Jul 02, 2020

Grant offers funds for student businesses

The Technology Commercialization Program of the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has created a minigrant worth up to $5,000 for Fresno State students, faculty and staff with an entrepreneurial idea.

The Lyles Center has more than 10 programs aiding entrepreneurs with their businesses. The minigrant is just one of the many options applicants can choose when looking for help to start up a company or assist in an existing company.

New California Ventures, a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), was created in order to differentiate the Fresno State Foundation from the Lyles Center’s equity in businesses it wanted to financially support.

The minigrant is given and created by New California Ventures.

“This LLC was created in fall 2012 in order to allow the Lyles Center the ability to accept equity ownership in private companies in exchange for consulting services,” said New California board member Debbie Ashidian-Astone.

In a press release in 2012, executive director of the Lyle’s Center Dr. Timothy Stearns said, “Start-up and young companies have a difficult time attracting the capital they need to develop their ideas. Support from New California Ventures will provide much-needed financing to develop their product and make it attractive to investors.”

The grants are given out once a semester, and there are no limitations on how many grants that can be given, so long as the idea is compelling.

“The grants are not limited to any number of winners, rather it’s based on really compelling ideas,” Technology Commercialization Program manager Jeff Macon said. “Depending on how many applicants we get and how many great ideas we receive, determines how many grants will be given out.

“When applying, it’s best to write out a line-item budget with exactly what you need and how much it is. And the less money you ask for, the more likely your chances are of actually receiving the grant.”

Other universities have operated similar programs, but this is the first one to be done by the California State University system.

Fresno State MBA student Eric Hadden applied for minigrant asking for $2,500 to help make a marketing plan for a mobile app he created.

“It’s called ‘Fast Book,’” Hadden said. “It’s a mobile app for phones that allows you to book appointments with people or businesses. So the idea is you can make an appointment for your Pilates class, haircut or nail appointment using your phone without having to call them. [Afterward] they will send you an email or text message to confirm, and you can add it to your phone’s calendar.”

The app will be free to customers.  The way Fast Book will generate revenue is by selling subscriptions to businesses so they can have it to communicate with clients. The Fast Book app is available to download and has been beta tested using businesses in the Central Valley.

“We’re using [Fast Book] with a kids exercise studio called Kid Time Fitness in Modesto,” he said. “They’ve been using it now for about a year. The way that [Kid Time Fitness] used to work before is that parents would just show up for these classes for their kids.”

If Hadden receives the minigrant, he would like to make professional marketing material with either an advertising agency or possibly some of the students in the communications or marketing departments at Fresno State.

“What would be nice is that if you get the money you could kind of keep it in the university and employ some of those resources and talents,” Hadden said.

The board received 18 applications this semester, most of them from the mechanical engineering department.

“The grant is free money, the LLC isn’t asking for equity in the company,” Macon said. “But if you’re successful with the minigrant money, they would want you to come back to them and ask for more money in return for a stake in the company. That’s what they’re trying to promote—that next discussion.”

The second round of grants will be given mid-spring semester. The deadline is March 1,2014.  Applications can be found online at www.tcp.lylescenter.com.

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