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Launching Students into Entrepreneurship

Dr. Susan Amat, co-founder and Executive Director of The Launch Pad, helps expose students to the option of entrepreneurship as a viable career path.

Dr. William Scott Green and I co-founded The Launch Pad at the University of Miami with two clear goals: 1. To expose students to the option of entrepreneurship as a viable career path, and 2. If a student were to start businesses we want them to do it in our community. The Launch Pad is the first program in higher education to successfully replicate its program at other institutions, we are considered a pioneer and among the best-in-class for entrepreneurship education. We don’t offer classes or curriculum; we help start businesses.

University of Miami President Donna Shalala often says that The Launch Pad is the only place on campus where it is OK to fail. Our philosophy differs greatly from every other entrepreneurship center in that we focus on the development of the individual rather than the business. Based in the University’s Toppel Career Center, The Launch Pad believes in slow success rather than the typical fast failure model.

“Paying it forward” by mentoring others is natural to me because of the incredible support I have received since starting my first business at 15. But as I attained the personal goals I set for myself in my teens and 20s, newer and loftier goals emerged: a desire to impact the lives of many more people than I can through individual mentoring; a recognition that the lessons and advice I can offer others can help many more people if, by “training the trainers,” they are recorded systematically, freely shared, and updated as the environment changes to ensure that the best practices are STILL the best practices. We created that system within The Launch Pad, which made it possible to replicate our model as a plug and play solution for other colleges and universities.

Generous grants from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation have expanded our reach to six additional schools:

  • Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan
  • Walsh College, Detroit, Michigan
  • Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio
  • Kent State University, Kent, Ohio
  • Lorain Community College, Elyria, Ohio
  • Baldwin Wallace University, Bera, Ohio

We plan to open many more additional Launch Pad campus sites in the next few years, across the nation as well as in other countries. This expansion will allow college students at those schools access to the support and guidance we offer, and the ability to locate and interact with each other through The Launch Pad Network. 

We are not content with teaching the next generations how to simply find a job; we teach them how to make their own, and potentially create jobs for many others as well. Over the next five to ten years, I envision that this effort will involve millions of students using our program to find service providers, customers, and even partners from other states and countries, working together to start businesses that, particularly in developing countries, will contribute to eradicating poverty, increasing self-reliance, and fostering a sense of accomplishment and dignity.

Dr. Susan Amat is the co-founder and Executive Director of The Launch Pad. Based in the University of Miami’s Toppel Career Center.