An Entrepreneurship Fellow
Brian Barr, a senior chemical engineering major, first heard about Venture for America in 2011, when he read a Time magazine article about the group. Venture for America places recent graduates in cities with emerging entrepreneurial environments. Those recent graduates, called Fellows, spend two years working at start-ups around the country, after which, they are encouraged to go on and found their own businesses.
“I was intrigued and ended up following up last year and became a campus rep for the program,” said Barr. “I then applied last spring for their early admission deadline.”
Barr said he was immediately sold on VFA’s dedication to creating jobs and helping reduce the barriers to becoming an entrepreneur. VFA’s program provides its Fellows with training, a salaried job and access to a network of fellows and entrepreneurs, which Barr said can help level the playing field for those wishing to launch start-ups.
“I truly believe that startups are an amazing vehicle for solving problems, but it can often be a risky proposition for someone coming out of school,” he said. “For most students, it’s often a choice between taking a safer, more conventional and often higher paying job or eating ramen and working on an idea, and Venture for America really strikes a balance in between.”
Barr is waiting to learn in which city he’ll be placed and what his assignment will be. Here on campus, he’s been speaking to other students about the organization, and last fall, he attended the Career Expo on behalf of VFA to encourage students consider it as a possible career starting point. Venture for America accepts students in all majors, and Fellows work in everything from business development to marketing to venture capital. There are more technical roles, as well, geared toward engineers and designers. Barr said that VFA Fellows are often volunteers, or have started projects of their own, working outside of class time and on weekends.
Barr knows something about that. He is a former general manager for Rice Bikes, where he handled the student-run business’ day-to-day operations. He’s still involved with the group, but these days, he spends his shifts as a mechanic.
“My experience with Rice Bikes really helped me understand my passion for using business as a tool for building community and doing some good in the world,” said Barr. “I think we’ve been able to do that in some small way with Rice Bikes, and I’d love to apply those same principles in a bigger and better way through Venture for America.”
The next deadline for students interested in Venture for America opportunities is February 6, and information can be found at www.ventureforamerica.org