All innovation has its place of origin. Steve Jobs started making computers in his parents’ garage. Kevin Plank launched Under Armour in his grandmother’s basement. For aspiring Wheaton College innovators and entrepreneurs, however, such compromised beginnings are no longer necessary. Jobs had a garage and Plank had a basement. Now, Wheaton College students have The Space.
The Space is not merely an idea or an organization. Rather, as the name implies, it is a literal space located about a half mile south of Edman Chapel. Launched on Jan. 15, the The Space provides students with a place to go, not for calculus homework, but for creative collaboration with other students.
The Space has the professional feel of a business suite, but maintains a sense of playfulness and non-rigidness reminiscent of Google’s campus. While there is still the prospect of expansion, The Space currently consists of four main rooms which all serve different purposes. The focus of creative collaboration is obvious almost immediately upon the space itself. The first room — the main lobby — serves as a general collaborative space of conversation and relaxation. A variety of cold drinks and snacks are available for free. Not to mention, as is every great thinker’s dream, there is an espresso machine. Of the other three rooms, there is a conference room, an interactive technology room and a whiteboard room. Some of the amenities include a large screen computer, plenty of whiteboard space and most notably, a 3D printer. The whiteboard room is true to its name as all of the wall space, including even the most unexpected nooks between doorframes, functions as a temporary writing space.
Freshman Kelen Caldwell is an active participant in this year’s series of Shark Tank. She and her team are looking for an investment to initiate Proxy, a startup that would provide an e-market place exclusively for Wheaton College students. Caldwell shared her viewpoint on The Space and where she believes it is going.
She said that The Space is to be a place, “where people feel comfortable going … where all student innovators can feel free to express themselves and to think creatively in ways that may not be achievable, say, in a library.”
Wheaton has proven to be a breeding ground for aspiring entrepreneurs and creative thinkers. For much of Wheaton’s history, there have not been many blatantly accessible resources to foster student entrepreneurship and collaboration. However, thanks to the Student Government and the Student Alumni Board, there has recently been a noticeable drive in providing creative outlets for students looking to pursue innovation.
Last year, SG approved the Genesis Grant proposal. The grant allocates a portion of the school’s funds for student innovation. To avoid any misconceptions, the grant is not solely for business pursuits. Rather, the grant provides funding for a broad range of disciplines, such as innovation in the arts, innovation in the natural sciences, innovation in the humanities and so on. Wheaton College Shark Tank, now in its second year, is one of the aspirations made possible through this grant.
Much of the headway made towards the growth of entrepreneurial resources on campus can be attributed to senior Andrew Shadid, who formerly served as the student body president and is now an active member of the Student Alumni Board. This past summer, Shadid and a handful of other students were accepted into an entrepreneurial apprenticeship program at Praxis Academy, a school aimed at Christ-centered entrepreneurship. It was here that Shadid, along with some of his peers, sparked an interest for creating a space — now The Space — where Wheaton students could engage in entrepreneurial ventures while simultaneously engaging in a conversation about what it means to create as a member of God’s creation. Along with the momentum that was already building on campus, Shadid, along with senior Amanda Azadian, junior David Clark, and Christopher Anderson ’14, immediately got to work on what The Space would look like and how it would be made possible.
Shadid explained how, in the end, The Space was able to transition from an idea to a reality. “You had student energy, you had student interest … and you had alumni who were not only willing to help fund it but who were excited about the prospects of entrepreneurial endeavors coming out of the Wheaton community,” Shadid said.
For more information on The Space and how to register, visit http://www.thespacewc.com.