The Garage Programs

The Garage operates programs for students interested in working on their entrepreneurial and passion projects, outside the classroom, alongside like minded students in our 11,000 square foot space. The Garage programs are open to every Northwestern student – undergraduate, graduate, or PhD – and from any school. We welcome a range of projects and ideas from hardware to software, for profit and nonprofit, arts, music, and more.

The Tinker Program

A valuable part of The Garage’s core community, The Tinker Program offers access to resources for students working on their innovation projects. 

The Tinker Program is for current Northwestern students who are working on an innovation project. Most Tinkerers are in the ideation phase and are working towards Residency. The Tinker Program application is open all year, with students admitted on an ongoing basis. Students will maintain Tinker status for the remainder of the academic year. Students who wish to stay in The Tinker Program must reapply each year. 

Applications for the 2019/2020 academic year open on September 16, 2019 and close on June 6, 2020.

Tinkerers get access to The Garage during staffed hours and are encouraged to work from The Cafe or an empty classroom. Tinkerers will get an invitation to at least two Family Dinners and two Tinkerer-only meet ups per quarter, an invitation to pitch at The Garage’s quarterly Startup Matchmaking event, access to The Makerspace during staffed hours, a weekly newsletter, and priority for Office Hours and events hosted at The Garage. Tinkerers do not get a dedicated desk. 

The Residency Program

For the truly committed entrepreneurs looking to grow their ideas as a part of The Garage community.

The Garage Residency Program is an opportunity for student teams, both undergraduate and graduate, to be core members of The Garage’s entrepreneurial community. Resident teams use The Garage as their office and receive special privileges like 24/7 access, a weekly Family Dinner and priority for Office Hours with mentors and staff. Ideas can be for profit or nonprofit, hardware or software, commercial products or artistic endeavors—anything that requires bringing a new idea to fruition. Resident teams are selected on a quarterly basis. To qualify for Residency, the team lead must have spent at least one quarter working on the current venture in The Tinker Program or The Residency Program. Also, any team with new leaders must spend at least a quarter in the Tinker Program.

Application dates for 2019/2020 are as follows: 

Fall: Applications open on Monday, September 16, 2019 at 9:00 AM CST. Applications will close on Sunday, September 29, 2019 at 11:59 CST. 

Winter: Applications open on Monday, November 11, 2019 at 9:00 AM CST. Applications will close on Sunday, November 17, 2019 at 11:59 CST.

Spring: Applications open on Monday, February 24, 2020 at 9:00 AM CST. Applications will close on Sunday, March 1, 2020 at 11:59 CST. 

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24/7 Access

Residents get 24/7 access to The Garage, including The Makerspace, a dedicated desk, and reservable meeting rooms.


Resident teams are assigned a dedicated mentor in their industry, to help them on their entrepreneurial journey.

Family Dinner

Residents get an exclusive invite to our weekly Family Dinner, where we hear from a startup superstar and get to know each other.

The Wildfire Summer Pre-Accelerator Program

The Garage’s summer pre-accelerator program, Wildfire, aims to develop student founders by introducing new ways of thinking and problem solving. 

10 teams. 10 weeks. $10k.

Wildfire seeks to accelerate student teams by giving them additional resources and coaching over a period of 10 weeks. We aim to help them to reach problem solution fit, and prepare them for the next phase of their ventures whether it’s customer acquisition, growth, fundraising, or applying to accelerators. Wildfire culminates with Demo Day, where students will present their proposal and gain feedback from established judges. This is a program designed to help early-stage ventures learn, grow, and overcome obstacles preventing the launch of their ventures.

Other Programs

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Little Joe Ventures Fellowship

Made possible by a gift from alumnus Tony Owen ’97, ’03 MBA and Monique Owen, the fellowship program is designed to arm students with the skills they need to be successful in their ventures and in life and to provide a support network of like-minded entrepreneurial thinkers.

The Propel Program

Launched in 2018, Propel provides networking, mentorship, and immersive learning experiences that promote diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship. Full-time, female students can apply for the program, which is made possible by Katherine and Steve Elms, MBA ’92, and Heather and Andrew Zuckerman, Weinberg ’91.


The X-Factor program is a new, experimental program to help student founders become the creators and leaders of tomorrow. The program is focused on assessing and enhancing students’ capacity for transformational leadership which is the specific type of leadership associated with being an innovator and disruptor. 

Questions about programs at The Garage? Please contact us at