Entrepreneurship and Design

Directed by Carlos Peña

Develop a product and bring it to market: a real-world, hands on introduction to entrepreneurship. A year-long program demanding significant student commitment and resulting in the foundational tools and mindset required to be an entrepreneur.

Through an innovative handshake of design and entrepreneurship education, students are introduced to the building blocks of entrepreneurship and then empowered to test-drive these concepts by developing a minimum viable product – clothing or household item with original design – and generating real sales through partner business Paper City Clothing Company.


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Graduates of the Entrepreneurship and Design Program will develop foundational skills in:

  • Oral and visual communication
  • Personal self confidence
  • Persuasive and positive representation of both themselves and their product
  • Understanding customers, service, and business relationships
  • Design thinking and iteration
  • Developing and responding to evaluations and metrics
  • Building and maintaining teams of stakeholders and collaborators
  • Accessing resources
  • Endurance, self-advocacy, and self-care

In Block One students engage with the key start-up concepts of target customer, break-even point, and product market fit requirement and apply this learning to make and sell a tee shirt with original design. Students participate in creating a virtual or in-person pop up sales event at Paper City Clothing Company by the end of the block.


In Block Two students learn about the Lean framework for launching a start-up and engage validated learning to improve the MVP developed in block one. By employing customer surveys and online tools, they measure the success of their first product, learn how to improve their initial offering and design and release a second product that reflects these improvements. Students also start learning about marketing strategy and online marketing tools.

In Block Three students build on their work to continue honing their product-market-fit and dive into marketing strategy and implementation. Students create marketing materials and social media accounts, and use free online marketing tools to connect with existing and potential customers for their products. They also plan a second pop-up sales event. Students who want to during block three can design their own individual label and MVP to be launched during the sales event and then sold on Paper City Clothing Co platform*.

*may have additional cost, TBD.

Program Structure

    • 6 hours a week, three blocks during the academic year, in two cohorts of up to six students each, Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday.
    • For block one, core program instruction and learning activities will be offered remotely, but supplemented with in-person instruction for small groups of 3-4 students at a time to do hands-on printing inside the Paper City Clothing Company workshop. Masks and social distancing will be required at all times during in-person workshop time. For those students who prefer to participate in a fully remote way, alternative activities will be provided. We do encourage workshop participation whenever possible.
    • Program will include frequent guest speakers with access to additional individual mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and business people.
    • Program is designed with the support and collaboration of E for All (eforall.org/business-accelerator) andPaper City Clothing Company’s Urbana Art Studio ( https://www.papercityclothingcompany.com/) launched with funding from Mass Development TDI Creative Catalyst Grant.

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