The Ain Center for Entrepreneurship has partnered with the Venture Jobs Foundation to offer a limited number of University of Rochester students the opportunity to participate in the VJF Accelerator. If you’re an emerging entrepreneur and want to take your business – regardless of what type it is – to the next level, this 9-week business accelerator will help you develop your business concept, hone your business strategy, and build a business plan with actionable steps.

Thanks to a grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Ain Center is able to offer this opportunity to students free of charge. Once you’ve successfully completed the VJF Accelerator program, you’ll be eligible to apply for a $1,000 – $2,000 EDA grant to further develop your business.

How Does It Work?

  • You meet one night a week for 3.5 hours with a facilitator and guest entrepreneurs who will tell you about their experiences.
  • You’ll work collaboratively with 10-15 other entrepreneurs, a mix of students and community members.
  • Classes include brief lectures and interactive exercises. You will have homework each week.
  • Week 9 is a Celebration Dinner where you get to pitch your business to your peers and other guests.
  • The Venture Jobs Foundation Business Accelerator curriculum provides best practices, tools and resources to kickstart your business goals.


  • You must be a currently enrolled University of Rochester student in good academic standing.
  • You must have an existing business or at least a strong business concept. No prior business education is required.
  • Your business or concept must operate within the city of Rochester, or demonstrate a benefit (economic, social, cultural or intellectual) to the city of Rochester or a rural community in the greater Rochester region.
  • You should commit to having at least one team member attend each of the nine sessions. They start at 5:30 pm (a simple dinner is provided) and end at 9:00 pm.


The VJF Accelerator is a 9-week course. The next cohort will begin on January 22, 2020, and run until March 18, 2020. Classes will be held one evening per week (Wednesdays) from 5:30 pm (a simple dinner is provided) to 9:00 pm at the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship (CUE): 40 Franklin Street, Rochester, NY, 14604. There is free parking located behind the building.

Course topics include:

  • WEEK 1 | Knowing Yourself: Introduction, Assumptions, Working Styles, Team Building, Obstacles
  • WEEK 2 | Knowing Your Customer: Customer, Problem, Alternatives, Solution, Benefit, Advantage
  • WEEK 3 | Getting the Relationship Right: Marketing & Message; Getting, Keeping & Growing Customers
  • WEEK 4 | Building the Model to Scale: Starting Small, Distribution, Revenue, Typical Sale, Price
  • WEEK 5 | Strengthening Your Structure: Business Structures, Licenses, IP, Hiring
  • WEEK 6 | Discovering the Bottom Line: Startup & Ongoing Needs, Fixed & Variable Costs, Break-Even Point
  • WEEK 7 | Accounting for Growth: Break-Even Point, Sales Projections, Cash Flow, Accounting
  • WEEK 8 | Planning for the Future: Raising Capital, Growth Plans, Goal Setting, Pitch Prep
  • WEEK 9 | Celebration Night

Selection Criteria

Applications will be judged on the criteria of:

  • Team and commitment
  • Commercial potential and application strength
  • Strength and feasibility of benefit provided to Rochester and/or surrounding region
  • Fit with regional economic development goals

Upcoming Events

There are no upcoming events at this time.


Contact Heidi Mergenthaler, Program Manager.