Carlsen Center takes the regional lead for Global Entrepreneurship Week and wins $250,000 state grant
November 21, 2023
The Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Sacramento State led the region’s Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) activities for the fifth consecutive year and took home a $250,000 state grant, cementing its place as a driving force for economic growth.
Clair Whitmer, NorCal regional advisor of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA), announced the grant Nov. 13, the first day of GEW, during the Sacramento Entrepreneurial State of the Union at the Carlsen Center.
The CalOSBA awards Accelerate California: Inclusive Innovation Hub grants to organizations that provide entrepreneurial training, coaching, and mentorship, and access to capital and small business resources.
The Carlsen Center was one of five organizations to receive the second round of funding, including Chapman University, Humanmade, iHub San Joaquin, and Plug in South Los Angeles.
Whitmer, who is also assistant deputy director for Regional Economic Engagement, told the audience that California is home to 4.2 million small businesses.
“They drive our economy … they are our community leaders,” Whitmer said. “Of those 4.2 million, 98% have 20 or fewer jobs, so we have to create them en masse, as well as create the environment for the high-flyer companies, because that is what makes us California and what brings talent and money into our economy.”
Global Entrepreneurship Week started in 2008. Today, organizations in more than 200 countries host 40,000 events attended by an estimated 10 million people.
“The work being done here (at the Carlsen Center) to grow an entrepreneurial culture by partnering with regional leaders and organizations and transforming the lives of students along the way is both impressive and essential to the future. We are the one and only public university in the state capital of the fifth-largest economy in the world, and we’re acting like it.” -- Sacramento State President Luke Wood
The Carlsen Center has served as the hub for the region’s GEW activities since Cameron Law became executive director five years ago.
He launched the first Sacramento Entrepreneurial State of the Union in 2019.
President Luke Wood, a Sac State alumnus, spoke at the event and called the University an anchor institution that is embedded in the community.
“Look around the room and you will see entrepreneurs, regional leaders, and other passionate individuals who bring their commitment to growing the greater Sacramento region and providing Sac State students with skills, opportunity, and mentorship that they need to help our region become brighter,” Wood said in his address.
“The work being done here (at the Carlsen Center) to grow an entrepreneurial culture by partnering with regional leaders and organizations and transforming the lives of students along the way is both impressive and essential to the future. We are the one and only public university in the state capital of the fifth-largest economy in the world, and we’re acting like it.”
This year, the Carlsen Center organized 27 events throughout the region.
Several area investors, advisors, and experts offered 15-minute advice sessions to early-stage entrepreneurs and startups during Mentor Sprint, a “speed-dating” event for business founders and mentors.
“Sacramento needs to increase visibility for entrepreneurs and investors, and I think the Carlsen Center is one of the places doing that,” said Gabriel Garcia, a Sacramento corporate attorney who served as a mentor. “Otherwise, we remain in the shadow of Silicon Valley. That’s why I like being part of the change and the investors landscape in Sacramento.”
Four budding entrepreneurs in the Sacramento region won shares of a $20,000 prize during the Spark Venture Competition. Fifty applicants were whittled down to 10 finalists, who pitched their businesses on Nov. 15.
Maurice Pitesky, founder of AgriNerds, Inc., took first place in the For-Profit category, with Heather Rankow and Ashley Keyes of Rely-Real Estate as the runner-up.
In the Social Impact category, Maria Medrano took first place for Insprame, and Shweta Gandhi took second place for Strived.io.
The Carlsen Center’s work has helped bring much-needed attention to the role entrepreneurs play in driving economic growth.
“The prominence of entrepreneurship has grown, and I think the fact that is being added to regional strategies is huge progress,” Law said. “It’s now one of the key pillars leaders are going to be looking at for growing our region.”
In the past, he added, the focus has been on attracting large companies because they brought an influx of high-paying jobs. But those companies don’t always stay.
“It’s been proven that new business creation is the best way to create jobs. … Entrepreneurs have that connection to place, so they’re more likely to stay in the community that they start and grow in,” Law said.
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