HUNTINGTON, WV -An exciting new collaboration among local and regional partners to accelerate student entrepreneurship at Marshall University has entrepreneurship students from the Lewis College of Business and the Brad D. Smith Undergraduate and Graduate Schools of Business taking center stage in an innovative initiative. Fueled by funding from the Appalachia Regional Commission (ARC), Jewel City Jumpstart (JCJ) links several partners, including the Appalachian Investors Alliance (AIA), Tri-State Angel Investment Group (TSAIG), the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), EPIC Mission, Inc. (EPIC), and Marshall University College of Business (MUCOB) faculty and students to promote new entrepreneurial endeavors. Jewel City Jumpstart is a 12-week program designed to engage, encourage and develop Appalachian entrepreneurs through a public-private collaborative effort which affords motivated, aspiring college entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn current best practices, develop their entrepreneurial skills, and gain access to expert coaching, guidance, and insights from experienced educators, entrepreneurs, and investors.

The Process

Under the in-course leadership of MUCOB entrepreneurship faculty and practicing patent attorney Olen York, and with significant coaching and mentoring contributions from partner organizations AIA and EPIC Mission, the initiative emphasizes globally-recognized entrepreneurial best practices at multiple stages. In particular, the initiative engages Ash Maurya’s LEANStack startup platform and AIA’s proprietary investor due diligence process, in combination with other selectively curated content, to enable proper student preparation and facilitate improved decision-making in developing investment-ready startup organizations. The JCJ initiative is designed to equip students to develop their entrepreneurial flair and build on existing knowledge and skills to gain real-life experience and expand their horizons through business modeling, lean startup, and design thinking methodologies and access to expert mentoring. Significantly, the JCJ partnership addresses a missing element in the startup-development environment: early-stage capital investment. The initiative provides students a foundation for validated early-stage investment by leveraging the experiences, knowledge, and expertise of the individuals and organizations involved. Notably, successful entrepreneurs, educators, and professional startup coaches, Jeremy Turner (Founder/Managing Director of EPIC Mission +MUCOB adjunct faculty) and Eric Dobson (AIA + Univ. of Tenn. faculty) possess decades of valuable experiences to be liberally incorporated throughout the program.

A Collaborative Effort

Jewel City Jumpstart is truly a collaborative effort among local and regional partners, with students benefiting from the expertise of experienced individuals and support from several high-profile organizations in and around Huntington WV, including and led by the Appalachian Regional Commission, which is responsible for the providing the funding for this initiative through a grant awarded to Lawrence Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) to provide support for entrepreneurship in the Tri-State region. In addition to the mentorship teams receive throughout the program, students will also have access to expertise and feedback provided by the Appalachian Investors Alliance. During key phases of the initiative, the AIA will offer guidance, insight, and expertise to facilitate development, identify and address potential issues and maximize the chances of launching a successful venture ahead of the December 2020 student team pitches to TSAIG. Under the leadership of Dean Avi Mukherjee and the Brad D. Smith Schools of Business / Lewis College of Business, and the association with the Entrepreneurship Program, the initiative enlarges student-access to critical resources including faculty, staff, and facilities across multiple campuses.
“Jewel City Jumpstart is much, much more than the traditional pitch competition,” states Dean Mukherjee. “In fact, this is not a competition at all because there is no traditional winner versus loser scenario here. This initiative is remarkably different thanks to Tri-State Angel Investment Group’s involvement and the fact that TSAIGhas real capital ready to deploy to fund any or all worthy new ventures. Suffice it to say that it’s everyone’s hope that we have as many so-called “winners” as possible.”
Jewel City Jumpstart was co-founded by Olen York and Jeremy Turner and designed in collaboration with AIA Executive Director James Hart to include the following benefits:
  • Student-access to early-stage investment capital
  • Coaching, mentoring, and guidance from experienced professionals
  • Improved likelihood of successful startup launch and growth
  • Promotion of growth mindset and improved resiliency

The Partners

To learn more about the JCJ partners, please visit their respective websites:
Appalachian Investors Alliance:
Appalachian Regional Commission:
EPIC Mission:
Lawrence Economic Development Corporation:
Marshall University College of Business:
Tri-State Angel Investment Group: