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McNeely Center turns 10

Center helps students start businesses

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April 11, 2014

By Annie Dittberner '17

Clemens Perk, on the CSB campus, was one of the first ventures started by students through the McNeely Center.

T-Spot, a custom T-shirt business, is another student venture that started with help from the McNeely Center.

Clemens Perk, The T-Spot, Johnnie Java, Extending The Link and Square One. What do all of these have in common? They are all student-led businesses that got their start with help from the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship.

The McNeely Center, as it's commonly referred to, opened its doors in 2004 and is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

Terri Barreiro has been the director of the center since its start, and is responsible for the social entrepreneurship aspect of the center. 

"The McNeely Center is a portal for all students, alums and faculty that are interested in entrepreneurship," Barreiro said. 

The center is named after Donald McNeely, who donated the funds to begin the center. The McNeely Center is a resource that provides classes, coaching and assistance to student entrepreneurs.

"Donald McNeely believed in entrepreneurship," Barreiro said. "He believed that people can change all different aspects of our lives if given the right opportunity." 

Entrepreneur Scholars inspire campus ventures 

Today, the McNeely Center is credited for the success of many of the student-led business ventures on campus.

These businesses started after the center first opened its doors and the first cohort of Entrepreneur Scholars - then known as E-Scholars - entered the program.

The Entrepreneur Scholars program is a two-year competitive entrepreneurial certificate program that consists of between 24-26 CSB and SJU students who are interested in entrepreneurship. The scholars use the center as a resource for their ventures. 

"Through the center, you are able to learn not only how to start ventures, but how to manage a venture as well," Barreiro said. 

Senior management major Andrew Mueller has done just that.   

Mueller is the president of Square One, a student-run organization that operates like a non-profit business. Through Square One, CSB and SJU students have the opportunity to travel to Africa each year in hopes of helping underprivileged communities. 

"With the opportunity to operate a business before graduating, I've learned so much from that experience," Mueller said. 

Mueller is a member of the Entrepreneur Scholars program and has used the McNeely Center as a resource throughout his years at SJU. 

"Both the McNeely Center and the Entrepreneur Scholars program have been responsible for a lot of my favorite college experiences," Mueller said. "It's definitely shaped my college journey in a lot of different ways." 

Senior environmental studies major Emily Reimer is another member of the Entrepreneur Scholars program. She completed the planning for the start-up non-profit organization called "Seeds of Change," a business for sustainable agriculture in developing nations. 

"It has been a venue for me to learn a lot more about entrepreneurship and the business field," Reimer said. "It's very clear that if you have an idea, you have the resources from the McNeely Center to act upon it." 

A resource for graduates, too 

The McNeely Center is not only for current students - Barreiro encourages graduates to use the center's resources. 

Over the last 10 years, Barreiro has noticed a growth in the number of students using the center as a resource. 

"We work with a steady amount of students throughout the year," Barreiro said. "Every year since we began there has been about 10 to 20 percent more students using the center in some way." 

Barreiro, who is retiring in June, has seen a difference in students' ability to reach out and engage in conversation with alums. 

"Students have learned so much about their career paths through the center," Barreiro said. "We offer multigenerational outreach as a resource for all of our students after they graduate." 

Success stories

Elevator Pitch

The ninth cohort of Entrepreneur Scholars from CSB and SJU traveled in February to Denver to compete in the annual National Elevator Pitch Competition. CSB and SJU students competed against programs from the University of Portland and St. Mary's University in Texas.  

An elevator pitch gives each student 90 seconds to explain an idea of a product, program or business model of their choice. During the presentations, a panel of entrepreneurs judge the elevator pitches and select the top 10. 

This year, four of the 10 top pitches were made by CSB and SJU students. Emily Reimer placed third and received a cash prize of $500. The other CSB and SJU students who placed in the top 10 were Andrew Mueller, Josh Fox and Long Nguyen. 

Reimer's pitch consisted of the idea of instant beer brewing, which she named InstaBrew, an on-the-go beer brewing tablet that brews beer in 15 minutes. 

"The McNeely Center and other Entrepreneur Scholars helped me with the prepping process," Reimer said. "My peers and mentors gave me different advice for the pitch and many of their details ended up in the final cut."

Creating entrepreneurs

Read an article from the Saint John's Magazine about several additional success stories for the McNeely Center.