Graduates of Columbia University's MBA program have a whole new reason to love their alma mater.
Wednesday evening marked the official launch of the Columbia Business Lab, a free (yes, free) co-working space and post-graduate entrepreneurship program for Columbia Business School graduates in downtown Manhattan. The school's Eugene Lang Center for Entrepreneurship will manage the program and provide advisory services to the 21 businesses in the lab's inaugural class.
According to Professor Murray Low, director of the Lang Center, the opening of the lab was a student-driven initiative.
"We've always wanted to have an incubator space where the students could have a soft landing and affordable office space," Low says. "But it was the students who really took it upon themselves to find us the space and pull this thing together."
"I was just thinking ahead to graduation, and I thought to myself it'd be such a shame if I didn’t have all these people around me anymore," says Kajal Sanghrajka, one of the students who spearheaded the lab's creation. Sanghrajka is also the founder of the vintage eyewear company EbK Eyewear.
Lucky for Sanghrajka, her priorities aligned with the school's. This year, the dean's advisory committee was tasked with assessing Columbia's entrepreneurship program.
"One of the things that came out of their report was that we really needed an incubator space," says Low. "They were able to work with the students to make their final report to the dean, and he said, 'Lets do it.'"
While the admissions process is still being formalized, all interested applicants were admitted to this year's class. Among them are beverage brands, fashion companies, app developers, and even one high end chain of sandwich shops. In addition to offering free office space, Sanghrajka says the lab plans on hosting training sessions and workshops, as well.
"Today it's a co-working space, but we're working to make it a bigger network of alumni and entrepreneurs in the city," she says. "We really hope that in years to come, we'll be big enough to take over the penthouse and have hundreds of entrepreneurs from Columbia here."