UL-Lafayette’s new business incubator to help young entrepreneurs

University of Louisiana at Lafayette students and faculty soon will have a place of their own to nurture and grow their business ideas — the Acceleragin.

Think of it as a business accelerator for Ragin’ Cajuns, said Joby John, dean of UL-Lafayette’s Moody College of Business Administration.

The business incubator will provide an environment of support to business ventures hatched by students and faculty. It’s offered in partnership with the Lafayette Economic Development Authority’s own business incubator program, the Opportunity Machine.

Nine student projects — ranging from a bike grip that conforms to one’s hand to a unique hair clip — will be the new incubator’s first tenants, John said.

The projects represent students from a variety of disciplines, including engineering, business and industrial design, he said.

“Who knows? They may develop into mainstream products,” John said. “I’m really excited about this because if you look around the country, almost a third of the major universities around the country have some kind of student business incubator. It’s high time that we have one in this community, especially since we have such an entrepreneurial society in Lafayette.”

The incubator is part of a new comprehensive system of entrepreneurial support for faculty and students called the University of Louisiana Initiative for Free Enterprise.

“We developed a program with the Moody College of Business to facilitate and foster a culture of creativity and innovation,” John said.

“Every month, we’ll have an entrepreneur-in-residence and a seminar on some aspect of starting a business.”

The ULIFE program will launch sometime in the next month, John said.

The entrepreneurs-in-residence will be available to meet one-on-one to offer advice to students and faculty.

Another partner helping students will be InventureWorks, a Lafayette company that helps connect inventors to investors.

“We’ll help students launch their business ideas through teaching and helping them build prototypes or anything else that they need help with,” said Pete Prados, chief idea officer of InventureWorks.

Prados said Acceleragin projects also may have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors during INNOV8, an innovation festival scheduled for April in Lafayette.