Utah colleges offer startup cash for entrepreneurs

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah’s universities have joined a national trend of schools offering thousands in startup money for budding entrepreneurs to test out their business plans before launching them in the real world.

Scott Petersen, director of Brigham Young University’s Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship, said the programs allow students to run with their startups before taking on responsibility of any major investors.

Petersen said his school offered $355,000 for entrepreneurship and technology programs this year, more than three times what was available five years ago.

At BYU, the University of Utah and Utah State University, much of the available money for startups is donated by corporations and outside groups and awarded to students whose pitches win business competitions, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Thursday.

Utah State University offers prizes of up to $5,000 for students winning competitions.

At the University of Utah’s Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, more than $25,000 in grants is available through a startup program.

“We’re giving money to them and hoping they do the right thing with it,” said Troy D’Ambrosio, the institute’s executive director. “It’s that catalyst, that little bit of spark to get the momentum rolling.”

One of those recipients is Sakpants, a company founded by two University of Utah students that offers baggy lounge pants that cover feet like footie pajamas. The company received $3,000 from the university’s entrepreneurship institute in April to get the business up and running.

Founders Garred Lentz and Brayden Iwasaki then raised $25,000 on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. They’ve sold more than a thousand pairs of the $29.99 pants, which are now backordered.

Lentz said he’d like to eventually take what he’s learned and put it toward other business opportunities, but for now, “We just want to keep people’s feet warm.”

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