School’s in for summer

Release Date: October 8, 2019

Western New York entrepreneurs get a boost at summer school

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A hip-hop artist, a former professional golfer and a middle schooler walk into a business incubator…

It’s no joke—it’s the Ignite Buffalo Small Business Summer School. And it brought together Western New York business owners to build their companies and plan for the future.

On eight mornings over the summer, more than 60 entrepreneurs gathered at the Innovation Center in the heart of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. There, they learned to create business plans, execute on opportunities and master their pitch—all while networking with like-minded business owners.

Among them were Chamus Hawk, hip-hop artist turned founder and CEO of Team Radio; Cindy Miller, former LPGA tour professional golfer turned founder and CEO of Cindy Miller Inc.; and Shelden Gibbs, 8th grader and founder and CEO of Classic Knot.

Classically knotted

Shelden Gibbs loves bow ties. He loves them so much that when he went shopping, he got frustrated at the limited selection and started cutting up shirts to make his own.

When he wore these self-made ties out of the house, he would get so many compliments that he knew he was on to something.

So, three years ago—at just 10 years old—Gibbs founded Classic Knot, his company that sells handcrafted bow ties, neck ties and other accessories for men, women and kids.

“A bow tie is like a piece of art,” he says. “It adds character.”

Now 13, Gibbs is a student at Sweet Home Middle School by day. At night, he’s fulfilling orders, working on his website and building his brand on social media.

Most middle schoolers wouldn’t want homework over summer vacation, but he saw the opportunity to advance his entrepreneurial skills at the free Ignite Buffalo Small Business Summer School and signed up.

“I learned a lot,” Gibbs says. “We worked on business plans and strengthening our pitch, and I really liked the interaction with the instructors.”

The business of music

Chamus Hawk is passionate about music, film and Buffalo. Under his stage name Chae Hawk he created progressive rap cinema—a fusion of hip-hop and Hollywood-style video production. He recorded with musicians who went from Buffalo to the big time, from bands like Snapcase and Every Time I Die.

Today he’s using that creativity to elevate the next generation of Buffalo artists. Through his entertainment agency Team Radio, Hawk is developing local talent and helping them navigate the difficult process of working with record labels.

But as Hawk discovered, building a business is a difficult process, too. That’s what brought him to Ignite Buffalo Small Business Summer School.

“I’ve been revising my business plan for about the past six years,” he says. “The Small Business Summer School was a wonderful experience—I was able to network with other professionals in a unique environment and now I’m finally prepared and confident to execute my business plan.”

From the links to the lecture circuit

After competing on the LPGA tour from 1979-81, Silver Creek native Cindy Miller moved back to Western New York with her husband to teach golf. They began at a public driving range and have been self-employed ever since.

Today, Miller educates both on and off the golf course through her business, Cindy Miller Inc. In addition to golf lessons, she teaches individuals, entrepreneurs and corporations how to unlock their potential for improved performance. 

Miller is ready to take her business to the next level, and enrolled in the Ignite Buffalo Small Business Summer School where she gained the skills to do just that.

“I learned the value of having a plan, being able to clearly communicate and understand your mission, vision and goals, and how to implement that plan moving forward,” she says.

Collaborative partnerships

Ignite Buffalo Small Business Summer School was hosted in partnership with the University at Buffalo School of Management’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, 43North and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The program saw a wide array of entrepreneurs beyond those featured here, from a chocolate manufacturer to a medical device startup, to an indoor vertical hydroponic farm and more.

The program is just one of the initiatives in the UB School of Management’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Students can join the Entrepreneurship Lab (eLab) course and the Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition, as well as UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by TechStars and collaborations across the Buffalo Niagara region. In addition, area entrepreneurs hone their skills through a variety of programs offered by our Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Established in 1987, the CEL provides participants with individualized and interactive education in entrepreneurship. More than 1,400 CEL alumni employ more than 23,000 Western New Yorkers, and their businesses are worth more than $2.3 billion to the local economy. For more information, visit mgt.buffalo.edu/cel.

Ignite Buffalo is a small business grant and mentorship program that was established by 43North, Facebook, M&T Bank, and other partners to promote sustainable growth, job creation, and ongoing education in Buffalo, NY. The program provides access to industry experts through free programming and resources, and $1 million in grants that were awarded to 27 small businesses to spur economic growth in the region.

Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) is a nonprofit organization formed in 2002 to facilitate collaboration and address shared issues among member institutions that form the 120-acre Medical Campus and the surrounding neighborhoods. Within the collaboration is a profound commitment to the entrepreneurial ecosystem and what is to come of this space in WNY. Creating a thriving entrepreneurial culture is a critical component to BNMC’s mission of furthering economic growth, igniting urban revitalization and building a strong, thriving community. They believe that bringing entrepreneurs, business leaders and students together to share ideas and skills will fuel innovation, leading to the next generation of great Buffalo companies. To learn more about Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, visit bnmc.org.

The UB School of Management is recognized for its emphasis on real-world learning, community and economic impact, and the global perspective of its faculty, students and alumni. The school also has been ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes and U.S. News & World Report for the quality of its programs and the return on investment it provides its graduates. For more information about the UB School of Management, visit mgt.buffalo.edu.

Media Contact Information

Contact
Kevin Manne
Assistant Director of Communications
School of Management
716-645-5238
kjmanne@buffalo.edu