Instructor and Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship Undergraduate Program Manager Kate Harmon thrives on promoting partnerships.
The woman behind the UO’s QuackHack, QuackHatch, and the upcoming, first-of-its-kind QuackCon is all about connecting business students with opportunities, resources, and nonbusiness students on campus with complementary skills.
“I like to think cross-campus,” she said. “There is greater strength when interdisciplinary teams bring their talent and skills together to work collaboratively.”
It’s that creativity that drew Harmon to entrepreneurship. After earning advanced degrees in art history, Harmon taught the subject at several universities. She enjoyed the student interaction but wasn’t drawn to research. She then gained valuable experience while pursuing her dream of owning her own business.
“I like the ability to shape your own destiny and fulfill your own passion without having to rely on others,” she said. “Ownership is on you to make things happen.”
Harmon’s business ended up failing after a few years, a point she openly communicates to students so that they understand the learning opportunity presented through failure and not fear it. She returned to higher education in a position blending her enthusiasm and acumen: program manager at Kent State University’s Blackstone LaunchPad, a nationally recognized college business accelerator program now globally found on 18 campuses. After spending three years developing multiple initiatives there—from a women-focused entrepreneur group to a micro-lending technology library for prototyping and mentoring more than 1,000 students, faculty/staff, and alumni in starting and developing their ventures—the position of instructor and entrepreneurship undergraduate program manager became available at the Lundquist College.
Harmon said the entrepreneurship program at UO is well established, but Lundquist Center and college leadership are also open to new ideas and innovation. With a year in the position under her belt this month, the Lundquist College has proven a good fit.
Harmon’s accomplishments in 12 short months are many and include introducing and coordinating UO’s first Global Entrepreneurship Week; orchestrating UO's first hackathons—QuackHack and QuackCon; organizing the regional Small Business Association InnovateHER competition; and establishing the business idea competition QuackHatch.
Thanks in part to donations to our first Duckfunder campaign, Harmon also took four undergraduate entrepreneurship students to the 23rd annual South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. Additionally, with her guidance, four Lundquist undergraduate student teams legally launched their businesses with three going on to regional accelerators.
“I like seeing students getting engaged with entrepreneurship, with finding their passion and realizing their dream,” she said. “Having a small role in that is an honor.”
It’s also fun.
“The students that connect with it are the ones that are able to be risk takers and rise to a challenge. They are not ones to play it safe,” she said.
When the spark of a great idea ignites within a student, Harmon knows how to encourage and promote the student, as was the case with junior business major Spencer Holton, whose idea for a supply service to aid thru-hikers on terrain such as the Pacific Crest Trail proved to be a winner.
“My entrepreneurial journey started while sitting in Kate's office,” Holton said. “She helped me realize the potential of my idea and immediately connected me with amazing mentors in the community. Less than a year after my first meeting with Kate, I have received funding, been accepted to the RAIN accelerator, and began to launch my company largely because of Kate's mentorship.”