Any person, any venture: Seeking to diversify entrepreneurial community
By Kathy Hovis
The newest member of the Cornell’s entrepreneurial community is already working with students to expand opportunities for involvement.
Nancy Almann ‘83 joined Cornell’s Blackstone LaunchPad mentorship program in the fall as co-managing director and has been working closely with five new student ambassadors to spread the word about Blackstone’s offerings.
“We are here to help people develop a business, whether they are trying to formulate an idea or are in the throes of their business or need venture capital or support,” she said. “We’re here to help them in whatever way we can.”
Along with mentorship and advice, Blackstone LaunchPad offers opportunities to attend networking and educational events, as well as access to global online resources, applications, software, tools, courses and discussion groups. It operates at 46 schools across the U.S. and in Ireland.
Almann spent 15 years at AT&T before switching careers into healthcare, starting businesses in nutrition counseling and dog training.
“It’s energizing and motivating being back on campus and working with super intelligent, highly motivated students every day,” Almann said. “They have fantastic ideas.”
One of Almann’s goals has been to increase the diversity among students involved in Cornell’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. That’s where the student ambassadors come in.
Shiv Goel ’26 and Jessie Greenstein ’25 are two of the five ambassadors. As members of the Social Business Consulting Group, Almann reached out to them for help bringing a more diverse group of students into the entrepreneurship fold.
“There are all kinds of barriers out there for students who might want to be entrepreneurs,” Goel said. “The idea of entrepreneurship is daunting – you’re putting yourself out there for a venture that may not work.”
That’s why their goal, Greenstein said, is to demystify what being an entrepreneur really means.
“Our message is that you don’t need to be a business major or have a big business idea to be an entrepreneur,” she said. “Maybe you just want to be your own boss, you want to be creative.”
Knowing that emails and fliers might not reach the students they’re looking for, the ambassadors have a more personal approach – reaching out to student groups, talking to individuals throughout their own networks and spreading the word through social media that students frequent, including Instagram and possibly TikTok.
“We really are targeting all students,” Greenstein said. “Everyone at Cornell has something unique and special to offer.”