Devin McMahon ’18 didn’t waste any time getting to the Peter T. Paul Entrepreneurship Center, or ECenter — which is part of UNHInnovation and intentionally independent of any one college — when it opened in Madbury Commons in 2016. “I was actually one of the first people in the door,” she says.
That was during her freshman year. McMahon and a friend had just signed up to compete in the Paul J. Holloway Prize Competition, the annual event that awards more than $100,000 in cash and in-kind services to innovative new businesses. “We knew that, as freshmen, we needed some extra resources and assets in order to be competitive,” she recalls.
Director Ian Grant and other ECenter staff members worked with them throughout the spring semester. “They were a huge part in helping us understand and determine the best path to take our company,” says McMahon, a Hampstead, New Hampshire, native who came to UNH on a Hamel Scholarship.
That company offered an innovation on the female overnight sanitary napkin. The duo took second place in the competition. “When we heard our names called … it was just completely unbelievable and, honestly, the kind of moment that you don’t really forget,” McMahon says. “That experience changed me and helped shape the rest of my college career.”
A business administration major in the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, she became a dean’s ambassador, traveling across the country to meet and network with UNH alumni in Silicon Valley. She also helps run the college’s Rines Angel Fund, which has $350,000 under management.
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McMahon has also stayed connected to the independent ECenter, working on its nationally recognized i2Passport program in which students earn $25,000 to help pay off student loans by participating in entrepreneurial events and activities. She also writes blog posts about entrepreneurs who got their start at UNH. “We’ve seen multiple companies that started here, with Ian’s mentorship, that are still running today,” she says. Writing the blog is “a fun way to engage with alumni while making students here aware of all the opportunities they have.”
Those opportunities are around to stay. Recently, early ECenter supporters Peter T. Paul ’67 and Harry Patten ’58 (funder of the i2Passport program) both renewed their commitments to the center’s mission. They are providing support for student-focused programs in development and ongoing operations at this fun, university-wide hub for students to converge around ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship.
In 2017, the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers recognized the ECenter as the “Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Center.” But McMahon already knew that. “To have access to programming that isn’t restricted to certain majors and that exposes you not just to business perspectives but to developer and production management perspectives, you’re able to become connected on campus and gain friends who have different viewpoints on issues, and that really allows you to develop solutions that are much broader and more effective,” she says.
Plus, she says, “It’s fun to see Ian still personally meeting with students to help them with their ideas.”
Originally published in IMPACT Spring 2018