Program helps young college graduates create their own jobs rather than look for them

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CLEVELAND -- Ever have an idea for a business or nonprofit?

Some local colleges are giving students the chance to be true entrepreneurs.

So rather than look for jobs after graduation, these students are creating their own.

The Blackstone LaunchPad is a national model for fostering entrepreneurship through higher education. It encourages entrepreneurial thinking and activity among undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty and alumni for the purpose of incubating a new generation of entrepreneurs.

The first LaunchPad debuted at the University of Miami, and it has now spread to other campuses including Case Western Reserve University, Baldwin Wallace, Kent State University and Lorain County Community College.

We recently visited the LaunchPad at CWRU to see the program for ourselves.

Among the startups: Sprav Water.

"It's a Bluetooth enabled water meter for showers. It makes people more aware of their eco-footprint and it can save a typical family hundreds of dollars a year just by cutting their shower time," says Craig Lewis, the CEO and co-founder of Sprav Water.

There's also EveryKey, a wristband that remembers your password.

"Everykey is a Bluetooth enabled wristband. So when this wristband is close to your smart phone, your tablet, your laptop, your wristband will unlock that device," says Chris Wentz, the CEO and co-founder of EveryKey.

The Blackstone LaunchPad at CWRU is helping both these companies and others.

"It basically empowers the students and alumni to see how we can help them validate an idea and potentially go to market. And if they decide to go to market, to support them in any way possible," says Bob Sopko, director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Case.

Both Sprav Water and EveryKey are working to transition from college project to store shelves.

"Getting it out the door is a challenge unless you have some support and connection to get it there and that's where Blackstone bridges the gap, connecting us to resources in the entrepreneurial community in Northeast Ohio," explains C.J. Valle, chief operations officer of Sprav Water. "I think that really helped us to network faster and to grow."

"I don't think I would be able to do this without the college's support. I've been talking about starting companies since I was a freshman here and four years ago you got this blank stare," says Wentz.

EveryKey is finalizing their product before launching on Kickstarter.com.

And Sprav Water recently won the Ohio Clean Energy Challenge and is currently in a start-up accelerator.

These young entrepreneurs are enjoying their success.

"I've always known that I wanted to go in this direction. I didn't know it would take this form so early in my career," says Valle.

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