Northern Michigan University’s Invent@NMU business incubator has received a $320,000 grant to continue offering innovative support services for entrepreneurs across the Upper Peninsula. The Michigan Strategic Fund of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation recently approved several grants to support initiatives throughout the state.
Invent@NMU is powered by students and led by professional partners at Innovate Marquette SmartZone. It helps both campus and community members explore ideas for new products and small business startups.
“The Innovate Marquette team and I are elated for the opportunity to continue our passion in mentoring Northern Michigan University student talent while providing a cost-effective resource for Upper Peninsula community members looking to explore the realm of entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Joe Thiel, Invent@NMU executive director and CEO of Innovate Marquette SmartZone. “This is a win, not only for Invent@NMU, but for the community at large.”
Student employees at Invent@NMU represent a variety of educational backgrounds, from business and design to engineering and marketing. They have an opportunity to apply their education to real-world situations for the benefit of actual clients. Students assist in researching competitive landscapes; designing and producing prototypes; creating logos and packaging; building websites, source materials and manufacturers; and engaging in marketing campaigns.
“Invent@NMU is truly a special program,” said Catherine Stenberg, director of Entrepreneurial Services and Outreach and May 2020 NMU marketing graduate. “At its core, the program provides Upper Peninsula businesses, entrepreneurs and innovators multifaceted support. Additionally, it provides professional career development opportunities for Northern Michigan University student success. As a former student employee, I can proudly say this was not only the best college work experience, but also a genuinely rewarding organization to be a part of, uplifting communities through grassroots economic principles.”
“I love that I work for a company that puts its full heart and soul into its employees to ensure they are gaining the skills needed to succeed,” said Brittany Nardi, a student marketing assistant. “Because of Invent@NMU, I feel well prepared to enter the workforce after graduating in May and I’m happy to hear the program will continue to bring value to other Wildcats. In fact, after graduation, I plan to start my own freelance business and through the Invent@NMU alumni network, I’ve been able to secure my first client.”
According to a press release announcing this year’s grant recipients, the MEDC is the state’s marketing arm and an advocate for business development, job awareness and community development.