Most University of Virginia students probably spent their summer at home or on vacation, but one group of students stayed in Charlottesville to start their own businesses.
The students at the UVA Darden Business Incubator have been working on starting their own companies all summer. Many of them say they were already off to a good start, but it's the chance to work with others to turn their ideas into a reality.
"The incubator is a way of encouraging students to start businesses," said Philippe Sommer, the director of entrepreneurship programs at the UVA Darden School of Business.
The students have been spending time in the incubator, working on improving their business plans. They have seminars and speakers, as well as time to work amongst themselves to help each other improve their ideas.
One of the businesses, called Mobile Motions by second-year student Luke Rodgers, is introducing a whole new way to use a smartphone - operating it by motion.
"You can actually make phone calls without having to look at your phone or make any noise," Rodgers said. "And then you can call mom straight with motion without having to look at it."
The idea for the SpatNav app came to Rogers randomly on the road. "I came up with it driving," he said. "I thought it would be cool to flip your phone like you could with the old flip phones to answer it, and then I realized that you could create a language of motion that would allow you to use your phone in a whole different way."
The motion control can be activated through an app downloaded on a smartphone. Besides looking cool, Rogers said that it has practical use as well.
"It's a whole new way to interact with your phone," Rogers said. "We're trying to create applications that help people who have difficulty using the traditional ways of interacting with their phones. Elderly people who might have trouble seeing the phone or amputees who are trying to operate the phone with only one hand."
Mobile Motions is just one of several innovative business plans going on at the Darden Business Incubator. Sommer said he enjoys watching all the students make progress.
"It's very exciting for me to see that process of going from an idea to a year or two later they have a real business, they're generating revenue," Sommer said.
Some business ventures have already started to sell such as the Nouri health food snack bars that are now available at C'Ville Coffee.
"We have three different flavors, and they're 100 percent gluten-free, they're vegan and they're organic. And they taste really delicious," said Veneka Chagwedera who created the product.
Chagwedera also hopes her business will help others. "There's a twist to our business mode. For every single product that consumers purchase, we feed a child in need," she said.
Now the innovation laboratory where the students do all their work is expanding. The entire building where the lab is held will be renovated, then opened up to anyone in Charlottesville who wants to come in to work on their own business.
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