Hudson Valley Venture Hub at SUNY New Paltz hosts first-ever Entrepreneurship Educators’ Forum

SUNY New Paltz welcomed teachers, business leaders and start-up coaches to campus on Friday, Jan. 10, for a day of networking and conversation focused on improving entrepreneurship education and engagement in the Hudson Valley.

The event was hosted by the Hudson Valley Venture Hub at SUNY New Paltz, and was fueled by contributions from School of Business faculty and staff, who served as moderators, discussion coordinators and presenters.

“The Entrepreneur Educators’ Forum was another milestone event in the development of a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Hudson Valley,” said School of Business Dean Kristin Backhaus. “Together with our partner institutions from the region, the Hudson Valley Venture Hub is striving to support entrepreneurs at all stages, including student entrepreneurs. We were particularly happy to help advance our regional business plan competition at this forum, and to help educators and mentors prepare to support our student competitors this April.”

The forum began with a panel spotlighting the Mid-Hudson Regional Business Plan Competition, an annual event that challenges teams of young entrepreneurs from regional colleges to present real, feasible plans before judges and potential investors.

The panel was moderated by Johnny LeHane, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at New Paltz, and included Tony DiMarco, who oversees the Hudson Valley Venture Hub. Other guest speakers included faculty from partner institutions such as Marist College, SUNY Dutchess, Orange and Ulster, and the Culinary Institute of America.

“The regional competition works a lot like an accelerator,” said LeHane, who in addition to teaching at New Paltz also works closely with the economic development non-profit Accel7. “It’s a great introduction to the process for students who are actually trying to understand what you need to do to raise capital and get something started.”

The conversation focused on the deep learning that takes place when students get opportunities to apply classroom learning in real-world environments.

“I think we all recognize that this current generation is looking for experiences,” said Christopher Algozzine, professional lecturer of information systems at Marist. “They could look up almost everything on YouTube, but what they can’t get anywhere else is the experiential teaching and learning. This competition takes place in a completely different forum, outside the classroom, which is a major part of the value.”

SUNY New Paltz, which hosts its own Business Plan Contest for students in entrepreneurship courses, has participated in the regional competition since its inception. The College has seen multiple students claim victory and advance to the statewide Business Plan Competition.

“At New Paltz we help students build ‘Four-P’ social impact – people, planet and place, sustained by profit – into every pitch,” DiMarco said. “Every entrepreneur can be a social entrepreneur if you embed that focus on impact into the process.”

New Paltz student teams made their pitch at the fall Business Plan contest, Dec. 9, 2019

Following the panel were a series of roundtable workshops covering areas like supporting student entrepreneurs and engaging with the business community. LeHane joined Lecturer Chris Napolitano and Adjunct Mike Caslin as New Paltz faculty discussion leaders.

The Hudson Valley Entrepreneur Educators’ Forum was hosted by the Hudson Valley Venture Hub at SUNY New Paltz, with generous sponsorship from the Hudson Valley Startup Fund, the Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship Network, Upstate Capital Association of New York and Schwartz Heslin Group, Inc.

The 2020 Mid-Hudson Regional Business Plan Competition will be held on Friday, April 17, at Marist College, two weeks before the state-wide competition in Albany, New York.

The SUNY New Paltz Business Plan Competition will be held on Monday, April 13, giving students looking to pursue glory at the regional and state events a chance to refine their pitch decks and test their plans, right here on our campus.

Visit the School of Business online to learn more.