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Skidmore College

Skidmore presents StartUp Skidmore

January 20, 2023

Have you ever imagined developing a product, improving the design, and then pitching your idea to prospective investors?  

Drawing on the expertise of accomplished alumni business leaders and Skidmore faculty, Skidmore students can participate in StartUp Skidmore, an intensive three-day, skill-building workshop and competition on how to develop a business plan and create a prototype from scratch. 

2.4.1 Cosmetics co-founder Helena Yohannes '04, a Skidmore government major, and other alumni will share their perspectives on entrepreneurship, experiences from a liberal arts education, and the ins and outs of starting a new enterprise during StartUp Skidmore.  

The Feb. 17-19 competition is open to all Skidmore students — from all majors and with no previous business, marketing, or design experience. Working in groups alongside student mentors and professors, participants will fine-tune their business pitches and develop a prototype for products and ideas.  

StartUp Skidmore logo“Participants will learn how to develop and improve their products through the knowledge they gain through experimentation, creation, and – often – making mistakes,” said organizer and Teaching Professor of Management and Business Catherine Hill. “This amazing experience, open to all students and deeply rooted in our liberal arts education, is truly unique to Skidmore.” 

In addition to enabling students to hone their entrepreneurial skills, students will enjoy multiple opportunities to network with the alumni mentors, who are all successful entrepreneurs and hail from a variety of industries. 

StartUp Skidmore kicks off on Friday, Feb. 17, with remarks by Zankel Professor of Management for Liberal Arts Students Pushkala Prasad and President Marc Conner. Yohannes, whose acclaimed cosmetics line is a repeat listing on Oprah’s Favorite Things, will deliver the keynote address. Students, who can participate as a team or join one at the event, will be able to utilize resources ranging from mentoring sessions to art supplies and 3D printers. 

On Saturday, Feb. 18, students will have access to workshops and other resources to help them refine and improve their prototypes and business pitches. Alumni mentors will lend their expertise to students and help them learn from their mistakes as they further develop their ideas.   

On Sunday, Feb. 19, the student teams will present their prototypes and deliver “Shark Tank”-style pitches to a panel of judges. Winning concepts will be eligible for prizes, such as iPads, 3D printers, and headphones.  

StartUp Skidmore reflects the College’s longstanding and growing commitment to fostering entrepreneurship in a liberal arts context. 

The innovative program is an outgrowth of Skidmore’s marquee Freirich Entrepreneurship Competition, founded by Ken Freirich ’90, a trailblazer in conversations about entrepreneurship at the College. The annual competition is on pause this year as the College explores ways to further enhance its programming. 

In 2022, the College announced the launch of a $10 million Sands Family Foundation Initiative for Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship that will encourage the expansion of entrepreneurship among all Skidmore students.  

At his inauguration in October 2021, President Conner convened a faculty and student panel on the theme of “Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship” to highlight the creative work being done across campus in these areas of inquiry. Conner also highlighted the many resources at Skidmore that reinforce the College’s longstanding “mind-and-hand" tradition. For instance, the Schupf Family IdeaLab, at the heart of the newly constructed Billie Tisch Center for Integrated Sciences, represents a space “where all are welcome to make something new — to take risks, to play, to collaborate, to disrupt existing paradigms, to fail without fear, and to explore the limits of possibility.” 

“Entrepreneurship at Skidmore is virtually synonymous with a liberal arts education,” Conner said.  “Thinking outside the box, blending critical with creative thought, taking risks, working in teams, venturing outside one’s comfort zone — this is one of many examples at Skidmore where the liberal arts ideals and preparation for life after college blend seamlessly.” 


Skidmore students interested in participating in StartUp Skidmore should register online by Monday, Feb. 6.  There is no cost to Skidmore students. Students with prior commitments do not need to attend all events.  

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