The Jonathan M. Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship will move to a new home at 249 Thayer St. this summer, said Danny Warshay ’87 P’20, executive director of the Nelson Center. The new four-story building is set to be completed in May, and the Center will use the top three floors, totaling about 10,500 square feet. The bottom floor will house a Shake Shack, The Herald previously reported.
Since its founding in the fall of 2016, the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship has been located in the third floor of Brown RISD Hillel. The Center provides resources and programming to help students develop startups, said Saron Mechale ’19, a peer-entrepreneur-in-residence at the Nelson Center.
Unlike its old home, the Nelson Center’s new space will have “no permanent walls,” Warshay said. Instead, there will be “pivotable partitions” that will allow students to create the spaces that they need. “The space overall will look very different from one minute to the next,” Warshay added.
The design will help initiate what he calls “accidental collisions” of different points of view. “It’ll provide a physical space that we’ve not had to date,” Warshay said. The central space aims to “encourage students to work on their startups and venture opportunities,” he added.
Mechale participated in a focus group that helped make decisions about the Center’s design. “There is a lot of … intentional thinking that has been put into the design,” she said. One priority for the group was making it “an inclusive space and ensure people from different backgrounds can come and explore,” she added. The new building “will just strengthen the existing momentum that the Nelson Center has.”
“Mentorship is a really valuable resource that the Nelson Center offers,” Mechale continued. “They have entrepreneurs-in-residence (and) peer entrepreneur advisors and they also bring in amazing, inspirational speakers of startup businesses.”
Many of the Nelson Center’s current services are decentralized, according to Elie MacAdams ’19, another PEIR. For example, all of the PEIRs have office hours in different places. “It will be great to have a place where entrepreneurs can gather” in the new building, MacAdams said.
The Nelson Center’s Breakthrough Lab will be one of the first programs to use the new space this summer, Warshay said. This annual eight-week program provides each participating student with a $4,000 stipend to work on an entrepreneurial venture at the B-Lab over the summer, The Herald previously reported.
“We’re trying to run the center as our own startup,” Warshay said. “The building is an element of our sustainability model, which will amplify, catalyze (and) build more momentum toward launching more ventures.”
“We’ve built in as much flexibility into the space as we can, so that we will learn as we go,” Warshay added. “The space will flex as we develop.”