Manning School’s Wilson Center for Entrepreneurship Partners with BU Innovation Conference

Two dozen men and women pose for a group photo outside in front of a building with Boston in the background Image by Ed Brennen
Manning School of Business students and faculty recently attended IDEA Con 2023 at Boston University, which was held in partnership with the Jack M. Wilson Center for Entrepreneurship.

By Ed Brennen

After sharing his entrepreneurial journey with more than 250 college students from across the Northeast at IDEA Con 2023, senior business major Jeurys Santiago returned to his seat and checked the Instagram account for his networking and marketing venture, Minds With Purpose.

Ten new followers, just like that.

“People are reaching out already,” said a smiling Santiago, who was selected as one of four “IGNITE” student speakers at the annual innovation conference at Boston University.

Santiago was among 20 Manning School of Business students to attend the recent daylong conference, which featured faculty-led workshops and networking opportunities with aspiring entrepreneurs from nearly a dozen universities.

This was the first time UML students attended IDEA Con — and the first time the Jack M. Wilson Center for Entrepreneurship served as a conference partner. An innovation expo included a table for the Wilson Center’s Global Entrepreneurship Exchange (GE2) program.

A young man with a beard makes a presentation on a stage in front of a photo of three people Image by Ed Brennen
Business major and Minds With Purpose founder Jeurys Santiago talks about UML's DifferenceMaker program during his IDEA Con 2023 talk at BU.
Michael Ciuchta, a UML associate professor of marketing, entrepreneurship and innovation, led workshops on how to pitch yourself and your idea. Saira Latif, an associate professor of finance at UML, led sessions on early-stage funding.

Audrey Yana, a senior international student from Cameroon with concentrations in finance and entrepreneurship, already runs her own ecommerce business, selling organic beauty products. She attended IDEA Con to practice her networking skills and learn from peers. 

“I enjoy meeting people that have the same entrepreneurial mindset that I have, so we can learn from each other and grow,” said Yana, who added that she felt validated by one of the recurring themes she heard from conference speakers.

“No matter what idea you have, it’s just an idea until you execute, which is what I’m doing currently,” she said.

As a senior entrepreneurship student, Jenny Lerman is trying to take advantage of as many opportunities like IDEA Con as she can before she graduates in December.

A half-dozen smile students talk at a long desk Image by Ed Brennen
Manning School of Business student Nicholas Ewing, second from left, chats with fellow IDEA Con participants at BU.
“Maybe it sparks some unknown interest of mine, just hearing others speak,” said Lerman, a native of Stoneham, Massachusetts, who doesn’t have a business idea in mind yet, but rather a “long-term vision.”

“I want to help others grow as I continue to grow myself,” she said. “And I want to bring communities together; I’m driven by that.”

Bringing his community together is what inspired Santiago to create Minds With Purpose, which connects musicians, artists and other creatives with businesspeople to help them thrive economically. A native of the Dominican Republic who grew up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City, where his parents ran a bustling barbershop, Santiago launched Minds With Purpose after moving to Lawrence, Massachusetts.

While he had made presentations about Minds With Purpose before, including at the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute’s Idea Challenge, Santiago was eager to speak at IDEA Con.

Two men in suits and a woman talk in front of a statue of a globe Image by Ed Brennen
Manning School of Business students chat during their lunch break at IDEA Con.
“This was a huge opportunity,” said Santiago, who was nominated by Wilson Center Co-Director and Visiting Faculty Lecturer Bill Yelle. “Just looking around the room, there are so many innovators, so many students and faculty. The exposure is amazing.”

Santiago, who is completing his bachelor’s degree in business administration this semester and is already taking classes toward his MBA, said being an IGNITE speaker sparked an interest in motivational speaking.

“Inspiring other people is something I never thought about doing, but it could be a side gig. There are so many people that need to be inspired every single day,” he said. “Just being here today is a life-changing experience. I’m so thankful to UMass Lowell.”