Startup Weekend successes support green business development

A second installment of the successful Startup Weekend: Maker Edition

This article is the second in a series of articles on Startup Weekends, written by a team of Michigan State University Extension educators who observed first-hand how this program works at the first ever Startup Weekend: Maker Edition in Michigan.  The event was facilitated by Jeff Smith, director, new economy division of Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) and was held at Lansing Community College, during Lansing Maker Week, the second weekend of October 2014. The focus of the Maker Edition was building physical products and was made possible by participants having access to a  full array of tools, equipment, and workspaces including electronic labs, CAD systems, 3D printers, metal working areas, woodworking tools, and trained faculty and students from Lansing Community College. 

Earlier this month, Kathy Jamieson, an Extension educator described a Startup Weekend in the first installment of this series as a ” weekend where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs participate in a creative marathon over a weekend,  transforming ideas into potential reality.” These events are global across several hundred cities reaching well over a 100,000 thousand participants and serve as an incredible resource for launching businesses.

After a number of hours over a couple days almost a handful of ideas continued on the path of business development and making national headlines. Some of the ideas launched fell in sync with today’s trends in “green” business. One startup, Maizena, driven by a father and son, innovative team members, and a 3D consultant, took the idea of 3D printing to a new level. Where traditional 3D printing discharges plastic filament to construct in a three-dimensional object this rather revolutionary idea substituted a biodegradable cornstarch mixture in place of the plastic, thus reducing plastics into our environment. Another idea launched by a smaller team at the Startup Weekend: Maker Edition focused on greenhouse development for local food production, resulting in more opportunities for growing local food, thus supporting food security for the community adopting the strategy.

Both of these initiatives getting off the ground have strong elements of “green” business as they seek cleaner, more responsible product development that favors community health and the environment. These are just two examples that took flight through the intense weekend retreat filled with experts and resources available to participants at the fraction of the normal costs.

Extension educators plan to adopt portions of this concept in the near future and tailor it to one of Michigan’s largest industries - tourism! Often considered to be the second- or third-largest industry in the Great Lakes State, one thing for certain is that tourism cuts across many industries, including transportation, agriculture/food, service, natural resources, and education. Just think of the possibilities for launching businesses across some or all of these sectors.

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