Student Venture & Entrepreneurship Programs



The Innovation Center loves to foster young entrepreneurs and has 3 programs to help make dreams become reality:
  1. BizWiz Meetup - a free gathering of young aspiring entreprenuers and business owners, BizWiz is for high school student, university students, and recent graduates who are interested in owning, launching and operating a business.
  2. Student Venture Lab – our six-month-long seed investment and accelerator for young entrepreneurs (including recent graduates as well as students). We get your business moving!
  3. Youth Entrepreneurship Symposium – an exciting one-day event where teams of high school students invent products, create business models, and compete for prizes.
Our current Student Venture Lab participants are hard at work planning and initiating their new ideas into concrete results. A listing of students and their companies that are taking advantage of these opportunities can be found by clicking here.
NIIC’s student and youth entrepreneurs programs are made possible by generous contributions from The Lincoln Financial Foundation, iAB Financial Bank, and The Edward M. & Mary McCrea Wilson Foundation.


Scroll down to learn about each one.

BizWiz Meetup


Are you a young entrepreneur?  Would you like to meet and hang around with other young entrepreneurs?

The BizWiz Meetups are schedules periodically at the Innovation Center.  Although it is primarily for high school and college students and recent graduates, you do NOT have to be a student to attend.

Talk peer-to-peer with other young entrepreneurs just like you.

 Hear what your fellow young entrepreneurs are doing.  What worked, what didn’t.

  • Eat some pizza.
  • Celebrate everyone’s successes.
  • Hear from successful CEOs and other mentors - who are there to tell their story, not lecture.
  • Carve out some individual time with a mentor.
  • Eat a cupcake or two (besides pizza, cupcakes are a traditional staple at BizWiz).
  • Hear and grill the entrepreneurs pitching on Practice Pitch days.
  • Discuss some of the latest videos or posts from national leaders in the startup community.
  • Be introduced to people in the Innovation Center’s network of service providers, many of whom offer discounts or free services to BizWiz members.

Contact Mike Fritsch at 260-407-1754 or for more information.

Student Venture Lab 


The Student Venture Lab offers young entrepreneurs the opportunity to start and grow businesses in a supportive, success-focused environment.  Based upon the highly successful model used by technology startup accelerator TechStars, the Innovation Center’s Student Venture Lab offers seed investment – and much more - to selected student-owned startup technology ventures
Those young business owners that are admitted receive a $3,000 cash investment plus in-kind investments that include a bundle of six months office space at the Innovation Center campus, personal coaching, and mentoring – all in exchange for a small amount of equity (3%) in the student venture.
Qualifying ventures should have:
  • 1 to 4 owners, at least one of which must be a Northeast Indiana high school, university student, or recent graduate within the last 3 years.
  • Low capital needs and a quick path to revenue.
  • A “portable” venture (one that may be taken to college and then moved backed to Northeast Indiana).
  • A sincere intent to locate long term in Northeast Indiana.
  • A technology venture or a highly innovative, game changing non-tech venture. 

During the six-month period, ventures will be expected to build a product demonstration, create a business model, and validate both of those with prospective customers.

Ventures will receive one-on-one coaching from NIIC's Entreprenuer-in-Residence. As needed, they may also receive mentoring from a variety of local CEOs, bankers, accountants, investors, and others.

At the end of the six-month term, each venture will demonstrate their product and their customer-validated business model at Demo Day to investors, bankers, and leaders of the region’s business and technology community.

Ventures that have shown tangible progress during the first six months may receive a follow-on cash and office space investment for a second six month period. A third round of funding/coaching is also possible for promising ventures.

Our investment in your company could total $11,500 or more! 

Contact Mike Fritsch at 260-407-1754 or for more information on how to apply.

Youth Entrepreneurship Symposium (YES!) 

Over the past 10 years, over 2,000 high school students have come together at YES! events to invent a product, build a business plan around it, and pitch it to a panel of local business leaders.  All in a little over half of a day!

YES! is a fast-paced, fun, exciting event.  Over the years we have asked students to design a variety of breakthough new products:  an mp3 player, “not your father’s cell phone”, a better version of Facebook, a video game console or player, and any kind of web app or game app.

Students work in teams of 5 or so people to develop product compelling needs, product concepts, and value propositions.  We use the Alexander Osterwalder business model template, the same Lean Startup tool as we use at the Innovation Center for startup coaching.  By the end of the day, each student team will have completed a startup business model for their idea and pitched it to the judges.  Competition is fierce!

High schools can participate in one of our ways.

  1. Our main YES! collaborator is the University of Saint Francis.  The main annual YES! is held at their campus, and ALL regional high schools are invited to send groups of students.
  2. A regional YES! is held each year at Huntington University for students from Huntington North High School.
  3. Other regional YES! events have occurred from time to time.
  4. Schools or school systems that are unable attend other events can schedule a private YES! at the Innovation Center or at their own facility.

 If your school would like to be involved, contact Mike Fritsch at 260-407-1754 or for more information.