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Posted on: July 21, 2021

GVL STARTS Sparks Greenville’s Next High-Impact Ventures

People meeting around a conference table with GVL STARTS logo at top

In partnership with the City of Greenville, Greenville Local Development Corporation (GLDC), and the South Carolina Department of Commerce, Furman University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is launching a new program this fall called GVL STARTS. The program is designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs move from idea to action by connecting them with a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and teaching them the skills they need to fund and grow their ventures.

GVL STARTS builds on the success of a “business and innovation boot camp” that the Institute launched for Furman students in 2018. After the students completed the boot camp, a select number received internship placements, funded by GLDC, with early-stage NEXT member companies. 

“Engaging with the Greenville community is nothing new to Furman,” said Anthony Herrera, Furman University’s Chief Innovation Officer and the founding executive director of the Furman Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “GVL STARTS is one of the many new ways we are collaborating with community partners to grow a culture of innovation and position Greenville as a national hub for entrepreneurship.”

According to Bryan Davis, Managing Director of the Furman Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Program Director for GVL STARTS, while startups and small businesses are critical to a vibrant economy, over 70% of new businesses fail within five years due to problems that can be addressed with the right foundation. 

“Fortunately, a community like Greenville, which is fueled by collaboration and driven by a can-do spirit, has the opportunity to flip the script in an inclusive and equitable fashion,” said Davis. “There is a critical mass of collaboration partners around the table supporting the GVL STARTS program, and ultimately, the aspiring entrepreneur or founder. To me, that is the magical element of this. It’s not just about the great training, it’s about the connections and experience you’ll have that will absolutely give you a leg up to be successful in Greenville, regardless of your background, race, gender, age, etc.”

The eight-week program, which will be offered twice a year, begins on August 17, and is limited to 25 participants. Sessions will be held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Participants will have the opportunity to pitch their idea or new venture during the final week for a chance to win $5,000 to assist with initial startup costs and free desk space for one year in the heart of downtown, surrounded by other entrepreneurs, investors and support organizations.

According to Greenville City Manager John McDonough, GVL STARTS helps address the challenges facing every aspiring entrepreneur – the accessibility of training, connections and resources – and exemplifies the type of partnerships that Greenville is known for. 

“Greenville is more than a vibrant place to visit and an affordable place to live. It’s a thriving community for entrepreneurs,” said McDonough. “We welcome, support and collaborate with innovators, and the GVL STARTS program powered by Furman will provide the educational workshops, coaching and networking they need to build confidence and ensure success.”

GVL STARTS is open to aspiring entrepreneurs from all demographics and business categories.  

The deadline to apply is Friday, August 6 and the cost is $299. Need-based scholarships are available. Applications will be reviewed by an outside committee and the first group of participants will be announced on Wednesday, August 11. 

The Institute offers a 30-minute virtual information session on GVL STARTS on Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m. Register for an information session.  

About Furman University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship 

Founded in 2018 and recognized by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers as 2020's Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Center, Furman University's Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship exists to develop innovative and entrepreneurially-minded leaders who are equipped to transform our communities through social and entrepreneurial ventures. Learn more about the Institute at www.furman.edu/innovation.

About Furman University

Furman is a private, undergraduate liberal arts and sciences university of 2,700 students in Greenville, South Carolina. The university is noted for its rigorous academic program and strong faculty, and its 750-acre campus is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful in the nation.

At the heart of the university's academic experience is The Furman Advantage, a strategic plan that combines learning with immersive experiences outside the classroom, creating a personalized pathway that prepares students for lives of purpose, successful careers and community benefit. Learn more at www.furman.edu/furman-advantage/.

About the City of Greenville

The City of Greenville is the central city in Greenville County and the economic center of the Upstate. Greenville boasts one of the top housing markets in the nation and an annual cost of living that is consistently lower than the national average. The City also maintains AAA bond ratings from all three major rating agencies, the only city in South Carolina with that distinction. In addition to focusing on quality of life issues such as recreation, open green space, environmental sustainability, public safety and engagement and mobility, the City works diligently with its economic development partners to retain existing businesses and strives to recruit new businesses and facilitate the creation of meaningful job opportunities within the region. Learn more at www.greenvillesc.gov

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