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Venture College: Bridging the gap from education to economics

When Boise State’s Venture College pilot kicked off last fall, its main objective became helping students acquire the skills needed to launch their own business.

“The kinds of skills needed to start a business are different than those needed to sustain it; that’s why most small businesses fail,” said Ed Zimmer, the associate director of Venture College.

Venture College emphasizes a “flipped” classroom dynamic where students learn material outside of the classroom and lead classroom discussion.

Because each cohort has a limited number of students each semester, the amount of attention each student receives is exceptional. The classroom ratio is 5-to-1.

All three professional directors sit in on labs providing real world examples and experience. They also conduct weekly meetings with students one-on-one, which allows students to be taught according to their individual needs.

“Even if students don’t start their own business, they’re going to be more employable,” Zimmer said.

Students are also encouraged to engage with the community, marketing ideas to potential customers and establishing long-term relationships.

Zimmer, who’s been with the program since its conception, works actively within the business community, encouraging many businesses to get involved.

According to Zimmer, more than 300 business professionals have joined this growing “small business” community, donating hundreds of hours of their time and effort to help these students succeed.

“Without the (business) community, this (program) would not be as successful as it is,” said Nic Baughman, a graduate from Boise State, who designed interchangeable logos for hats.

Baughman is in the last stage of the program; he applies for a marketing license soon and hopes to have his product in the Boise State Bookstore by next fall.

Seven other students from the initial cohort are also nearing the end of the program where customers are starting to purchase their products.

As interest in entrepreneurship increases, Venture College continues to evolve. As students move through the process, Zimmer anticipates the college to “expand its scope” from the tools necessary in starting up a business to its complete sustainability.

The college has also expanded the criteria for who may apply. Where once only full-time degree seeking students were allowed to submit an application, it now accepts entrepreneurs who have any affiliation to Boise State.

While they are continuing to learn as they go, Zimmer says the current program has exceeded his expectations.

Venture College is committed to building relationships within the business community. Students who participate in the program are given mentorship as long as they ask for it.

“We’re not getting them to one point and leaving them alone,” Zimmer said, “You’re Venture College for life.”

The application deadline for fall semester is April 9.

To apply or for more information, go to