Launchpad: Fueling the Future of Indianapolis Entrepreneurship

By Lillie Dorsey

Orr Fellowship’s mission is to develop the next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs. Throughout the fellowship, Orr Fellows are connected with thought leaders in Indianapolis who inspire them to set strong goals for their futures. The impact these leaders have on the Indianapolis community is seen around town. Because of this, Fellows found themselves eager to provide a similar impact to those in the community. That’s how the idea for Launchpad was conceived.

Launchpad is a curriculum based workshop series aimed to help middle school students in Indianapolis develop an understanding of entrepreneurship. Launchpad is run by a team of Orr Fellows and fueled by generous volunteers that consist of current Fellows and occasionally, Orr alumni. A typical Launch lasts for five days over the course of two weeks. Orr Fellow Volunteers are welcomed into a classroom for one hour a day during the Launch to teach students design thinking, connect them with a professional mentor and give them the opportunity to create a business plan and prototype. 

Launchpad is a way to inspire young people to pursue entrepreneurship, a field which encourages creativity, problem solving, and continuous learning. To me, we are helping to shape future generations’ passion for innovation and change through business, and that is just an amazing feeling,” said Brenna Ryan, Director of Launchpad. 

The Launchpad teams consist of marketing, events and orientation, partnerships, curriculum, IT, and finance. These teams work together to make connections with teachers in Indianapolis who are excited to incorporate a Launch into their lesson plans, ensure that the budget is effectively managed, oversee Launchpad’s website and execute marketing efforts that are consistent and effective, form partnerships around the city, and so much more. The entire Launchpad team meets monthly to brainstorm and plan for the upcoming month. From the logistics of partnering with other nonprofits, to creative ways to engage with students while in the classroom, the Launchpad team is always working to improve how we serve the community.

It’s not always easy to take time during the work day to volunteer. However, eager Orr Fellows and Orr Fellowship companies know the value of positive community involvement and make this nonprofit possible. When Fellows are in the classroom, they engage with students on topics the curriculum team and teacher have prior discussed. During the October Launch at Speedway Junior High School, the curriculum included an introduction to entrepreneurship, design thinking, an overview of business concepts, and ended with business building and prototyping. 

In addition to the general volunteers, Launchpad also seeks a professional mentor who has started their own business or has entrepreneurial experience. The professional mentor is required to be at the first day of the Launch for one hour. This presentation allows students to hear directly from someone who has had success with entrepreneurship to kick off the Launch and spark inspiration. Orr Fellows love the chance to see some of their mentors share their expertise with the students. The most recent  Launch featured co-owner of The Flowers Boys, Jake Smith, who shared his experiences and taught the students how to craft their own bouquets. This interactive presentation provided a unique perspective on entrepreneurship, exactly what the Launchpad Team looks for with a professional mentor.

The team, the volunteers, the professional mentor, the teacher, and the students all come together to make Launchpad a success! 

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