NKU program helps turn dreams into realities

The INKUBATOR Lite Program made its debut this year, helping to guide current and recently graduated NKU students on their journey to turn their business ideas into business realities.

Diane Moldonado is one of these students the new program is helping. Moldonado is a post-baccalaureate student with dreams to create a holistic retreat for people to learn about this different lifestyle.

The INKUBATOR Program provides teams with access to work space, business services, various equipment and financing necessary to begin a business. According to Rodney D’Souza, founder and director of INKUBATOR, many students at NKU had really good ideas, but no way for them to take their ideas to the next level.

“So that’s when I came up with the idea and I was like, ‘what if we had a pre-seeder program where you basically take students with ideas and team them up with other students on campus and build a viable business model?” D’Souza said.

With all these students offering original ideas and only limited space in the INKUBATOR Program, the team developed another program for students. This program gave them all the same tools they needed to succeed except the money and workspace. This program they developed is called the INKUBATOR Lite Program.

This was the first year for the INKUBATOR Lite Program, which had five teams composed of current NKU students as well as alumni. Three of the teams had the opportunity to go to the Cincinnati Angel’s Capital Hub boot camp, which costs about $300 per team, according to D’Souza. The teams were able to get sponsors so they could attend the boot camp, which included a series of workshops and one-on-one mentoring from Cincinnati Angel Investors.

“There were a lot of men and very few women,” Maldonado joked, “but I didn’t let that stop me.”

Her business model is a holistic retreat on a sustainable farm, which teaches people about this alternative lifestyle. A holistic lifestyle takes into account more than the physical aspects of your life to include your mind and spirit. This approach incorporates healthy eating, meditating, exercising, how to handle your stress and re-framing your thinking.

While her business is still a work in progress, she says the INKUBATOR Lite Program was a real eye-opener.

Her mentor, Rebecca Volpe, the director of the Small Business Development Center, helped to guide Maldonado during the process, giving her advice and helping the team make necessary connections. Maldonado said her mentor was very supportive and inspiring.

“When everyone else didn’t really understand my idea, she inspired me to go for it…. I’m very grateful,” she said.

Zac Strobl, a program coordinator with INKUBATOR Lite as well as a business consultant in the Small Business Development Center said, “What’s great is having the Small Business Development Center to help with INKUBATOR Lite program. They are two different programs, but it’s really nice to have that relationship and being able to work with these students.”

The INKUBATOR Lite Program is looking for anyone with a business idea or anyone who wants to help with an idea on a team. They are generally looking for technology-based ideas, but any other types of innovative companies that don’t fit the “technology-based mold” are welcome, according to The INKUBATOR website.