Canisius College has launched an innovative program aimed at helping people turn their good ideas into profitable small businesses.
The college's new Center for Entrepreneurship is unique among local small-business programs because it focuses on teaching people how to set up a company and then sustain it over many years. The college plans to take entrepreneurs and inventors under its wing and assist them over a three- to five-year period.
"We want to work with people and put our resources together to help the community," said Alan G. Weinstein, the center's director and a professor of management and psychology.
"What Canisius is interested in doing is helping grow companies that will be economically and financially stable and also create employment," he said.
If you want to start your own consulting business or are only interested in feeding your own family, the Center for Entrepreneurship isn't really for you, Weinstein said. Canisius' small-business efforts are targeted toward people who want to create companies that will employ 10 to 15 workers during the first year and eventually have annual sales of $100 million, he explained.
The center is an umbrella organization that will bring professors from different academic fields together with veteran small-business owners to help aspiring entrepreneurs. It also will coordinate and expand the college's previous small-business efforts.
Canisius is home to the region's oldest Small Business Institute, a program that brings talented students together with business people to solve problems. The institute, which is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, has provided hundreds of local companies with advice.
For the last decade, the college also has regularly offered entrepreneurship courses for undergraduate and graduate students. Weinstein says about 20 students have signed up to be charter members for a local chapter of the Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs.
The main objectives of the Center for Entrepreneurship are to provide outreach programs that will help Western New Yorkers, particularly women and minorities, start their own businesses and to foster entrepreneurship among Canisius students and alumni, Weinstein said.
The center was created "in response to the need to identify and nurture entrepreneurial talent in Western New York," Richard A. Shick, dean of the college's Richard J. Wehle School of Business, said in a prepared statement.
Financial support for the center has been provided by the business school and a grant from the Buffalo Board of Education. Weinstein estimated the new venture would cost about $50,000 annually, so he is seeking contributions from area corporations.
Canisius is just one of several local colleges that have established small-business programs.
For example, the University at Buffalo opened its Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership in 1987 to enhance the skills of established business executives, while Buffalo State College, Niagara Community College and Jamestown Community College are home to Small Business Development Centers, which provide counseling and seminars for small-business owners. Medaille College also has teamed up with the Service Corps of Retired Executives to offer a series of one-day workshops.
What makes the Canisius venture different is its focus on business start-ups and the long-term mentoring relationship between the center and prospective entrepreneurs, Weinstein said.
David E. Hirsch, a local inventor of a machine that trains baseball pitchers, is the center's first client. He currently is writing a business plan for his Hirsch-a-Matic Arm Trainer, which was used last summer by the Buffalo Bisons and the Double A Harrisburg, Pa., Senators.
The Hirsch-a-Matic is a simple device that uses a weight, a double pulley system and a baseball attached to a rope. It was designed by Hirsch, a 38-year-old machine repairman at Outokumpu American Brass in Buffalo, to teach the proper throwing and pitching positions to baseball players.
"We think his project has great potential," Weinstein said.