Summer program will provide mentoring, training, and funding for student entrepreneurs
By Jill Spotz
With 2,610 undergraduates majoring in 51 areas of study, Lafayette offers countless possibilities for students to take what they learn and apply it to something they are passionate about. However, how does a 19-year-old college student transfer the thought bubble that is in his or her head to an actual product or service? Enter the Bergh Summer Accelerator (BSA), a new program of the Bradbury Dyer III ’64 Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Thanks to a recent gift from Chip Bergh ’79, president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., students with the “next big idea” will now have the support to bring these concepts to fruition. Bergh provided a lead gift for mentoring, training, and financial support (up to $20,000 per team). The funding will accommodate a team of two to four students over a 10-week period starting this summer.
“Our ambition from day one has been to build a center that is best in class for innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Dyer Center Director Yusuf Dahl. “When you look at centers that are leading the way in providing opportunities for students, a critical component is the summer accelerator experience.”
Students will apply to participate in the Bergh Summer Accelerator. The two selected teams will attend meetings and workshops and receive mentorship and advising through a network of Dyer Center faculty, staff, seasoned entrepreneurs, and technology experts, with the ultimate goal of transitioning their startup ideas to practical ventures.
“We will work with each team of students and develop a plan to establish goals and milestones,” explains Dahl. “External mentoring is vital to this process. For example, if their business involves education, we will connect them with alumni and leaders in the field of education to accelerate their progress.”
Bergh majored in international affairs and after a four-year stint in the U.S. Army, he began his career in brand management at Procter & Gamble (P&G). His 28-year career with the company included the turnaround of Old Spice, Folgers, Jif Peanut Butter, and creation and launch of Swiffer. Following his retirement from P&G, Bergh in 2011 became president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., one of the world’s leading apparel companies with more than $5 billion in sales annually and a presence in more than 110 countries. He credits his positive experience at Lafayette as a contributor to his success. Bergh returned to campus in 2017 to offer a lecture on leadership.
Applications for the Bergh Summer Accelerator are due March 3.