Northeastern University’s Entrepreneurs Club will host InnoWeekend, a weekend-long event from Jan. 24 to Jan. 26. The event is designed to bring together students from across all of Northeastern’s colleges to design companies with the help of mentors. The student teams will compete for $1,000 in funding, and they will be encouraged to enter into the Husky Startup Challenge, which offers a series of boot camps to improve their ventures and a $5,000 prize for the winner of the challenge.
Ariel Winton, a sophomore at Northeastern and the director of InnoWeekend, is dedicated to providing opportunities for students to innovate.
“I think it’s really important for students to be exposed to entrepreneurship, even if they don’t think they’re interested,” Winton said, adding that the Entrepreneurs Club not only raises interest in entrepreneurship, but also touts the message that potentially lucrative ventures are not only for business majors.
Their push for involvement has garnered results. According to Winton, the Entrepreneurs Club is one of the largest on Northeastern’s campus. Just four years ago, she said, there were typically only around 10 people at the club’s weekly meetings. Now, club president Casey Hogan leads the club’s 23 board members, and, just last week, 500 students gathered at an event the club sponsored, where Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian encouraged students to try out their own ventures.
InnoWeekend strives to help students do just that. The event takes students through the steps required to start a company. On Saturday morning, for example, the students will focus on customer development, the process of determining whether or not there is a market for their service.
For Winton, a love of innovation has helped her to compile an impressive resume. She is the director of business development at Greenhorn Connect, which is an online resource for Boston’s startup community, and a technical sales intern at Yesware, a startup that provides an email productivity service for salespeople.
When she arrived at Northeastern for her freshman year, she said that she tried out the usual gamut of school organizations until she landed at the Entrepreneurs Club. “That was actually the only one that stuck,” she said.
The daughter of two entrepreneurs, Winton grew up surrounded by innovation. Her mother, Jeanette Winton, started Market Pro Shows, a computer trade show business. After taking several years off to raise her daughter, she started Market Pro Homes, a company that flips houses. Her father, Greg Winton, was involved in interior design trade shows-which sold everything from carpets to furniture. Most recently, he founded the Aviation Law Firm.
Following in her parents’ footsteps, Winton is at the heart of Boston’s startup community at Greenhorn Connect.
“Greenhorn Connect is a hub for students and startup enthusiasts in Boston to find out about events and resources that have to do with entrepreneurship in the Boston startup community,” Winton said.
Greenhorn Connect’s web platform documents what is currently happening in the city’s startup community for those that wish to keep track, and the organization hosts several events throughout the year for those interested in entrepreneurship, such as an event called Greenhorn Summit, a one-day conference for students from several colleges. Prominent members of the city’s startup community give lectures advising students on how to begin and develop entrepreneurial ventures.
Currently, Greenhorn Connect is working on having students build valuable connections with startup owners. Instead of having speakers at a distance on a stage, the leaders of Greenhorn Connect are hoping for students and startup owners to gather at an event where they can directly mingle.
Winton said that startups are eager to hire students in the Boston area. Many people she has met through her work in the startup community excitedly build connections and offer to provide her with assistance.
“The startup ecosystem here is extremely welcoming,” she said. “Everyone is very open to helping other people get involved.”
Winton said that Boston startups are aware of the benefit of hiring energetic students fresh out of college. Therefore, Winton said that students should not wait until they are older to become involved in entrepreneurship. In fact, she said, getting involved in the startup community when one is young, without families and other prominent responsibilities, may be a wise decision. Now, Winton said, is the time to get started.
“You can start a company when you’re 19 and people aren’t going to think you’re stupid, and if they do, they’re wrong,” she said.