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Ozmen Center turns ideas into action

NNBW Staff
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.
Courtesy Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship |

The Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Nevada Reno helps support and inspire the growing number of students in the entrepreneurship minor program.

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,” said Chris Howard, director of the Ozmen Center. “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.

The university offers a minor in entrepreneurship, which is designed to enhance student business endeavors long after graduation and can be supportive of all the major fields UNR offers.

Numbers in the entrepreneurship minor have grown since the program’s inception in Fall 2013.

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.

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

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.

The center also has developed collaborations with Santa Clara University, through its My Own Business website and participates in the Summit Venture Mentoring Service, which helps 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.

Earlier this month, the Ozmen Center hosted a Startup Weekend. The 54-hour event was attended by groups of developers, engineers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and more to hear students pitch ideas for new startup companies. They then formed teams around those ideas, and worked to develop a prototype, demo or presentation by Sunday evening.

The winners of Startup Weekend are:

•First Place: Power Plug

The home automation device turns off home appliances with a smart phone. The team, lead by Ben Hammel, was soldering and programming throughout the weekend to give the judges a full demonstration by turning on and off a light connected to their device in the back of the room with their smart phone.

•2nd Place and People’s Choice Winner: Elephant Tracks

Since an elephant never forgets Elephant Tracks puts wireless tags on items on a travel packing list and sends an alert if they’ve been left behind. Go to http://www.elephanttracks.co and check out their video. Team lead was Evan Thacker.

•3rd Place: Gigity

Allows job hunters to pick up “gigs” through their smart phone by swiping to review and accept small jobs. Payment is tracked and processed through the app interface. Max Thom lead the team.

•Other Teams:

Zippy allows small local businesses to provide same day shipping and delivery by activating taxi and other drivers to deliver the goods.

Festival Doctors brings unique family friendly festivals to the Biggest Little City. Their first event is an international marionette festival.

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

For more information about the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship visit, ozmencenter.unr.edu.