University News

University Students Venture Outside the Box at Western Mass Innovation Jam

Published: October 17, 2019 | Categories: Business, All News
Innovation Jam light bulb

Western New England University students joined students from Mount Holyoke College, Hampshire College, Smith College, and UMASS to develop new business venture ideas during the Western Mass Innovation Jam (WMIJ) hosted by Smith College on September 27-29.

The Western Mass Innovation Jam is designed to help unlock creative potential and develop skills essential for innovating in any context. WMIJ allows students the opportunity to work through the key components of a good early-stage idea, collaborate with others, and get essential feedback to move concepts forward.

Paul Silva, founder of Launch 413 and director of River Valley Investors, was the weekend's facilitator. Six new venture teams were formed on Friday evening and worked the remainder of the weekend on developing a customer discovery plan and investor pitch. Projects included a Pakistani women's art venture, two African culture ventures, a new form of a laptop, a self-help app, and eco-socks ventures.

Mentors from around the region, including Jay Leonard of Valley Venture mentors and Karen Utgoff of i-Corps @UMASS an honorary member of WNE University's Sigma Nu Tau Entrepreneurship Honor Society were among the mentors. "It is great to see Western New England University and other prominent colleges working together on innovations and new ventures. This top of funnel input is critical to continuing to generate new ventures in our area," said Leonard.

Teams will go on to engage with opportunities such as the Grinspoon Foundation Awards, Draper completion, and Valley Venture Mentors.

This year's Western Mass Innovation Jam was funded by a grant from PeoplesBank. Chrissy Kiddy, assistant vice president for Corporate Responsibility at PeoplesBank, kicked off the late September event. "We are pleased to sponsor this event and help build the next generation of entrepreneurs in the Pioneer Valley," said Kiddy.

This resume-building opportunity is open to all students of all disciplines. For more information visit or contact Mary Schoonmaker at