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Building on success: Tech Entrepreneurs' Week makes annual leap to promote entrepreneurship

by Kristin Woeste

October 2002

A ribbon, scissors, flashbulbs, speakers and applause: These are typical sights and sounds on the well-trodden path of incubator grand openings. But Lennox Tech Enterprise Center staff wanted more than just a first-rate photo opportunity when they opened the incubator's doors in 1997 in the Rochester, N.Y., suburb of West Henrietta. From day one, they wanted the center to exude entrepreneurship and excite the greater Rochester community about the possibilities an entrepreneurial environment creates. They succeeded with their innovative Tech Entrepreneurs' Week (TEW) program, and have since started to return to the entrepreneurial spirit and technological drive that flourished in the region at the turn of the 20th century.

"Right from the start, we wanted to make the incubator look and feel like an entrepreneurial environment, not like a government or academic environment," says Paul Wetenhall, venture coach and center manager since it opened. "We said, 'Let's make it a whole week where what goes on has substantive value to people who have already started a company or are thinking about starting a company.'"

And that's what the incubator did when it took the ambitious step of hosting the first TEW in association with its grand opening. Using extensive publicity, expert-led coaching seminars, and a festive open house, the incubator encouraged Rochester-area community members to take the entrepreneurial leap. The community embraced the event, and what began as a weeklong celebration of an incubator's beginning has grown into an annual celebration of entrepreneurship, each year building on previous strengths and successes.

Now in its sixth year, TEW's comprehensive focus and flawless execution caught the eyes of NBIA judges, who chose the center to receive NBIA's Innovation Award at the 16th International Conference on Business Incubation in April. The annual award honors an innovation that benefits client companies within an incubation program by either going beyond usual incubation services or introducing a creative way to implement existing ideas.

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Keywords: entrepreneurial pool, marketing and promotion, networking activities -- client, seminars and training programs

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