The Blackstone LaunchPad was created to help University of Montana students pursue entrepreneurship opportunities, in other words, to help them grow ideas into workable businesses.
The LaunchPad provides students, alumni and staff with the resources to pursue entrepreneurship as a viable path.
Experts at the LaunchPad can help would-be entrepreneurs grow ideas of any size, whether they came up with a concept an hour ago or have thought about it for years, by providing consultation and bringing in outside resources like legal, marketing, insurance and sales specialists.
Advocating a lean startup philosophy, the LaunchPad focuses on identifying the problem being solved by an idea, what pains and gains are around that problem and what will be gained from creating a business from an idea.
One successful business that once sat on the LaunchPad is The Dram Shop, a growler fill station and tap room located in downtown Missoula.
The LaunchPad was able to help the Dram Shop with financial needs and provide introductions to banks, according to UM LaunchPad manager Jennifer Stephens.
The University of Montana’s LaunchPad has been open for 18 months and has already had 400 students register with over 200 business ventures.
The UM LaunchPad is one of two Blackstone organizations in the state, with the other being on the Montana State University campus. There are LaunchPads in 15 campuses across six states.
The LaunchPad is funded by the Blackstone charitable foundation which means that there are no fees associated with seeking help for a startup business.
“Working with Blackstone is not any kind of a contract for people to give up part of their business,” Stephens said.
The Launchpad currently has four part-time student employees, two full-time employees and are looking to hire another full-time person for marketing.
“I think we will definitely see an uptick in registration when we hire a marketing person,” Stephens said.