A Student-Organized Startup On the Credit Union Runway

University incubators supporting startups and often incentivized through innovation contests are found at many higher institutions.  The story of Emory University’s  The Hatchery Center for Innovation is being repeated across the country.

Called a sandbox for experimentation, here is how Emory’s role is described:

A sizable selling point of university-based incubators is the freedom for early-stage testing and experimentation. Before startups become startups, products must be designed, development methods must be established, team dynamics need to be organized, and workflows adjusted. University incubators provide a longer runway to build a startup before student entrepreneurs enter into a competitive market and grapple with life’s constraints post-graduation.

This February 24, 2024 article describes the fourteen Best University Incubator and Startup programs from the prior year.  The list is a Who’s Who of leading institutions. Students are looking for ways to implement the oldest of American dreams, starting one’s own business.

A Credit Union Startup on the Runway

As part of the 1984 CU-Expansion effort  celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the passage of the Federal Credit Union Act, NCUA supported the chartering of student run credit unions around the country.

The story is told in this post from 2021 which includes this introduction:

The New York Times in a lengthy 1986 articleCredit Unions Boom On Campus, opened with this brief history of student charters:

The first student credit union was formed in 1975 at the University of Massachusetts. Students at the University of Maine formed one in 1978 and at the University of Connecticut in 1979. But it was not until 1983, when the National Credit Union Administration helped to organize its first conference for colleges, that today’s credit union movement began. Four were formed that year.”

The Winning Entry

Yesterday, students at Seattle University posted this announcement on LinkedIn of their first prize in the school’s business plan competition.  The listing of administration, faculty and student supporters is impressive.

We are honored to announce that Seattle University Credit Union Initiative received🌟1st place🌟in the Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition for the grand prize of $20,000. This award is a testament to our team’s dedication and exceptional hard work. Thank you to the Seattle University’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center for organizing such an incredible event!

The HSBPC was established by Dr. Harriet Stephenson (SU faculty member) in 1998. It was designed to help students and alumni in launching new business ventures, providing participants with the chance to enhance their Seattle University learning experience, gain feedback on ideas, develop networks, and expose their ideas to potential investors.

 We extend our deepest gratitude to the five esteemed judges:

Kathleen Baxley, Lindsey McGrew, MBA, John J. Ostlund, Dave Parker, and Peggy Smith, SCRP, SGMS-T (she/her), and to our coach Chris Medina.

As well as President Eduardo Penalver for allowing us to start this journey at Seattle U, Dean Joseph Phillips for giving us unwavering support in Albers, and to CMO Robin L. Meeks for your incredible guidance.

We’d like to recognize Cisco Malpartida Smith, our Chairman, who has been an invaluable mentor leading the team every step of the way.

And our team; Ana Giordano (CEO), Julian M. (COO), Ethan Sue (CIO), Emma Nguyen (Future CMO), Jonathan Tran (CFO), and Dora Becker (Acting CMO), for all their hard work, as well as the remaining cohort of student who have put incredible work into this initiative.

We also want to express our heartfelt thanks to our community and supporters who have believed in our vision and mission. This victory is not just ours but a shared success with all who have contributed to our journey.

As we look forward to the future, we remain committed to our mission of positively impacting our community and continuing to strive for excellence in all our endeavors.

We ask that you assist us in reaching our goals by Donating, Making a Social Impact Pledge, or if you’re a student, join the initiative!

Two examples of reactions to the announcement:

Emma Nguyen

Student at Seattle University | Passion for Artistic Creativity and Entrepreneurship

Still in disbelief of this accomplishment! So much hard work and dedication went into this accomplishment, and i could not be more thankful and proud of the entire team who contributed towards this milestone!! Excited to see what comes next for the Seattle University Credit Union Initiative

Cisco Malpartida Smith

Credit Union Executive | Adjunct Professor @ Seattle University

This is one of my proudest moments at Seattle University. Literally 20 years in the making. We are launching a new credit union! It’s getting exciting! 

Engaging the Next Generation of Coop Entrepreneurs

This and other examples such as the George Washington Credit Union Student Initiative suggest the interest and enthusiasm by students to chart their own financial course.

Shouldn’t the cooperative movement be taking advantage of this generation’s interest and enthusiasm?  It is not the size of the startup that matters, but the passion of the founders.  That is something from which we could all benefit.

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