Since November 2015, UNH’s student entrepreneurs have had an incredible resource at their fingertips — the Peter T. Paul Entrepreneurship Center. Located in the new UNHInnovation wing of Madbury Commons, the “ECenter” helps students achieve their business vision. The center is a place where students can refine technological skills essential for building startups and connect with other students to discuss and exchange ideas.
“The ECenter’s goal is to continue building the positive and supportive ideas, innovation and entrepreneurial culture at UNH,” says ECenter program manager Heather MacNeill. “We’re excited to spread the word so more students can make use of the ECenter.”
Alpha Loft at the ECenter
In this bright, comfortable new space, you’ll find New Hampshire’s leading business “incubator,” Alpha Loft, which is dedicated to assisting with and accelerating the beginning stages of startups. As a founding partner and leading contributor, UNH has brought the resources offered by Alpha Loft to students. Entrepreneurial students can use the co-working zones, conference rooms and training rooms — all equipped with digital screens — for team meetings and work sessions. Teams can keep their projects safe in lockers, use app-building and graphic design software on the fully equipped Macs and PCs and access the extensive network of Alpha Loft member businesses.
According to MacNeill, “The UNH location of Alpha Loft is a perfect way for students to leverage Alpha Loft’s entrepreneurial knowledge, networks and events provided all year long.”
Another perk for students working in the ECenter is access to free nitro cold brew coffee, provided by Nobl Coffee. The organic coffee company was founded by UNH alum Connor Roelke, who received his Bachelor of Science in business administration from Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics in 2015. UNH Today recently featured Roelke in an article and animation that explore his experience in the UNH Holloway Prize Competition and how he brought his idea to life.
Makerspace at the ECenter
Just down the hall is the ECenter Makerspace (also recently featured in an article in UNH Today) where students can bring their vision to life. “The ECenter Makerspace is a dynamic place for students to work on prototypes or fun personal projects,” says MacNeill. The Makerspace has design and fabrication tools including three 3-D printers, a laser cutter, an industrial sewing machine and more.
Having access to these tools is a game-changer for entrepreneurial students getting their business ideas off the ground, especially if the business features a physical product. Kate Aiken ’18 and Devin McMahon ’18 used the sewing machine to create the prototype of their improved sanitary napkin product, LilyPad, which was a runner-up in the 2016 Holloway Prize Competition and a winner at the 2016 Charles & Miriam Nelson Poster Competition hosted by Paul College. The young entrepreneurs describe the ECenter as “open and inviting, like the people in it. It has become our favorite place to be on campus.”
Other entrepreneurial students have also found success working with the ECenter. This spring, two student-formed business, Project OASIS (Sid Nigam ’16, Paige Balcom ’16 and Ethan Pirie ’17) and RAIDX (graduate student Andras Fekete) were selected to split the $10,500 Summer Seed Grant. They spent the summer developing their early-stage ideas with the help of mentors at Alpha Loft and tools at the ECenter. They recently presented the results of their work.
“It’s amazing the progress they made from the start of the summer,” says ECenter program manager MacNeill.
The Makerspace resources are available to all students during Makerspace hours, where students can come in, get trained and then gain access to the tools.
Here’s a recent video that gives a student’s perspective of the ECenter Makerspace:
Whether you have a business idea, aim to develop your technological skills or just want to connect with other student entrepreneurs, the ECenter is a great place to start. “We offer students from any UNH college co-curricular programming — like bootcamps, a speaker series and a hackathon coming this semester — designed to engage and support students,” says MacNeill. “We also offer one-on-one mentoring and coaching to students at any stage of an idea, including business plan review. The ECenter/UNHInnovation staff worked with the three top teams from the 2016 Holloway Prize Competition — and many other entrants as well — on their ideas and business plans.”
You can find the UNHInnovation wing in Suite 101 of Madbury Commons at 21 Madbury Road.
Stop by the Makerspace open hours
Get trained using the 3-D printers, laser cutter, industrial sewing machine and software programs and bring your ideas to life!
Attend a bootcamp, seminar or event
Develop critical entrepreneurial skills at bootcamps; hear expert presentations at seminars; and network at events.
Enter your idea in a contest
UNH offers plenty of opportunities for young entrepreneurs to get their start. Develop your idea at the ECenter, then enter a contest like the Holloway Prize Competition or the Social Venture Innovation Challenge.