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Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship: Ideas Into Action


At the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship, University students from across the University collaborate on business ideas with each other and as well as area business leaders.


Helping support and inspire the growing number of students in the entrepreneurship minor program is the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship. Since opening its doors in the University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Business in September 2014, the Ozmen Center has built an interdisciplinary program spanning across campus and out into the community.

“We teach a different way of thinking,” Chris Howard, Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship director, said. “I describe it as diagonal thinking. We take the knowledge students learn in class and apply it to get different and desired results.”

In addition to offering University students a space where they can strategically and creatively execute ideas with help from area business leaders, the Ozmen Center has focused on academics and enriched curriculum. As part of the University’s all majors’ entrepreneurship minor, this curriculum is designed to enhance student business endeavors long after graduation.

Numbers in the entrepreneurship minor have grown since the program’s inception in Fall 2013 and the program currently boasts students from a number of colleges across campus. The minor was purposefully designed without pre-requisites so any student wanting to build a startup business could benefit from entrepreneurial training. Special topics courses, taught by community industry leaders, have become so popular the college is working to make them a permanent part of the curriculum.

One example of a special topics course is Entrepreneurial Sales, taught by Alice Heiman of Alice Heiman LLC.

“Sales is a fundamental and essential skill for any business owner,” Howard said. “The skills students learn in this class will successfully help them drive their ideas forward regardless of the industry they are in.”

Much of the Ozmen Center’s last year was also spent learning about and integrating into the community entrepreneurial landscape. The Ozmen Center has hosted events like 1 Million Cups, a free weekly national program designed to educate, engage and connect student and community entrepreneurs. Additionally, the Ozmen Center team worked closely with the Nevada Small Business Development Center and the City of Reno to offer “Assess, License and Launch,” a program designed to help entrepreneurs navigate the Business License Department.

“Entrepreneurship is a mindset,” Kylie Rowe, Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship assistant director, said. “Entrepreneurship occurs in startups and high growth companies, and intrapreneurship leverages entrepreneurially thinking within existing businesses.”

Most recently, the Ozmen Center welcomed thought leaders from the internationally-renowned Lincoln Laboratory Beaver Works, an entrepreneurship center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. Organized by Fatih and Eren Ozmen of Sparks-based Sierra Nevada Corporation, who founded the Ozmen Center, the meeting was designed to discuss project-centric educational collaborations, something at which the MIT center excels.

Howard has also reached out to forge collaborations with Santa Clara University, offering resources through its My Own Business website. The Ozmen Center also participates as part of Summit Venture Mentoring Service, helping connect entrepreneurs and new ventures with experienced mentors to help grow their company.

“Our goal this next year is to place more emphasis on business,” Howard said. “We are going to look more closely at the Beaver Works model and hope to establish interdisciplinary curriculum working with community organizations to further establish project-based learning.”

This weekend, the Ozmen Center will lend its support to Startup Weekend, an event starting at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16. The 54-hour event is attended by groups of developers, engineers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and more pitch ideas for new startup companies. They then form teams around those ideas, and work to develop a prototype, demo or presentation by Sunday evening.

Comprehensive entrepreneurial opportunities and insight also come from the College of Business affiliations with the Nevada Small Business Development Center and Center for Regional Studies. Other organizations working with students in the entrepreneurship minor, as well as the MBA entrepreneurship emphasis, are the University of Nevada, Reno Entrepreneurship Club, Sontag Competition and Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup.

“The career trajectory for entrepreneurship is endless,” Rowe said. “It starts with an idea and can end in a high growth Fortune 500 Company.”

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