iSchool’s E-Club will build Web-based resource for Syracuse area entrepreneurs
The faculty of the School of Information Studies (iSchool) has long been known for taking technology and innovation beyond the walls of its classrooms and research centers. Now students are catching the same spirit as members of the iSchool Entrepreneurship Club (E-Club) prepare to launch a project that will bring Syracuse University’s knowledge and resources to struggling entrepreneurs on Syracuse’s South and West sides.
This fall, the E-Club won a grant from Enitiative (the Syracuse Campus-Community Entrepreneurship Initiative) to build the Entrepreneurship Knowledge Bridge (EKB), an Internet resource that will contain up-to-date and easy-to-use content to address the needs and struggles of local businesspeople. The project will capitalize on an array of campus and community resources, including the time and devotion of iSchool students, the entrepreneurial expertise of the Whitman School of Management and the previous achievements of outreach programs like the South Side Innovation Center.
Robert J. Sherman, the project’s manager and a junior dual major with concentrations at the iSchool and Whitman, said he came up with the idea of a Web-based entrepreneurship resource after talking with his professors and realizing how helpful the information he was learning in class could be to the local business community. Sherman envisioned a plan that would develop and market the EKB specifically for business owners who are struggling because of a lack of resources or education. “The type of person we’re working for is someone without much formal training in entrepreneurship, business or marketing,” Sherman says. “They can log on and find out about the basics, like how to create a budget or a marketing plan.”
The project, which will officially launch this semester, will be managed by the E-Club, along with contributions from its three faculty advisors, iSchool professors Murali Venkatesh and Michael D’Eredita and Whitman professor Larry Bennett. Venkatesh will encourage students in his information management and technology class to provide coding and design work to the project, as well as user training, while Bennett’s Whitman students will develop content and conduct evaluations.
The E-Club will also benefit from the work of the South Side Innovation Center, a University-supported business incubator and entrepreneurial development resource for Syracuse residents, and Salina Connect — a project led by Venkatesh to bring wireless connectivity to Syracuse’s struggling neighborhoods. “As people see the advantage of being on the Web, we hope they’ll use that resource to get on EKB,” Sherman says. “We’ll also be able to get the word out about the project using those same resources.”
But what’s really at the heart of the project is the commitment of the E-Club’s members, who have made community service their top priority. “We want people to think creatively, to think about everyday solutions,” says Sherman, who is the club’s president. “And the community is where members are really passionate about doing that — they really can’t get enough.”
The EKB project was made possible, in part, through an Enitiative award. Enitiative (the Syracuse Campus-Community Entrepreneurship Initiative) is funded by a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City, Mo., focusing on entrepreneurship in the arts, technology and our neighborhoods. To learn more, visit the Enitiative website at http://www.entrepreneurship.syr.edu or the E-Club’s site at http://ischooleclub.syr.edu.