says.
Over the summer, the center was focused mainly on business ideas from the community as students were away from campus. Now that the school is back in session, the center is relocating from a small office in the humanities building to a more centrally located storefront in the student union, complete with what McVay calls co-working space for students to work on their startups and meet with other like-minded individuals.
The Business Startup Center is funded by a grant from the Small Business Administration. All services are offered free of charge, without a commitment. There are no fees and, more important, the center requires no equity in the company. McVay estimates that in its first quarter, the center has seen about 50 new clients and helped them secure $2 million in capital between investors and typical bank loans.