The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

$1 million E-Center expansion aims to better support student startups

Ivy Rose Ball
Hannah Smith, a fashion design and merchandising major and senior client specialist at the E-Center, works inside a “Zoom pod.”

Mississippi State University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach, also known as the E-Center, has recently undergone a $1 million, 2,000-square-foot expansion. The expansion will be revealed to the public during a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1 p.m. Friday.

E-Center Director Eric Hill said that the center is a place where student businesses can form.

“I think the better way to look at it is there’s a lot of students that don’t necessarily know what they want to do, and for many, for most, there’s a job out there that’s perfect for them,” Hill said. “And then for others, the opportunity to create their own is a big deal. That can be a way to change their life.”

Hill said the expansion will include additional work and meeting spaces. He also said that it will include “Zoom pods” that will be silent booths for people to conduct uninterrupted video meetings. The entrance to the E-Center will be more centrally located in hopes of increasing E-Center accessibility for all students. In this entrance, three major businesses will be showcased.

The lobby area will highlight the work of Glo, Duet Technologies and Rocketing Systems Inc., three successful businesses that were supported by the E-Center. All three companies have a display in the lobby to showcase their products. Glo displays its Glo Pals, glow-up children’s bath toys. Duet Technologies showcases its self-cooling clippers that eliminate the problem of overheating when cutting African American hair. Rocketing Systems Inc. shows its online software that helps with marketing strategy.

“I think a lot of what holds Mississippi back is people just don’t have the self-confidence and belief that it can happen here. I think a lot of students see Mississippi as a disadvantage rather than in many ways the advantage that it is. So part of the new expansion is to show students – that look just like other students – that have started companies that are now worth multimillion dollars,” Hill said. “We talk about these stories, and it’s one thing to read about them, and it’s another thing to experience and interact with it.”

Jeffrey Rupp, the director of outreach at the E-center, said the E-Center welcomes students of any major and will give up to $7,500 to student startups.

“We need more kids to walk in the door. Some students say they’re intimidated to come in here, and we really want them to know that everyone is welcome. There’s no such thing as a bad idea. The market will tell you how good it is. We encourage everyone who might be curious to come see us,” Jeffrey said. 

The expansion broke ground in late August 2023.

Jeffrey said the E-Center has been open for less than 10 years. Before the E-Center obtained its current creative space on the main floor of McCool, it was a small suite located upstairs in the building. Rupp explained that students were given the opportunity to design the current E-Center space, bringing their own creative touches to the workspace.

New “Zoom pods” provide students a silent work environment. (Ivy Rose Ball)

Taylor Rupp, E-Center engagement specialist and senior business administration major, and Nicole Boulay, E-Center marketing specialist and senior marketing major, recounted similar experiences when working on the present expansion of the E-Center. Boulay stated that ideas for the new design were presented on the walls, and students were able to vote on what they liked. She said they were able to converse with the furniture providers to pick out what they preferred for the new expansion. 

“When we come into work we get to do more than running to get people coffee or things like that. We actually get to make decisions that will impact how entrepreneurship is viewed at Mississippi State,” Boulay said.

Taylor Rupp said the expansion grew from a need for more space due to the growth of the E-Center.

“We just didn’t have enough room, which is a good thing to run out of room and need to go bigger. I think that says a lot about the center and what it’s done over the past 10 years,” Taylor said. 

About the Contributor
Emma Hardy
Emma Hardy, Staff Writer
Emma Hardy is a senior communication major. Emma is currently a staff writer for The Reflector.
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