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Entrepreneurs Keep Moving
Forward Amid Pandemic

cie talking

Dec. 2, 2020 —  Northern Kentucky University and its award-winning Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) are making students' professional dreams a reality, despite the ongoing pandemic.

The CIE has been named one of the world's best in creating, advancing and enabling entrepreneurship educational opportunities. The Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers selected the CIE as one of three finalists for the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Teaching and Pedagogical Innovation Award, receiving its third recognition in as many years.

"We're focused on keeping the momentum going for students. We understand the bumps and bruises that come with getting startups off the ground business because we've been there before,” said Dr. David Schneider, director of the CIE. “Entrepreneurship isn't something you can only learn in a classroom or lab. You have to learn how to recognize value and drive value where the vulnerable aspects are."

Housed in NKU's Haile/US Bank College of Business, the CIE allows students to take ownership of their future through innovation and entrepreneurial activities both inside and outside the classroom.  Many students take these classroom concepts and start their own business through NKU's INKUBATOR program, an internationally ranked 12-week business accelerator.

“Throughout our classes and programming, students explore ways to shape ideas into entrepreneurial opportunities,” said Jeff Varrone, assistant director of the CIE. “Coming from different backgrounds and interest areas, our students bring unique perspectives and talents, and each of them has the determination and drive to uncover solutions to everyday problems.”

“Entrepreneurship isn't something you can only learn in a classroom or lab. You have to learn how to recognize value and drive value where the vulnerable aspects are."

Graduate student Isaiah Kelly continues his success story with his custom apparel business, Smoove Creations. For the second year in a row, he is one of the top 30 student entrepreneurs in the country and won the Entrepreneurs' Organization's Cincinnati Regional Competition.

Kelly is also one of the three teams of NKU students who won at this year’s KY pitch, a business pitch competition for college students across the Commonwealth. Kelly and Vivi Vincent finished second place in the Developed Track, earning $5,000 to support Smoove Creations. Avasha, a platform created by Liz Shrout and Ally Creech that connects women to professional stylists in real-time, came in third place and won the People's Choice Award, earning $4,500. Kameron Seabrook's Open Bay Auto took home first place and $5,000 in the Exploratory Track. NKU is the only university to have three teams accepted and all win at the KY Pitch.

“Our students are doing a fantastic job of bringing innovation to the table. Even in the virtual environment, they are hiring employees and earning revenue,” said Zac Strobl, assistant director of the CIE. “What makes NKU and the CIE unique is that we take the time to help execute their ideas, but our students are the real heroes here.”

CIE's guidance and access to capital create opportunities for businesses at all stages, a commitment distinguishing the center from its peers. CIE's hands-on involvement has helped launch 28 startups with student entrepreneurs like Jessica Wert. A graduate of the INKUBATOR program, she founded her company ANEW Clothing and is now one of the inaugural vendors at the Newport on the Levee's Exchange Market.

"We understand the importance of fostering innovation and creating sustainable opportunities for all here at NKU. I couldn't be prouder of the CIE's continued success and its ability to inspire students," said Dean Hassan HassabElnaby, Haile/US Bank College of Business.

To learn more about NKU's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, visit its website.


About NKU: Founded in 1968, we are a growing metropolitan university of more than 15,000 students served by more than 2,000 faculty and staff on a thriving suburban campus near Cincinnati. Located in the quiet suburb of Highland Heights, Kentucky—just seven miles southeast of Cincinnati—we have become a leader in Greater Cincinnati and Kentucky by providing a private school education for a fraction of the cost. While we are one of the fastest growing universities in Kentucky, our professors still know our students' names. For more information, visit