Sleep, It Does a Body Good.

Jeff Bezos does it, Sheryl Sandberg does it, and many successful entrepreneurs do it.  They throw in the towel and go to sleep instead of burning the midnight oil. A recent study found that 60 percent of college students do not get enough sleep. Student entrepreneurs might be thinking, “With my startup and my clubs, not to mention my classes, there is not enough time in the day. I need to finish a few more things on my long to do list before I can go to bed.” However, to be a successful student and entrepreneur, you need to be able to focus and make good decisions.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends people 18-25 years old get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Why is sleep so important? The National Institute of Health describes it this way:

“Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It’s forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information. Studies show that a good night’s sleep improves learning. Whether you’re learning math, [or] how to play the piano […] sleep helps enhance your learning and problem-solving skills. Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.”

Paying attention, making decisions and being creative are three important daily attributes needed to be a successful entrepreneur and student. Just one extra hour of sleep can make the difference.  With sufficient sleep you won’t feel groggy or struggle to get through the day. You will feel less stressed about all you want to accomplish.

Still not convinced you should make the effort to get more sleep? Matt Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and Director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory, says that the number of people who can survive on six hours of sleep or less and show no impairment is “zero.”  Yes, zero!  So if you are getting six hours of sleep instead of seven, you are coping with an impairment that can easily be addressed.  Set an alarm on your phone so when it gets to be that time in the evening, you are reminded to wrap things up and get to bed earlier to get the rest you need so you are not impaired and you can be your best, most productive, focused and  creative, problem-solving self.

Research has shown that sleep is so important that many startups are focusing on data analysis and innovative wearables to enhance sleep. Headspace, a meditation app, has expanded its offerings with a sleep single to help people sleep. In 2014, Northwestern University alumni Jeff Kahn, Jacob Kelter and Leon Sasson founded Rise Science, a comprehensive sleep-coaching program for elite athletes that coordinates everything needed to improve sleep behavior and consequently performance. Jeff describes sleep as, “The most potent performance enhancing activity that exists.”

Here are some tips taken from Northwestern Human Resources for how to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Try to maintain a regular sleep and wake schedule. During the quarter, this should be doable, since you have classes on a set schedule.
  • Establish a regular, relaxing routine before bed. For example, read a book instead of looking at a screen (phone or computer, even with the filtering on) for the last 30 minutes before you go to sleep.
  • Avoid eating and drinking, particularly drinks with caffeine, two to three hours before bedtime.

Getting that extra hour of sleep will help you to work more efficiently the next day and thus be more productive.  Give it a try and good luck catching those extra zzz’s–you’ll be happy you did.

Elisa Mitchell is the Assistant Director of Operations and Finance at The Garage and enjoys helping each student start a unique entrepreneurial journey.  She is an accomplished attorney and CPA and brings strong organizational skills, attention to detail and a can-do attitude to every project. She is thrilled to be a part of The Garage.

How Practicing Meditation Enhances Resilience

See if this resonates:

You made a pitch that was turned down, or lost a close tennis match, or lost your temper in an emotionally charged discussion with your co-founder.

Whatever the scenario, you failed to achieve your objective. That night, instead of falling asleep, you tossed and turned as you replayed the event in your mind. Your internal dialogue included phrases such as, “If only I had,” “If only I hadn’t,” and “Why did I do that again,” and on and on until the early hours of the morning. The next day you were irritable, unable to focus at work, and emotionally exhausted.

Probably everyone has had at least one such experience, ruminating over a loss or failure. Reflecting upon and learning from a mistake is necessary for our personal and professional growth, but the endless negative looping of the mind is not productive. It drains our energy and actually impedes our ability to move forward, to be resilient.

The word resilience comes from the Latin resili, meaning “to spring back” or “to rebound.” We all make mistakes, but some of us are more resilient than others. In fact, many of the most successful entrepreneurs are the most resilient. Thomas Edison tried more than 10,000 times before he invented the light bulb; Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, and Steve Jobs were all fired at one point in their careers but achieved great professional success.

Meditation is a practice that can help you develop resilience.

The practice of focusing on your breath calms your mind and helps you create distance from the thoughts and emotions that you may be experiencing. Practicing meditation helps you recognize that your thoughts and emotions are transient, that they arise and fall away, and, even more important, that they may not even be true! When Steve Jobs was fired from Apple Computers, he was quoted as saying, “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

Because of MRI studies by neuroscientists such as Richard Davidson, we now know that practicing meditation actually changes how the brain responds to negative experiences. In situations where we experience negative emotions and anxiety (such as the sleepless night), a part of the brain called the amygdala is active. In comparing the brain activity of meditators with non-meditators, Davidson found that the amygdala in meditators had a faster recovery time after being activated by exposure to a negative emotional event. Their brains are literally more resilient.

How much meditation do you need to develop more resilience? As of now, there is no exact formula. What is clear, though, is that any amount of consistent daily practice (even ten minutes a day) will be beneficial. You have the power to choose how you respond to, rather than react to, life’s challenges. Start meditating today.

Cindy Conlon is an adjunct professor if the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern. She teaches mediation classes at the Wellness Center. Learn more at

Entrepreneurial Courses @ Northwestern – Winter 2018

The Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s business courses for Winter 2018 have been announced.

To learn more about FCEI’s entrepreneurship opportunities, attend their upcoming Winter 2018 Information & Networking Session on Thursday, 10/19 at 4 PM at the Ford Design Studio. RSVP here.

NUvention: Web + Media is a two-quarter course in which students work across disciplines and Northwestern schools to design, plan and run web-based businesses.
Winter & Spring 2018 | Tuesdays, 2 – 5:00 p.m. | The Garage Workspace
Apply here.

NUvention: Energy responds to the demand for innovation and entrepreneurship in the sustainable energy and clean tech space required to deal with climate change, resource constraint and other environmental challenges.
Mondays, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. | Ford Design Center, ITW Classroom (1-340)
Apply here.

Innovate for Impact is an interdisciplinary, project-based course that uses both human-centered design and lean startup methodology to guide students through the creation of a social venture.
Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. | Ford Design Center, ITW Classroom (1-340)
Apply now.

Radical Entrepreneurship is an incubator boot camp for your real-world project; the coursework centers on students’ existing ventures.
Tuesdays, 6 – 9 p.m. | The Garage Workspace

Startup Accounting incorporates lecture by the instructor and industry veterans with case study and a lean startup-focused accounting practicum.
Tuesdays, 6 – 9 p.m. | Ford Design Center

Growing and Monetizing Your Fanbase exposes artists and entrepreneurs to best practices in personal branding to help build their careers and companies.
Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. | Annenberg (Room TBD)

Principles of Entrepreneurship is a foundational course for students with limited or no prior exposure to business.
Mondays & Wednesdays, 9 – 10:20 a.m. | ITW Classroom (1-340)

Engineering Entrepreneurship’s goal is to deepen and expand the understanding of entrepreneurship and innovation that students garner from taking Principles of Entrepreneurship, or from exploring entrepreneurship in another capacity.
Mondays, 6 – 9 p.m. | The Garage Workspace

Undergraduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship — Earn Farley Center’s Undergraduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship in four credits – no prerequisites required.

#WildcatWelcome at The Garage

It’s an exciting time at Northwestern. As the leaves start to turn, we start seeing seas of purple as we welcome new transfers and the class of 2021 to campus. This year. The Garage participated in Wildcat Welcome–a week full of activities for new students to get to know each other, their new home, and find out what resources, student organizations, and opportunities await them.

First, we headed to the Resource Fair, held at Norris on Thursday, September 14. We had nearly 1,000 freshman and new transfer students stop by The Garage’s table to learn more about what we do and how to get involved in the entrepreneurial and startup community at Northwestern. We also partnered with Resident team Brewbike to offer free cold brew coffee, which may have helped our cause just a little considering the fair began in the morning.

On Friday, The Garage (which is 11,000 square feet by the way) was crawling with purple! We had between 350-400 freshmen visit The Garage to hang out, eat a Chipotle burrito, try out our AR/VR lab and meet some student founders. New students got to see our modern and innovative co-working space first hand, try out the newest future facing technologies, see our state of the art Makerspace and learn about how to get involved.

Here are the five ways new transfers and incoming freshmen can get involved at The Garage. 

  1. Join a club. There are so many student organizations dedicated to innovation, entrepreneurship, and tech at Northwestern including EPIC, Global Engagement Summit (GES), Design for America (DFA), the Institute for Business Education (ISBE) and Women in Business (WIB), many of which meet at The Garage. Head to our website to learn more.
  2. Join a startup. Residency application might be closed for this quarter, but you can join an existing team and get perks like 24/7 access to The Garage and an invitation to Family Dinner. Get to know some of our Resident teams here.
  3. Take a class. The Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation focuses on curriculum, and ENTREP 225 is the perfect introduction to the principles of entrepreneurship.     
  4. Sign up for Office Hours. We have a network of vetted experts to help you get your idea off the ground. Sign up on our website to talk to a staff member or an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) about your startup idea.
  5. Follus us. Become a part of The Garage family and keep up with what we’re doing on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even our monthly newsletter where we highlight our favorite things, like Chicago startup news, student founders, and upcoming open events.

We can’t wait to meet you.


The Garage

Farley Center Entrepreneurship Courses – Fall 2017

The Farley Center for Entrepreneurship’s offerings for Fall 2017 are now open!

NUvention classes are the flagship academic offerings, spanning several industries and verticals. Each is a one- or two-quarter, intensive course in ideating, developing and launching a business. Currently, there are NUvention courses in advanced materials, medical devices and technologies, clean energy, Web and media, social impact, the arts, analytics, and transportation. Explore the NUvention program.

Fall 2017 NUvention applications are open for NUvention: Medical, NUvention: Therapeutics, and/or NUvention: Transportation.

Foundational courses offer in-depth exploration and application of the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. Undergraduate and graduate students may enroll. See a full list of foundational course offerings below. 

Students with an interest in concentrating their academic studies in entrepreneurship and innovation can pursue either the Undergraduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship or the Graduate Minor in Entrepreneurship.

NUvention: Medical | ENTREP 470

Wednesdays 6-9 PM

NUvention: Transportation | ENTREP 450

Wednesdays 6-9 PM

NUvention: Therapeutics | ENTREP 495

Tuesdays 1-4 PM

Startup Accounting | ENTREP 395

Tuesdays 6-9 PM

Principles of Entrepreneurship | ENTREP 225

Tuesdays/Thursdays 11 AM-12:20 PM

Engineering Entrepreneurship | ENTREP 325

Mondays 6-9 PM

Special Topics in Entrepreneurship: Leadership, Ethics, and You | ENTREP 395

Tuesdays/Thursdays 3:30-4:50 PM

For more information on the course offerings of the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, click here

Launching @ Northwestern: Optimail

While the transition from academia to industry is always fraught with uncertainty and unique challenges, two recent graduates from Northwestern’s Psychology department have discovered that the demands and toolset of entrepreneurship closely parallel those of their Ph.D. training. Since completing their Ph.D.’s, Brock Ferguson (Northwestern ‘16) and Jacob Zweig (Northwestern ‘17) have gone on to form two new ventures in the industry: a data science consulting and development firm, Strong Analytics, and a product that uses AI to make email marketing campaigns more effective, Optimail.

Co-Founders of Optimail; Brock Ferguson (’16) & Jacob Zweig (’17)

The team’s interest in data science was fostered at Northwestern. They first collaborated on a data science project when competing in a Datathon hosted by the Computational Social Science Summit at the Kellogg School of Management. Applying the experimental and statistical techniques they used extensively in their graduate work, they won second place and unlocked an excitement for data science that would ultimately lead them to their two ventures.

Following this experience, they began to seek out new opportunities to hone their skills — from building a ride-sharing sharing optimization algorithm over coffee breaks in Food for Thought to competing in numerous Kaggle data competitions and meeting weekly to discuss the newest machine learning papers. Brock Ferguson also jumped at the opportunity to develop his business skills with a Certificate in Management for Scientists and Engineers at Kellogg.

Since first launching Strong Analytics, the team has enjoyed the challenges of translating their academic training into valuable business offerings. “We had a ton of fun applying what we’ve learned through a different, more applied lens,” says Brock. “When we began to see potential for this to turn into something, it was an easy next step to start a business doing this for other people!”

Moreover, their excitement around learning about new problems and about the statistical tools used to address them have only grown in industry. “Consulting in different industries and with different organizations means you’re always learning something new. It’s challenging but, at the same time, it can be just as energizing as learning in a more academic setting.” This excitement about new ideas has led the team to build a new product based on a recurring problem their clients were experiencing.

They noticed that many of their customers weren’t getting the most out of their email marketing campaigns, and decided to build a solution for the problem. Their solution, Optimail, uses artificial intelligence to automatically adapt and personalize email campaigns based on a customer’s behavior and preferences. It learns what and when to message clients based on what they’re likely to respond to. Optimail was just launched in February 2017 and Brock says they’re continually working to learn from their customers and improve the platform.

“It’s been a really rewarding and challenging experience,” says Jacob. “Doing a Ph.D. requires the ability to be self-motivated and to learn at a really rapid pace. Building a business requires so many of the same skills – I can’t think of another training program that would have prepared me better!”

EIR Spotlight: Chris Steiner

The Garage is a second home for more than just student founders at Northwestern. It’s also a co-working space for our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs). EIRs use the resources and space at The Garage to bring their next big ideas to life while offering mentorship and Office Hours to our Resident students. Let’s get to know one EIR a little bit better.

Chris Steiner, Founder and NY Times best selling author, studied engineering at the University of Illinois as an undergraduate, but later pursued journalism as a graduate student in Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. A proud Northwestern alum, he went on to write for The Chicago Tribune, and afterwards, covered tech for seven years at Forbes Magazine. He had always had the “tech bug” he says, but it wasn’t until he felt he finally had the right idea before he started an entrepreneurial venture. He created Aisle50, a subscription buying program for purchasing discounted consumer packaged goods. The company sold to Groupon in early 2015, and now Chris serves as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at The Garage. Chris appeared on The Colbert Report back in 2010; click below to check out the clip.

Chris Steiner \ The Colbert Report

He’s currently working on a “passion project” as he calls it: a website called Z-Rankings that ranks the best ski resorts in North America. His interest in skiing is what motivated the project, and he now maintains it from The Garage. For students interested in entrepreneurship, here are Chris’ best bits of advice:

  • If students are able to balance academics and founding a company, they can learn a lot. The company may not go anywhere, but the learning comes from the experience of building a company; you learn how to handle cofounders, you learn how to work with a team. You can learn a lot of the little skills so that when you enter the real world, you’ve already mastered the basics.
  • Don’t have too many people in your company; people overvalue their own contributions and fight over equity, so be selective and judicious when building your team.
  • Surround yourself with an environment that encourages entrepreneurship, get a job at a startup, and fully immerse yourself in the work because that is how you’ll learn. 

To learn more about Chris’ recent work, check out his website here. Want to meet one of our EIRs in person? Check our Office Hours offerings here.

EIR Spotlight: Hayes Ferguson

The Garage is not only home to more than 60 Resident Teams, made up of students working on their startups, but four Entrepreneurs-In-Residence. EIRs spend their time working in our space, and in return offer mentorship and Office Hours to students at Northwestern. Let’s get to know one EIR a little better.

After working as a foreign correspondent in Latin America for a number of years and reporting for People Magazine, Hayes Ferguson took on the world of entrepreneurship as a member of the founding management team of Started right here in Evanston, IL, is now among the 50 most visited websites in the U.S., working with newspapers and funeral homes to share inspiring life stories and memories about loved ones.

Recently, Hayes has been providing advising to early stage companies such as HistoryIT, while also trying to start an innovation incubator for under-resourced individuals. Her connection to Northwestern began with her role as an adjunct professor at Medill, and she now relishes the opportunity to work with and mentor students as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at The Garage.

Here is some advice from Hayes for student founders. Want more? Click here to schedule Office Hours with Hayes and get your idea off the ground.

  • The physical space of The Garage is a huge advantage for students; take advantage of the fun and inspiring physical space filled with so many knowledgeable people.
  • The Garage is not just for engineers and business students – anyone with an idea or problem to solve can and should come and seek out resources from The Garage.
  • Be proud to be a Northwestern student incubating at The Garage. Many students fear that admitting that they are a student will put them at a disadvantage when trying to propel their company. Instead, acknowledge that you’re a student and don’t put up a facade; let people know that you are still figuring things out because then they will be more understanding if you make mistakes.

To learn more about the EIRs at The Garage, click here.

Winter 2017 Office Hours @ The Garage

The Garage at Northwestern aims to offer a cross-disciplinary experience to Northwestern faculty and staff, fostering innovation, entrepreneurship, and providing the resources to fuel big ideas through our regular programming, and our Winter 2017 Office Hours are now open.

Whether you have an idea in mind that you want to get off the ground, want to learn more about entrepreneurship, or gain insight into a specific topic like branding or patents, one-on-one Office Hours with The Garage’s staff, Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs), and Visiting Experts can help you get involved in the startup community at Northwestern and push your venture forward.

Office Hours are open to anyone in the Northwestern community, and provide a perfect gateway into entrepreneurship. Schedule your appointment using Calendly below.

We can’t wait to see you.

Weekly Office Hours with Garage Staff + EIRs:

Melissa Kaufman, Executive Director Tuesdays and Thursdays | Schedule via Calendly

Billy Banks, Associate Director Tuesdays and Thursdays | Schedule via Calendly

Tom Hayden, Entrepreneur-in-Residence | Flexible Days | Schedule via Calendly

Mike Saunders, Entrepreneur-in-Residence | Flexible Days | Schedule via Calendly

Chris Steiner, Entrepreneur-in-Residence | Flexible Days | Schedule via Calendly

Steve Hole, Mentor | Alternating Wednesdays | Schedule via Calendly


Office Hours with Visiting Experts:

See all Office Hours

Marketing + Sales + Branding | 1/19 & 2/23 | Schedule via Calendly

Patent + IP Legal 1/20 & 2/22 | Schedule via Calendly

Startup Legal 1/26 | Schedule via Calendly

Accounting + Taxes 1/27 & 2/16 | Schedule via Calendly

Branding 1/31 | Schedule via Calendly

Technical + AWS (Amazon Web Services) 2/1 | Schedule via Calendly

Immigration Legal 2/2 | Schedule via Calendly

General Legal 2/8 | Schedule via Calendly

500 Startups 3/2 | Schedule with Aaron Blumenthal | Schedule with Eric Bahn


To see an updated list of our Winter 2017 Office Hours offerings, click here.

Want to get more involved?

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Schedule a tour.

Come to an event.

EIR Spotlight: Tom Hayden

Perhaps no one at The Garage understands student entrepreneurship better than Tom Hayden, a practiced computer scientist who participated in many startups as a student at Michigan State University.

Most of those startups never took off, he said, but the experience of founding multiple companies was incredibly valuable. One such venture involved selling spring break trips to students via Facebook apps, but it failed because a very similar website already existed. This idea, however, gave Tom a wealth of knowledge about Facebook applications, so when he was offered the opportunity to work at Facebook, he was well-seasoned in the way their application interface functioned.

After working for Facebook, he founded the data science team at GrubHub, and in 2015 he joined The Garage as an Entrepreneur-In-Residence (EIR). As a student entrepreneur himself, he offers the following advice to those seeking to form companies while in still in school:

  • As a student, you get a lot of free opportunities, and people are more willing to help you out than when you’re not a student.
  • Take advantage of all the free resources and opportunities while you have them. Anything you can learn as a student will benefit you later on.
  • When you’re a student, you have more energy to stay up late and work through the night and the weekends, so take advantage of that!
  • Focus on getting stuff done rather than just talking about it.

Tom holds a BA in Telecommunications, Information Studies and Media from Michigan State University, and a Master’s of Science in Information, Incentive Centered Design from the University of Michigan. He was also an NU graduate student in theoretical computer science. To learn more about the EIR program at The Garage or to schedule Office Hours with an EIR, click here.