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Building partnerships at FIU

Twelve years ago, the Kauffman Foundation gave eight universities nationwide multimillion-dollar grants to make entrepreneurship education available across their campuses.

FIU, which had only recently established an entrepreneurship center, was chosen for its predominantly minority population, receiving $3 million from the Kansas City non-profit. Miami developer Sergio Pino and his partners at Century Homebuilders soon made another multimillion- dollar contribution, matched by the state, to endow the center.

Today, FIU's Eugenio Pino and Family Global Entrepreneurship Center, named in honor of Sergio Pino's father, is focused on building community partnerships. It hosts a "lunch and learn" workshop series on entrepreneurship with the Beacon Council, is the presenting sponsor of the Miami Herald's Business Plan Challenge, and houses a new Small Business Development Center, part of a federal- and state-funded program that provides individualized consulting to entrepreneurs and business owners.

"We're able to provide that oneon- one assistance that not every entrepreneurship center can," says Jacqueline Bueno Sousa, regional director of the SBDC at FIU. Since opening in early 2014, the SBDC has helped more than 500 entrepreneurs and business owners, she says.

Connecting entrepreneurs and investors and encouraging startups to engage internationally also are priorities for the university. Last year, FIU partnered with the Technology Foundation of the Americas to help organize the first eMerge Americas Conference in Miami Beach. The event, which will take place again this May, aims to make Miami the technology hub for Latin America, attracting technology companies and entrepreneurs from throughout the world.