Alumnus establishes unique venture fund to help students launch businesses

Appalachian State University received a gift from Walker College of Business alumnus and entrepreneur Steve Norwood ‘80 to seed a venture fund that will help students launch new businesses on campus and promote local and regional economic development.

The Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE) Student Venture Fund will provide early stage student ventures with preliminary funds to assist with typical startup expenses such as market research, technology tools and marketing. A small percentage of the gift will help to continue and expand the Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship (TICFE) operations.

Norwood, a software supply chain veteran with more than 20 years of experience in building successful organizations of all sizes, is co-founder and CEO of Consolidated Asset Recovery Systems, and a member of the TICFE advisory board who has engaged frequently with students on campus through center programs such as the annual Carole Moore McLeod Entrepreneur Summit. 

Students applying for funds will collaborate with center staff to prepare a business plan and organize the business as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) registered in North Carolina. Qualifying ventures will then present a vision and business plan for their LLC to an advisory council, composed of successful entrepreneurs, that will assess projects on metrics including viability, impact, sustainability and scale then determine if the student entrepreneur is appropriately prepared to receive and use preliminary funding.

Students pursuing ventures with high potential for social or economic impact will receive preference. The council will monitor the use of awarded funds, in accordance with an agreed upon plan and schedule.

“Students will benefit not only from the funds, but also from the engagement of the partnering council members,” said TICFE Director Erich Schlenker. “These entrepreneurs have networks and contacts, provide access to resources and markets, and share insight with our students to grow their businesses. Ultimately, the program will prepare student ventures to pursue additional funding through regional angel networks. These early entrepreneurial successes dramatically expand career opportunities for Appalachian graduates.”

 Schlenker hopes to award up to $12,000 per semester, paid by the university to the LLC, to up to six individual student ventures beginning this fall. A student venture may only receive funding from the CFE Fund once.

“Transformative student experiences like this create learning environments that supplement the classroom experience and showcase the innovative spirit of Appalachian,” said Walker College of Business Dean Heather Norris. “It’s a privilege to be able to provide additional support for our students beyond the traditional academic mentoring model. Generosity of donors like Steve Norwood is making a huge impact on students during a time of life when they’re paying for college with no income source; the program saves many from incurring further debt while they work to become successful entrepreneurs."

Implementing the fund required collaboration between several units at Appalachian, utilizing expertise in the legal, financial aid and student accounts areas of campus to establish the infrastructure necessary to execute the program.

The fund is the first of its kind in the High Country, an area that relies heavily upon small business to drive the local economy.

Schlenker added that the university hopes to endow the CFE Student Venture Fund in the future to utilize state matching stores that would ensure the program will continue for many years to come. To contribute to the CFE Student Venture Fund, or to become involved with the Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship at Appalachian, please contact Erich Schlenker, (828) 262-6196,

About the Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship

The Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship at Appalachian State University helps students and alumni launch successful businesses, enhance their future prospects, and the region’s economy. The center was created in 2006 to support a rapidly increasing group of student entrepreneurs, and it was named for Hickory-based Transportation Insight in 2012.

 About Norwood

Throughout his 27-year career, Steve Norwood has become an accomplished executive and manager of technical software and service sales organizations. He specializes in building successful companies while achieving aggressive revenue goals. For the last 16 years, Norwood has worked exclusively with early stage companies to not only define their market and target customers, but also to solidify their sales process and pricing. He accomplishes this while building a sales team that maximizes revenue growth. 

In his current role as president and founder of Consolidated Asset Recovery Systems Inc. (CARS), Norwood has built a successful cloud computing software company for lenders to manage the repossession and remarketing process electronically. Fueled by an extensive background in streamlining the procurement process for financial services and aerospace companies, Norwood serves customers consisting of over 250 prime and subprime lenders who assign cases to more than 1,400 certified agents across the US. Through CARS’ provided Web portal, lenders have access to real-time updates and tracking. This allows them to complete the process more efficiently, resulting in savings that range between 40 to 60 percent over the traditional paper-based process.

Prior to founding Consolidated Asset Recovery Systems, Norwood held several vice president positions for the following companies: Riversand Technologies, specializing in product information management; eScout, building a team to deliver on-demand SRM solutions to the market; and Requisite Technology  recruiting and training a successful sales organization in catalog and content management for the e-commerce market. 

Consolidated Asset Recovery Systems, which provides a complete suite of recovery and remarketing services throughout the US and Canada, was named one of the region’s fastest-growing privately held companies by the Triangle Business Journal in 2015.

Alumnus establishes unique venture fund to help students launch businesses
Published: Jul 25, 2016 10:24pm