LYNDON CENTER -- More than 50 people packed the downstairs of Lyndon State College President Joe Bertolino's residence to celebrate the fifth anniversary of LSC-based initiative Incubator Without Walls (IWoW). IWoW and the NEK Manufacturing Training Program are two core initiatives of the College's Center for Rural Entrepreneurship (CRE). The Dec. 4th breakfast, hosted by Ann Nygard and Christina Cotnoir, CRE's director and assistant director respectively, served to recognize and thank the many participants that have made the program a success: student workers and their supervising faculty, local business owners that have been IWoW clients, and other area business partners.
IWoW pairs Lyndon students with local businesses needing development. The students work with faculty guidance and gain hands-on practical experience in real business situations such as website development, e-commerce solutions, QuickBooks support, and branding, messaging and social media strategies. This strengthens the future talent and knowledge base to be able to supply NEK businesses with the qualified workforce needed to grow their business and improve the overall economic health of the region.
Since its inception in 2007, IWoW has served 109 businesses and involved 183 students in hands-on learning experiences that helped create or keep 78 jobs. Students come from a variety of academic disciplines including journalism, business, mountain recreation management, and visual arts. Businesses leaders at the breakfast represented a wide range of interests including Northern Physical Therapy, Bob's Trike, Union Bank, VT Hay Co., Cutting Edge, Newport Daily Express, Burke Mountain Academy, Covered Bridge Primitives, Tara Lynn Bridal, Fenton Chester Arena, Chimney Scrubber and The Sewing Studio.
Joycelyn Minich, owner of Burke-based Covered Bridge Primitives, had a team of four students help with marketing this fall. "I'm very impressed with their techno-savvy," she said. "The students helped immensely with our Facebook page and set it up so we can move forward with it. They also helped with a postcard promotion for our recent six-year anniversary -- it was a huge success. I absolutely would use students again; they were great kids. I'm blessed to have had them."
Business Professor Rodney Jacobson was granted the IWoW Project Leadership 2012 award. This honor recognized Jacobson "for his unwavering support of the IWoW mission -- to grow area businesses while developing the skills and knowledge of tomorrow's leaders."
There are big plans for the future at IWoW, according to CRE director Nygard. "IWoW's strategic vision is to play an even stronger role in accelerating start-up businesses into sustaining ventures thereby growing the NEK economy and creating jobs."