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Finding the heart and soul of entrepreneurial innovation

Words and Photo // Jessica Hella

In February, LaunchVT, an entrepreneurship program led by the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, will host their first collegiate pitch competition at Champlain College. Cash prizes and an opportunity to participate as a finalist in the formal LaunchVT competition in May 2016 will be awarded.

LaunchVT opened up the competition as the result of an entrepreneurship education program at Champlain College called BYOBiz (Bring Your Own Business). The program’s director, Robert Bloch, has changed the way students are viewed in the Burlington community. He’s garnered attention for their entrepreneurial gumption by helping to develop their ideas into private-enterprise success.

Bloch wrote the books Outside the Box and My Own CEO, published by Champlain College Publishing in 2011 and 2013, about his innovative students. Each chapter features a different BYOBiz success story, which include fundraising for Sudanese refugees, ski and snowboard tuning, and game animation, just to name a few.

Champlain College president David Finney began BYOBiz shortly after taking the position in 2005. After a series of conversations with students, he found an overabundance of young entrepreneurs on the campus. Inspired by these findings, Finney hired Bloch as a full-time director for BYOBiz.

Bloch begins his mentoring by proposing three critical questions:

Is the idea a good business idea?

Is it a good business idea for you?

And is it a good business idea for you right now?

If the answer to all three questions is “yes,” then Bloch proceeds with his individualized mentoring, taking in to account the timing and stages of development of each idea.

Bloch, who received a BA in government from Cornell University, and an MBA from Harvard University, was just the person BYOBiz needed to successfully foster the student entrepreneurs on Champlain’s campus. His office, centrally located on the campus, is a hub for innovation, a place where students can drop in to express their aspirations and make their dreams a reality.