Stanislaus State received a $250,000 gift from the Porges Family Foundation to establish a unique and multifaceted program designed to provide inspiration, mentorship and financial support to emerging entrepreneurs as they strive to turn their ideas and concepts into new business ventures that can help grow the region’s economy.
Norm Porges and son Evan, together with Stanislaus State President Ellen Junn and Dean of the College of Business Administration Tomás Gómez-Arias announced the creation of the Warrior Entrepreneurship Initiative, a comprehensive three-year pilot designed to inspire a robust culture of enterprise; connect the campus to the Central Valley’s entrepreneurial ecosystem; engage and enlist members of the regional business community to share experiences and networks; expand the number of start-up businesses in the region and increase the number of students engaged in entrepreneurial activities.
The initiative will build a foundation where mentors and experiential opportunities align with teaching and learning, positioning the University to strengthen and grow the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation on campus and throughout the Central Valley.
“Norm, Evan and the Porges family have been tremendous ambassadors, advocates and stalwart supporters of our region,” said President Junn. “They have a deep commitment to education and to transforming our region by investing in education and changing what the University can do to support our students and our faculty in becoming more entrepreneurial, more engaged and more innovative in creating new opportunities.
“This gift symbolizes and creates a strong, visionary foundation for our campus to be able to build powerful innovative, entrepreneurial opportunities and professional growth for our students while collaborating and contributing to the region’s economic development.”
The initiative consists of several components including a faculty fellowship, a business competition, a volunteer entrepreneurs-in-residence program and a scholarship fund. The effort also incorporates the University’s annual Champions of the American Dream award and event.
Norm Porges, a philanthropist and long-time supporter of Stanislaus State who champions civic engagement and community service, said the initiative is an opportunity to showcase entrepreneurship as an alternative means of earning a living.
“The objective of this program is to get individuals to think about options other than going to work for a large company,” he said. “The Porges Family Foundation is community based, and Stan State is a wonderful institution that’s right here in our community and homegrown.
“There is so much talent out there. We lose a lot of talent because someone is afraid to take that first step. When I first started, I didn’t know how to run a small family business, so I went to several sources. Our multifaceted approach embraces that concept, so students who have this dream of establishing their own entrepreneurial venture have a place to find answers.”
Equally important said Norm: “Stan State has so many first-generation students and graduates who haven’t considered entrepreneurship and may be ready to take some big steps. This gives them a steppingstone.”
Seventy-five percent of Stan State’s 10,000-plus students identify as first-generation college students, and business administration is one of the top majors at the University.
Building a Culture of Entrepreneurship.
Gómez-Arias said the University is excited to play a role in encouraging a culture of entrepreneurship and building relationships with experienced professionals who can help nurture students’ creative spirit so they can go on to develop businesses and other initiatives that contribute to society.
“Stanislaus State is committed to the economic dynamism of the Central Valley, and the Warrior Entrepreneurship Initiative is part of that commitment,” Gómez-Arias said. “These kinds of initiatives are absolutely necessary at this time when economic activities have been so disrupted.”
“It takes time to make a culture shift,” Evan Porges said, “and the Porges Family Foundation and Stan State are committed to doing that.”
The components of the three-year pilot program include:
- Porges Family Champions of the American Dream Entrepreneurship Fellow/Porges Champions Fellow: A faculty member from the College of Business Administration will be appointed for three years, will teach an Entrepreneur Bootcamp, coordinate the Champions of the American Dream Award and event and the Stan State Entrepreneur Challenge.
- Stan State Entrepreneurship Challenge: Open to Stan State students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members, the Entrepreneurship Challenge will consist of two stages: idea creation during a Creativity Fair and idea development during an Entrepreneurship Bootcamp where participants will refine their ideas and make them relevant, operationally feasible and financially viable. The challenge culminates with participants presenting a business plan and pitch.
- Entrepreneurs-in-Residence Program: Engages entrepreneurs with at least 20 years of successful ventures who can provide advice and guidance on a volunteer basis. Regional entrepreneurs will be appointed in consultation with the Business Advisory Board and community stakeholders.
- Porges Family Scholarship: Ten $4,000 scholarships will be awarded during the three-year pilot.
Norm Porges wants the initiative to provide the same type of motivation he received as a student and to highlight a pathway for success.
“This program is a bridge between academia, the business community and the communities that we serve,” he said. “Often, there is a disconnect between what universities may be encouraging their students to learn versus where the rubber meets the road. Our vision is for this program to bridge that gap.”