Supporting the Innovation Ecosystem

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship strives to drive growth in the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The Center supports local innovators and entrepreneurs by providing resources and connecting regional stakeholders.  

Learn more about our initiatives and strategic collaborators:

 

 
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Initiatives
 

The Depot

The Depot uses innovation and entrepreneurship to create the roots of a world class, local food system and retail hub as well as a cutting-edge experiential learning program. The Depot is a small farm, food and beverage retail pop-up and program that will make locally grown and produced items available while helping activate and energize underutilized retail real estate in Northern Virginia.  

Center faculty, full-time staff and students will operate the pop-ups and programs, manage vendor relations, inventory and sales, account for the sales and operations, and grow relationships with local suppliers to The Depot. As with all student venture programs, 20 percent of revenue will go to fight food insecurity in the region. A special emphasis will be placed on working with food and beverage businesses owned and operated by members of underserved populations.

A local community member/customer at the launch of The Depot

A local community member/customer at the launch of The Depot.


Project Food and Beverage

Project Food and Beverage is dedicated to finding new models for local food and beverage distribution and production with an emphasis on helping underserved communities in Northern Virginia.

Underserved owners and operators of existing small businesses in the retail food and beverage industry in Northern Virginia are eligible to participate in the program.

Organized by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and supported with an investment from the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia’s Build Back, Dream Forward initiative, the Project exposes participating businesses to mentors, peers, strategies and frameworks, networks, and resources to help grow their businesses to new levels. The majority of programming will take place online, with a select few in-person meetings (with physical distancing). Mentors will be individually assigned and will offer small group sessions.

Who is Eligible?

Eligible firms could include, but are not limited to, farms, restaurants, food and beverage retailers, consumer packaging firms, food and beverage distributors, catering and food prep firms, nutrition and culinary services, training and materials providers, and more.

Applicant businesses must be between six months to 10 years old with an annual revenue of between $100,000 - $2,000,000.

The owner/operator must be interested in and dedicated to growing their venture in the next 12 to 36 months with measurable metrics (revenues, locations, employees) and able to communicate a basic plan and metrics for the projected business growth.

What You'll Do

The program includes:

  • At least eight synchronous (real time) online cohort sessions focused on topics supporting building back and dreaming forward, featuring speakers who are experts on underserved business experiences and perspectives. Sessions will be recorded for later use by participants and team members who are unable to attend live. Example topics include: 

    • Value propositions and business models
    • Blue Ocean strategy and customer segments
    • Marketing and communications (including social media and presenting and communicating in a post Covid-19 economy)
    • Technology, logistics and physical space in today's economy
    • Social capital and wealth creation
  • Mentor matching, online mentoring and discussion boards
  • Individual coaching sessions on topics identified by cohort members
  • Two in-person, socially distanced meet-ups

How to Apply

Apply Here

For more information, please contact pfb@gmu.edu or call 703-993-1768.

Project Food and Beverage

Isaiah West at The Flying Barrel brewing a honey stout beer.


Maker Faire NoVa

In March 2018 and June 2019 CIE Mason hosted the Maker Faire NoVa which brought more than 11,000 creatives, innovators, makers and community members to campus. This collaborative event was made possible by local maker space, Nova Labs, Maker Faire® and other event sponsors. Learn more about the 2019 Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Ribbon cutting at Maker Faire NoVa. CIE Mason was an event sponsor and collaborator in 2018 and 2019.


Startup Trips 

The Center loves “getting out of the building” and exploring entrepreneurship first-hand. CIE Mason Startup trips are an opportunity for Mason students, alumni and community members to visit innovators in our region, learn about their business models, and get inspired by other entrepreneurially minded people.   

Soulin Reyes during a startup trip to Whiffletree Farm after collecting pasture raised eggs.

Soulin Reyes during a startup trip to Whiffletree Farm after collecting pasture raised eggs. 


Regional Entrepreneurs: Guest Speakers 

CIE Mason engages with Mason Alumni and regional entrepreneurs by inviting them to be guest speakers, mentors and more for our students, alumni and community. If you are interested in speaking to the CIE Mason community or getting involved with our programming, email ciemason@gmu.edu

CIE Council Member, President of the GMU Alumni Association and Mason School of Business alumnus, Sumeet Shrivastava speaks to CIE Mason students about family business.

CIE Council Member, President of the GMU Alumni Association and Mason School of Business alumnus, Sumeet Shrivastava speaks to CIE Mason students about family business.

 

 
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Strategic Collaborators

The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, a tremendous partner and on-going donor, has provided support for the Student Venture Program, Project Food and Beverage, The Depot, and many more of the Center’s programs.


Dolce Vita

Dolce Vita is a local restaurant located in the City of Fairfax and the first location of our retail pop-up farm store, The Depot.  


Fairfax City Economic Development Authority

The Fairfax City Economic Development Authority has been an impactful government partner for many of the Center’s programs including: The Depot, Maker Faire NoVa, and other CIE initiatives. 


Foundation Coffee Roasters

Foundation Coffee Roasters is a key business partner of the Center’s Student Venture Program. Foundation Coffee Roasters is located in the City of Fairfax, and their mission is to provide high-quality specialty coffee and pastry. Hae Kim is the co-owner of Foundation Coffee and has hosted Student Venture Program students at his coffee shop many times to share about his business model and demonstrate their coffee roasting process.  

Kim has been an inspiring mentor to the students and created an exclusive coffee blend just for the Student Venture Program. Patriot Blend coffee can be purchased on the Mason Marketplace; 20 percent of all revenue is driven toward combating food insecurity on campus. 


Matt Curry's Craftsman Auto Care

Craftsman Auto Care is the newest offering from the legendary Matt Curry team from Curry’s Auto Service. Matt and Judy Curry have been donors to CIE Mason for many years. They have been guest speakers at our Center sharing their expertise in branding and more. They’ve  invited the Student Venture Program team to sell their products at several of their Cars and Coffee events.  

These opportunities provide CIE and Student Venture Program students to get firsthand experience with entrepreneurship and gain confidence with building customer relationships. Matt and Judy are fantastic mentors and examples of excellence within entrepreneurship.  


Nova Labs

Nova Labs, their organizing team, sponsors and CIE Mason brought the Maker Faire NoVa to George Mason University in 2018 and 2019. Nova Labs is a multifunction space enabling the maker community to learn, create and collaborate. In 2022, Nova Labs relocated to the Fairfax area and expanded their programming and resources available to their members. 


The Patriot Pantry,  Student Support and Advocacy Center  

Mason’s Student Support and Advocacy Center provides access to non-perishable food and hygiene items to George Mason University students who are experiencing food insecurity through the Patriot Pantry.  

The Patriot Pantry is the Center’s on campus social impact partner for our Student Venture Program, the Campus Food and Beverage Network (CFBN). CFBN drives 20 percent of all revenue to combating food insecurity on campus in collaboration with The Patriot Pantry. CFBN and The Patriot Pantry have co-hosted several “Grab and Go” events: students access food and hygiene items they need and receive information about internship and program opportunities at CIE.  

Make a purchase at the CFBN Mason Marketplace to help us combat food insecurity through entrepreneurship education! 


The Stevie® Awards

To honor the millions of business executives and workers worldwide who quietly accomplish innovative and extraordinary things in the workplace every day, Michael Gallagher founded the Stevie® Awards in 2002. Michael Gallagher, Executive Chairman of the Stevie Awards has donated to support the Program Manager role and other essential programs at the Center. 


True Honey Teas

The founder and owner of True Honey Teas, Chris Savage, is a CIE Mason and GMU Alumnus. Chris created True Honey Teas while earning his undergraduate engineering degree at Mason. Chris certainly has an entrepreneurial spirit and created a new approach to enjoying tea. In every honey tea bag, he blends real honey granules right in with the high grade craft teas. Convenient and delicious!

True Honey Teas is a vital business partner of the Center’s Student Venture Program, the Campus Food and Beverage Network. Check out the CFBN teas created in partnership with True Honey Teas on the Mason Marketplace. Purchasing CFBN teas is a great way to support student learning as well as a Mason alumnus-owned business. 20 percent of all revenue is be driven to combating food insecurity on campus.  


Whiffletree Farm

Whiffletree Farm has been a long standing business partner for the Center’s Student Venture Program and CIE’s The Depot, and has hosted multiple CIE Mason Startup Trips at the farm located in Warrenton, VA. Jesse Straight, the farmer, practices pasture-raised farming techniques.