The Birth & Evolution of NACCE

In 1995, Andy Scibelli, president of Springfield Technical and Community College (STCC), in Springfield, MA, commissioned a feasibility study to determine if a small business incubator aligned with the expertise of the college could foster business growth in the region.

The results prompted STCC to move forward with an entrepreneurship program called the Entrepreneurial Institute. Supported in part by a $990,000 Economic Development Association grant, the institute opened in 1999. It included a student incubator, a college, a high school, and K-8 entrepreneurship educational programs. 

Going National

Interest in the Entrepreneurial Institute grew quickly. Clearly, there was a growing interest among community colleges about the importance of entrepreneurship and a need for a national association that would support and grow this interest. Thus was born the idea for the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE).

In 2003, S. Prestley Blake, co-founder of the Friendly Ice Cream Corporation and a longtime supporter of STCC, earmarked a $100,000 gift to create the first NAACE conference. The Coleman Foundation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and in-kind support from STCC provided additional support for the conference. Since its inaugural annual conference, NACCE has hosted national conferences each year.

The Growing Years

With foundation support, NACCE extended its national impact by funding entrepreneurship projects at community colleges across the country. As more community colleges launched entrepreneurship programs, NACCE membership grew, and NACCE and business communities throughout the United States forged new partnerships in increasing numbers. By 2011, the organization’s rising profile prompted an invitation from the White House to participate in President Barack Obama’s public/private Startup America Alliance.

The Coleman Foundation played a vital role in helping NACCE grow by providing $2 million in funding between 2003 and 2015. Many of these funds were granted to NACCE member colleges for initiatives presented in competitions at NACCE’s annual conference. 

When the Coleman Foundation grant concluded in 2015, it ushered in a new organizational model based on co-creating revenue streams with a variety of funders and members. By diversifying funding streams and seizing new opportunities that could be implemented as community of practice projects, NACCE grew financially. Seeking new, like-minded partners for revenue-shared agreements and engaging faculty and administrators in member colleges to engage in creating new resources to spur entrepreneurial teaching and leadership, strengthened NACCE’s effectiveness and ability to build for the future.

Looking Ahead

Today, NACCE continues to break new ground in bringing entrepreneurial thinking and culture to America’s community colleges. NACCE’s Presidents for Entrepreneurship Pledge (PFEP) assists community college presidents in advancing entrepreneurship in their communities and creating a culture of entrepreneurship on their campuses.

NACCE’s efforts to secure financial support for member colleges continue. We have secured more than $3 million from our partners to be re-granted to community colleges for 2018-2020. Equally important, the technical assistance we provide supported a wide range of programs, including the creation 24 makerspaces in California and the formation of effective partnerships between K-12 and community college partners in Appalachia. This work continues.  

After 16 years of incredible growth, NACCE’s membership spans colleges and entrepreneurship centers in North America and abroad. Globally, NACCE has extended its partnerships to university educators in China, and is sharing entrepreneurial curriculum and community support systems for entrepreneurship with college leaders throughout the world.