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Leveraging Voices: the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Leveraging Voices: the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

 

Shelley Gunton, Executive Director of the new Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) at Portland State University, wants to hear from you.

The newly formed CIE is a resource hub for PSU students, faculty members, staff, and members of the greater Portland area business community interested in innovation and entrepreneurship. According to Gunton, the primary goals of the CIE are to develop the infrastructure needed to support and catalyze innovation and entrepreneurship across campus to then create new companies, products, technologies, and jobs. 

Before coming to PSU Gunton spent a few years in international banking before starting and running two sales/marketing/distribution companies.  In 1999, she and her husband took their experience with other companies’ brands and launched Castor & Pollux Natural PetWorks, a natural and organic pet products business. Following national and international expansion, winning the Oregon Entrepreneur Networks’ Angel Oregon 2005 competition, and several rounds of fundraising, Gunton and her husband sold most of the company to private equity in 2008.  Since then Gunton has been an active volunteer with OEN and an advisor to many early-stage companies. She now plans on putting her considerable business skills and expertise to work at Portland State University both inside the classroom and out.

“I’m working with faculty members to map entrepreneurial pathways from the standpoint of curriculum,” Gunton said. “I think that it is important that, whether you’re a graphic design or architecture student, whether you’re studying social work, business, or engineering, you can look to the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and receive the support you need to turn your ideas into a business.”

Gunton has been busy developing and organizing a slew of out-of-the-classroom events for those interested in innovation and entrepreneurship as well. One such event, “Start-Up Weekend,” is planned for the weekend of October 5th-7th.

“Essentially, we’re organizing a 54 hour program where people can come with their ideas, form groups around those ideas and then develop a business plan and strategy to take their ideas and run with them,” Gunton said. And her plans do not end there.

The Center recently received a $10 thousand donation from a Portland State University alumnus that it plans on putting toward a business competition for students, faculty and alumni culminating the second week of December. The Center is also working on a summer workshop planned for PSU students, faculty, and staff that Gunton describes as a start-up boot camp covering the key elements needed to start a business and see it through to success. And if all these events weren’t enough for the fledgling Center, Gunton is working with PSU’s new Entrepreneurship Club (contact psuentrepreneurship@gmail.com for more information) to bring members of the Portland area business community to the University for the lecture series “Faces of Success,” which had its inaugural talk on May 23, 2012.

Of course, all of these events will help Gunton begin to lay down the infrastructure needed to bring together the components of innovation and entrepreneurship spread across campus.

“Building a collaborative community and network of innovators and entrepreneurs is a critical, essential aspect of what the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is doing at Portland State University,” Gunton said. “By connecting all of the disciplines we have on campus and giving them a go-to resource, we will provide students, faculty members, and staff the infrastructure they need to take their ideas out to the business world.”

To build this network and attract the PSU community to it, Gunton is working with the PSU Business Accelerator, the Office of Research & Strategic Partnerships, the Office of Innovation & Intellectual Property, and others, including her many contacts in the early-stage entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Portland and groups like the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network to identify, streamline, and promote the various pathways to commercialization available to students, faculty, and staff.

Joe Janda, Director of Innovation & Intellectual Property here at PSU, an office working closely with the CIE, called the Center: “a kind of organizing force behind local and regional entrepreneurship and commercialization resources that I have wanted to see happen for years.”

“I think we have to look at where our true advocates are,” Gunton said, “and then look at the community. We need to leverage our voice into a much bigger voice on campus.”

Using that leverage, Gunton hopes that one day in the not too distant future the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, which she describes as “a classic start-up,” will have a significant impact in helping entrepreneurs be more successful, more efficient with their capital, with their time, and with their staff, and will provide potential entrepreneurs the resources and space they need to foster the kind of creative problem solving that leads to successful businesses.

“This is a chance for Portland State to become a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship in the community, a place that everyone looks to, a place about which people say ‘wow, look at what is going on at PSU, this is amazing,’” Gunton said.

A savvy businessperson, Gunton knows she can’t achieve this goal alone. That is why she’s excited to hear from you, why she encourages you to send her an email.

“I would love to get feedback and ideas from the greater PSU community,” she said. “Tell me what resources you feel are necessary for us to provide, tell me about the challenges you’ve encountered as you’ve developed your ideas. I think it’s great to hear from the community. I want to hear from you.”

If you’d like to contact Shelley Gunton to learn more about her plans, or to share your ideas with her, Shelley’s email address is sgunton@pdx.edu. You can also find more information about the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at pdx.edu/research.