The Entrepreneurship Program at Ivy Tech offers students practical lessons in business start-up and management through our partnership with the Regional Innovation and Startup Education (RISE). With RISE, students will build ecosystems, create a business model canvas, work with a mentor, and learn from and network with guest speakers and entrepreneurs. Students will also have the opportunity to pitch to investors for funding for their business. To date, the entrepreneurship program has assisted in the launching of many business ventures across Indiana.
Through the Entrepreneurship program, students will gain insight into starting a new business or making their current business more successful. Additionally, the Entrepreneurship program partners with many locally owned independent businesses and nonprofit agencies that are dedicated to helping small business through education and mentoring.
Ivy Tech Student Spotlight - Ryan Ryker
Where some see trash, others see treasure. But Zokos founders, Ryan Ryker and Rod Baradaran see opportunity. “Eight out of 10 Amazon returns are thrown in the trash,” Ryker explains and clarifies that the majority of these returned items are in perfect condition.
In April of 2020, Ryker and Baradaran saw this blackhole of inventory as a profitable opportunity and started Zokos, an ecommerce company that buys and sells returned online goods from companies like Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, and more.
In less than one year and during a global pandemic, what started as a two-person operation with a half truck load of inventory in just 400 square feet of facility space has flourished into a growing team now operating in a 15,000 square foot facility and having already sourced a quarter of a million dollars in returned goods during the first two months of 2021.
As a South Bend native himself, Ryker is motivated by the good his company is doing for the South Bend area community and beyond. Zokos transforms what is otherwise considered waste into accessible, quality home goods for people in the local community and surrounding areas. “This is my hometown. I want to see it succeed,” Ryker says. While the company may be sourcing its inventory from all over the world, Zokos harnesses local resources for its business operations.
Graduates of the Entrepreneurship program have a solid foundation for starting a small business or running an existing business more effectively. This program is largely taught by local entrepreneurs, so graduates are learning from experienced teachers. Graduates can take their business concept from idea to launch using the tools provided by our program.
Ivy Tech Student Spotlight - Laquisha Jackson
Her specialty? Hot and tasty, gourmet southern cuisine. Her passion? Feeding people. And through her business, non-profit, and consulting services, Laquisha Jackson feeds people in more ways than one.
“I love making people feel good and empowered,” Laquisha says. Laquisha is the founder and owner of Soulful Kitchen, which caters hearty, gourmet Southern cuisine dishes. Laquisha has been cooking since childhood and brings over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry.
Through Laquisha’s participation in the RISE Entrepreneurship Program, which equips emerging entrepreneurs with the skills necessary to contribute to economic development and sustainable communities, Laquisha further developed her expertise in scaling, growing, and networking for her business.
Laquisha says, “RISE helped me understand and develop the intricacies of the infrastructure of my business.” Through the program, Laquisha also perfected her public speaking and problem solving skills, she explains. In particular, Laquisha noted specific assignments which required her to pitch new business ideas with only a few minutes of research.
“The top take away from [RISE] was to fall in love with the problem that I am solving, understanding that the solution will be the outcome,” Laquisha says.