Gonzaga’s New Venture Lab helps students gain real world business experience while spurring the success of local entrepreneurs.

New Venture Lab is a student run organization that functions as a business consulting firm for local business ventures. Every semester, 10 to 12 entrepreneurs from the community are paired with a team of students that provide free services that range from business plans to market research. 

Teams include five team members and one project manager. This semester, there are 50 students and 10 entrepreneurs in industries including retail, fashion, restaurants and consulting firms.

Sophomore Catherine Follett has been a part of New Venture Lab since her first semester at GU. According to Follett, her favorite part of the club has been utilizing social media analytics and producing marketing plans for a company. Now a project manager, she has helped multiple Spokane businesses promote their products and services. 

“On the student end, students get real world experience and get to apply what they are learning in the classroom to a business and see how that works,” Follett said. “For the Spokane community it connects them to students, and they get to utilize a great resource, you know, young minds that are really excited and eager to apply their skills to something. It’s a great bridge between the entrepreneurial environment of Spokane and students.”

All members of New Venture Lab meet on Wednesday nights to discuss work from the past week and get a head start on the upcoming tasks. Depending on their role, members of New Venture Lab spend two to four hours a week outside of meetings working. At the end of the semester, each team of students conduct a formal presentation that identifies areas of growth and improvement for the company they partnered with. 

Sophomore Joe Hinshaw joined New Venture Lab this semester. He said that working with local entrepreneurs has been a gratifying experience so far.

“It was really cool to see on day one that the entrepreneurs were really humble in asking the students for help," Hinshaw said. "It was cool to see that our services are really valued, and our opinions are going to lead to tangible product trajectory down the road.”  

Entrepreneurs can apply to work with New Venture Lab through an online application on GU’s official website. In some cases, project managers or Program Manager Cole Kelly will pitch their services to businesses they are interested in partnering with. New Venture Lab works with all types of businesses including non-profits, for profits, start-ups and existing companies in all industries. 

New Venture Lab is open to a variety of majors, too. Applications for team member and project manager positions are available on GU’s website and all areas of study are encouraged to apply. Applications open the semester beforehand and are used to determine each student’s interests in order to place them on the most suitable team. 

With the help of New Venture Lab, students are able to apply knowledge from the classroom to the real world and become business leaders that propel the success of local businesses. Hinshaw said that it is important for GU to help students and the community at the same time through a mutual learning program like New Venture Lab.

"It’s really cool that Gonzaga values this program that helps students and the community around us,” Hinshaw said. “New Venture Lab is a good investment in local entrepreneurs because I’ve heard from people that without our help they maybe wouldn’t be afloat today."

Cara Konowalchuk is a staff writer.

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