Cook entrepreneurship center empowers Ivy Tech students to think business

Shaun H. Ruff


April was a busy month at Ivy Tech Community College’s Bloomington campus as students prepared for finals and many prepared for graduation. We also had several important events at the college that demonstrate our support for our students and the community, that were impacted by the pandemic.

The Ivy Tech Gayle & Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship hosted its annual Duke It Out Business Pitch Competition, made possible with financial support from our key sponsor, Duke Energy. Four Ivy Tech students took home prize funding totaling $4,000 for their ideas to end homelessness, launch a food truck business, and two others to solve problems in the shipping industry and financial aid process for students. These are important skills for students to learn to develop an idea, prepare an effective pitch presentation and then present to a panel of judges. The students did an amazing job and will impact our economy in the future.

Steve Bryant

Steve Bryant

The Cook Center also hosted its annual Cook Institute for Entrepreneurship luncheon where Bill Oliver provided a fun and informative presentation on the story of the start of Oliver Winery, its growth and recent partnership with a private equity firm helping them rise to one of the largest wineries in the U.S. This is an amazing accomplishment due to the hard work and leadership of the Oliver family and the employees who have made the winery a hit for so many years. We are proud of their success and the wines they produce, in addition to the impact on tourism and the economy of the region.

We also had our first pitch competition for Ivy Tech’s new RISE Applied Entrepreneurship course where nine students pitched business ideas for food truck service, handmade goods, creative illustrations, sports betting applications, soccer training, RV/boat storage, among other ideas. Our students have been hard at work all year preparing for this day and learned presentation skills, as well as organizing their ideas for a successful pitch event. We expect most of the students to take their ideas to the marketplace creating their own jobs to benefit the region. What a great way to empower their economic futures through entrepreneurial education and support from a wide range of business owners, who guided them throughout the course as well as our Cook Center and Small Business Development Center team members.

As you can see, we have been putting the “community” in community college and appreciate the support of the many who volunteered to help our students and host major events for the first time since the pandemic began. It was especially nice to see so many longtime friends and supporters together in one place, and regain some sense of normalcy which has been missing for a couple of years.

We now focus on college graduates and the impact they will make on the employers who desperately need them. Best of luck to all the graduates who put in the hard work and dedication to get their degrees and certifications.

Steve Bryant is executive director of the Gayle & Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship  at Ivy Tech Community College, Bloomington campus, and the South Central Indiana Small Business Development Center.

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Cook entrepreneurship center empowers Ivy Tech students in business


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