The University of North Georgia (UNG) welcomed five nationally-recognized entrepreneurs on Oct. 20 to the StartItUp Conference, an event designed to provide students and business owners with strategies and encouragement to launch or grow their own ventures.
Hosted by the Center for the Future of North Georgia, a unit of UNG's Mike Cottrell College of Business, the event was attended by nearly 300 UNG students, faculty, staff, high school students, and local business owners.
"We are glad to see all of you here and the level of interest you are showing, because it is vital that our region is competitive and successful in the long term," said Dr. Ruben Boling, director for the Center for the Future of North Georgia.
Speakers at the event included:
- Johnny 'Cupcakes' Earle - apparel designer and BusinessWeek's #1 Entrepreneur under 25
- Tom Chernetsky - entrepreneur and chief technology officer for anonymous social app Yik Yak
- Katie Dicke and Marcus Hollinger – marketing communications and social media directors for Christian hip-hop and startup label Reach Records
- Beau Shell - 11-year-old entrepreneur and the youngest Zagat "30 Under 30" honoree ever, owner of the Lil' Ice Cream Dude
"I want to show everyone here an example of how you can follow your dream and turn it into a successful business," Shell said. "But I also want to show what it really means to own a business. This includes reinvesting in and growing the business, marketing your brand, and giving back to the community that supports you. I think these lessons are also important for learning how to be successful in life."
Chernetsky walked the audience through the process of how Yik Yak was born, and how it was molded to fit a specific need that no other technology was serving at the time. One of the key messages touched on several times throughout the event emphasized how important it is for a business to fill a particular need.
Dozens of high school students from Lumpkin County High School and Lambert High School in Forsyth County shared tables with each other and with UNG Cottrell Scholars. Students networked among themselves and with business owners, exchanging information and knowledge before and after the event.
The Center for the Future of North Georgia develops and implements programs to inspire growth in the north Georgia region through entrepreneurship and economic and professional development.