Through the Runway Program, students can apply to be part of an exciting, semester-long program in which they work on the development of a business idea and design a complete launch plan to start their business while still earning a degree.
The program is completely free for FGCU students and does not include course credit. Students are provided with a small budget to help them purchase items they need to develop their prototypes, file their preliminary patents, beta test their product, and plan. The Runway Program’s students are from colleges from across FGCU’s campus, with many students outside of the College of Business.
Students accepted to the Runway Program receive access to the latest technologies and a full mentor program to provide one-on-one help. The Runway Program is held in an exclusive creative space at FGCU’s Emergent Technologies Institute (ETI) building consisting of two innovation labs, three private offices, prototyping and business planning equipment, and students are encouraged to bring any potential partners. State-of-the-art equipment for all students to take advantage of, including 3D printers, DLSR camera and video recording equipment, 3D and prototyping software, graphics software, sewing equipment, and more. Each accepted student also receives a license to Launch Plan to draft and complete the written business plan.
During the 2016-2017 academic year, students had the opportunity to compete for seed funding once they completed a full launch plan and spent 120 hours working on their business at the innovation space. They made pitches to an Investment Committee, made up of angel investors from around Southwest Florida. During the inaugural session of the program in fall 2016, 22 students were accepted and 5 were awarded seed funding, totaling $36,000 from an anonymous community donor. Due to a substantial increase in the demand for Spring 2017 semester, over 60 students were accepted. 38 students completed the program for the Spring 2017 semester, and 14 student teams were awarded seed funding of $83,000, which totals $119,000 over the academic year. For the fall 2017 semester, demand for the program has grown even higher; more than 95 students have applied and been admitted.
To read more about students who have received funding through the Runway Program and are working toward launching their businesses - See our Eagles soar in the Runway Program Student Spotlight.
At least ten student-owned businesses have been started and are generating revenue in the SWFL region after the inaugural session of the program, which provides economic benefits for the community and university. One of the student businesses is projected to hit at least $850,000 in sales by the 4th quarter of 2017.