When professor Jeff Reid arrived at Georgetown University’s campus 10 years ago from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, student entrepreneurship was not an integral part of Georgetown’s identity.
“For more than 200 years, Georgetown has attracted bright, ambitious young people looking to change the world,” Reid said. “Some of those went on to become entrepreneurs, but it was not a part of the campus culture when I got here 10 years ago.”
Since Reid arrived in 2009, he has served as the founding director of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative, focusing on expanding entrepreneurship throughout all four undergraduate schools.
While the initiative has made noticeable progress in expanding resources and opportunities to students, many student entrepreneurs still face obstacles to starting their own businesses on campus. In an attempt to bridge the gap between the institution and individual students’ initiatives, student-led organizations like UHustle and Georgetown Ventures are helping provide a new platform.
The Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative, started in 2009, helped kick-start the academic, internship and startup stipend programs for students.
The initiative aims to help students eventually start their own businesses and grants them entrepreneurial resources, like mentorship and networking opportunities. It also allows all undergraduate students to take any of the 12 entrepreneurship-oriented classes ranging from “Law, Business, and Entrepreneurship” to “Imagination and Creativity.”
Students can also join the Entrepreneurship Fellows Program and apply for funding through the Startup Stipend Program as undergraduate seniors, according to the Georgetown Entrepreneurship website.
Through EFP, students can pair up with one of 23 entrepreneurs-in-residence. Some of the fellows include CEO of KUSI Training Talia Fox and Founder and CEO of Powerhouse Women Fiona Macaulay, who are both experts on leadership within the entrepreneurship field.
Creating an entrepreneurial space is important for all students, no matter what their long-term goal is, according to Reid.
“This is not just a program for students who want to start a company right now,” Reid said. “Sometimes, students think entrepreneurship is only for somebody who has a brilliant idea to change the world and is ready to take a ton of risk right now; we certainly love those students, but a lot of our students are interested in some other way to use entrepreneurship in their life.”
Another new addition to the entrepreneurship community at Georgetown is the entrepreneurship minor, which first opened for students in the McDonough School of Business last year. The new minor saw its first graduating class of eight students last May, according to Reid.
Outside of the classroom, the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative hopes to give entrepreneurs the opportunity to bring the knowledge learned within their classrooms out into the real world through pitch competitions. Georgetown Entrepreneurship sponsors four different pitch competitions a year: the Social Impact Pitch Competition, Rocket Pitch, Georgetown Entrepreneurship Challenge and Bark Tank.
Pitch competitions are a chance for student entrepreneurs to get more perspective on their ideas, according to Reid.
“Pitch competitions are a great way to test your ideas to see if people like it,” Reid said. “There will be entrepreneurs-in-residence, some other alumni, mentors and investors — people in the audience who we encourage to help our Georgetown entrepreneurs.”
Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative’s annual Bark Tank competition is the biggest pitch competition of the year, with $100,000 in prize money divided among the winners.
For Katie Crager (COL ’22), the Entrepreneurship Initiative was crucial to helping start her business, Undiagnosed Tees, a clothing company promoting innovative content to raise mental health awareness. Through the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Challenge competition, she won $2,500 for being an undergraduate finalist and was able to reach an audience on campus receptive to her brand.
“The pitch competition gave us a real legitimate audience for what we are trying to put out there and helped us raise awareness of Undiagnosed Tees,” Crager said. “We just want traction and engagement around our brand. This is a student-run effort, but ultimately it’s about bringing mental health visibility to the forefront of the conversations we are having.”
Georgetown will pay for student housing while companies will contribute stipends for the students, who will work at different firms but come together to discuss their experiences and learn from their peers, according to Reid.
Often, the resources and opportunities given to student entrepreneurs come from university settings like internships, classes and competitions. As a result, student groups are working to expand accessibility to students who might not view themselves as entrepreneurs or be aware of the resources Georgetown Entrepreneurship has to offer.
UHustle, a student-led startup, was first started to help create an organization focused on providing a platform for aiding student entrepreneurship on campus, according to UHustle Founder and CEO Christy Felix.
“We wanted to build a platform where people from all backgrounds could create a sustainable lifestyle from and find some financial independence from,” Felix said.
Through the help of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative, UHustle was able to win $13,250 in prize money from four pitch competitions to use in helping their vendors. Through UHustle’s work to give students the opportunity to market and buy services on their website, more than 50 students are currently engaged in side hustles, according to Felix.
UHustle’s vendors participate in diverse side hustles, offering everything from career coaching sessions to DJ services to conch catering.
The UHustle team hopes to help student entrepreneurs attain business development skills, such as profitable price-setting and developing marketing strategies, to allow students to sustain themselves while in college, according to Felix.
“We want to give our hustlers business skills without having them feel the need to be an entrepreneur full time,” said Felix.
For some incoming freshmen entrepreneurs, UHustle is a lifeline for students who want to make money off their passion but are not familiar with the Georgetown environment, according to Daelyn Waters (COL ’23), a burgeoning videographer.
Without the work of Felix and her team, Waters would not have been able to reach different audiences to pursue her love of filmmaking, she said.
“I really love the amount of opportunities UHustle has,” Waters said. “They open a lot of doors, and being a freshman here and seeing the amount of exposure I’m getting here has been really great.”
In Crager’s case, although she won funding from the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Challenge pitch competition to invest personal capital in her business, UHustle has also been extraordinarily helpful in helping Undiagnosed Tees reach new audiences and connect with other student entrepreneurs.
While UHustle is primarily concerned with maximizing students’ incomes and expanding their audience, Georgetown Ventures is focused on providing guidance to help student companies expand their operations beyond Georgetown.
Georgetown Ventures is another entrepreneurship club actively engaged in helping student entrepreneurs develop startups on campus.
Georgetown Ventures offers expertise to students in two distinct programs: LaunchPad is a program for students who have an idea of a startup and would like to explore it in a curriculum-based approach, while the Venture Accelerator is for students who already have a business and are looking to expand or improve their operations.
Georgetown Ventures has driven entrepreneurial change within the Georgetown community, according to Salome Mikadze (MSB ’22), who has received consulting from Georgetown Ventures to aid in her work as the COO of Movadex, a design and software development company originating from Ukraine.
“They are giving us their expertise and helping Movadex learn how to break into the American market,” Mikadze said.
Even with the support of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative, however, student-led organizations continue to face institutional barriers when looking to expand their missions.
Throughout the process of building UHustle, the team has become ensnared in violations while attempting to help student entrepreneurs on campus navigate university rules regarding entrepreneurship.
“There are a lot of policies hurting students running their own businesses on campus,” Sinclaire Jones (MSB ’21), UHustle chief administrative officer of the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, said. “In terms of rules we’re violating, technically as a revenue-generating company, we are not allowed to operate on campus without permission.”
Startups are prohibited from using any Georgetown resources to carry out business operations on campus, including hiring, banking and product manufacture, according to the Student Startup Manual.
While UHustle has still not received full permission from the university to operate on campus as a revenue-generating company, the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative has given the organization support in the interim, according to Felix.
“They give us guidelines for entrepreneurship on campus, so we can avoid getting into trouble with the university,” said Felix. “They are my advocate. When I held the Hustle Fair last September, they said, ‘If anyone tries to interfere with you, we will advocate for you.’”
The Georgetown University Student Association has also offered opportunities through its entrepreneurship policy team, such as network-building events for student entrepreneurs. This year, however, students have not seen the same level of involvement.
The newly appointed chair of the team is Eddie Galvan (MSB ’23). Layla Weiss (MSB ’22), a former GUSA entrepreneurship chair and vice chair of the finance and appropriations committee, and senator Peter Hamilton (COL ’20) are also members.
Weiss served as the entrepreneurship chair under the last administration.
Initiatives listed on the GUSA website, such as weekly Entrepreneurship Hangouts, opening up space to student entrepreneurs in Regents Hall and creating an entrepreneur social media network are no longer being implemented, according to Weiss and Hamilton.
“The issue with Georgetown right now is that Georgetown is doing a great job of holding up resources, but we believe they need to focus on accessibility,” Hamilton said.