Business Incubator Chandler Innovations launches mentorship program
Diana White, CEO of Chandler Innovations, a technology-focused business incubator and idea accelerator, is gearing up for any invention the next generation can come up with.
The company has launched its new Jr. Track education and mentorship program, which helps lead high school students through the process of finding a problem or need, identifying a solution and developing their concept until it becomes a marketable prototype.
A group of 9th and 10th graders from Arizona College Prep Academy partnered with Chandler Innovations recently while working on a STEM project. The students will meet for 12 weeks with experienced entrepreneurs and business strategists who will guide them towards realizing their vision.
“They are creating a prototype for detecting heatstroke,” said White, who organized the after-school classes with their science teacher, Rachna Nath.
White hopes to draw the attention of more schools and corporations potentially hiring the graduates later on.
“There are a lot of Chandler high schools that have student groups working on projects like this and they would benefit from this curriculum,” she said.
The Track 1 program is the first of several services any founder or entrepreneur would receive while working with the organization. In these two-hour sessions, students will learn the importance of building prototypes, how to plan for costs related to or expected from the project and how to be good stewards in a team environment.
To participate, students must be between the ages of 14-18, be attending a school based in Chandler, have an idea within the field of innovation or technology and attend with a responsible adult. Interested parties should reach out to [email protected].
White took the position of CEO in April of 2019. Formerly a consultant with Moonshot at NACET, she came to Chandler with a specific vision for extraordinary growth and advantageous relationships with the five biggest innovators in the area: Intel, Microsoft, MicroChip, Avnet and GoDaddy.
“I want them to see how this innovation piece fits in with what they do and partner [with them], whether it’s mentorship, sponsorship, or whatever the case may be, to support the [new entrants] to the community,” she explained.
Chandler Innovations is a city-sponsored educational resource assisting what White calls “founders” who live, work or own property in the city to better access training and resources which can launch a new invention into existence.
She defined a founder as any person who identifies a “pain point,” or need, and thinks there should be a solution for it.
If one does not yet exist, or there are features to improve upon, White hopes they ask, “Can I make the solution?”
White says the next round of world changers may be anyone “from all walks of life, education, discipline, or experience” who wants to create “because they see a pain point from within their wheelhouse.”
She said they “don’t have to know a lick of code. Just know what the target market is looking for.”
White said her favorite part of this job has been to work with fresh ideas every day.
Chandler Innovations has been turning out marketable prototypes since 2015.
“It’s been building steadily and drawing more attention to the community,” said Michael Winer, city economic development specialist.
Through the programming available, the instructors help take an idea from one’s imagination to a salable, investor-worthy product pitch.
“We call it from zero to market,” said White.
Enrollment last month was larger than ever with 13 new participants in Track 1 and 32 small businesses or entrepreneurs with products in all stages of development.
“I call it a hidden gem,” White explained. “As extensive as it is, [participants] can’t believe the City of Chandler funds it, so they could partake at no cost.”
Beyond the track programs, the organization offers monthly events to the public.
On the first and third Tuesdays of the month, there is an “Open House Café,” offering complimentary speed-mentoring sessions and networking time from 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
They also host workshops with expert speakers. The upcoming Feb. 27 event, is on grant writing and identifying projects that can be funded by grants.
Both events require pre-registration at InnovationsIncubator.com/events.
The facility is located downtown at 249 E. Chicago Street on the corner of Delaware and Chicago streets, in the same complex as the ASU Innovation Center.