Alumnus appointed to launch entrepreneurship initiative on campus

Dan Lauer

UMSL alumnus and founder of Lauer Toys Dan Lauer, BSBA 1983, is bringing his entrepreneurial know-how to the new UMSL Accelerate program. (Photos by August Jennewein)

By Sara Ross and Ryan Krull

Dan Lauer – business alumnus, serial entrepreneur and founder of Waterbabies – has returned to the University of Missouri–St. Louis to launch UMSL Accelerate, an interdisciplinary initiative that will connect entrepreneurial education across campus.

“UMSL is doing a lot of great things in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Lauer. “Accelerate will support and enhance these various resources and present the public with a unified message about entrepreneurship at UMSL.”

The initiative was born out of the Deans Network, a collaborative group composed of UMSL deans Charlie Hoffman, Carol Basile, Sue Dean-Barr, Jody O’Sullivan, Jim Richards and Ron Yasbin.


The sales of UMSL alumnus Dan Lauer’s Waterbabies have been estimated at over $17 million in the last 17 years. His inspiration for the best-selling toy came from childhood memories of his sisters playing with water balloon dolls.

“Entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship and innovation are crucial to career success across disciplines,” said Hoffman, dean of the College of Business Administration.

Centered on the three pillars of education, innovation and collaboration, UMSL Accelerate aims to connect faculty, students and the community in a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.

That reaches beyond the bounds of traditional business entrepreneurship, according to Lauer.

“We need to educate students across campus in the importance of innovation in their field,” he said, “whatever that field may be.”

A cross-disciplinary introduction-to-entrepreneurship course was offered in spring 2016 and will be available again in the fall, along with a new course in social entrepreneurship. Ultimately, the faculty steering committee plans to offer an academic certificate and minor in entrepreneurship and innovation.

“We’ve really benefited by insight from people throughout the St. Louis start-up community,” said Hoffman. “People like Chris Miller, who founded The Mission Center, teaches social entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis and is teaching for us now.”

Hoffman also mentioned the competitive UM System Entrepreneurial Scholars & Interns Program, now in its second year, and how it links to the vision of UMSL Accelerate.

“ESIP awards students a stipend to start up their own business or idea, along with targeted mentorship to keep them moving in the right direction,” said Hoffman, who serves on the advisory board for ESIP. “St. Louis is the hub for entrepreneurship in our state. With access to Cortex, T-Rex and the startup mentality, we are situated to give our students a leg up in innovation education.”

Funding for the formation of UMSL Accelerate has been provided by Express Scripts. In the coming months, the initiative plans to launch a revenue-generating business/idea accelerator on campus.

“We’re funneling all these ideas into one place and great things are emerging,” said Lauer. “I’m excited to see how the Accelerate program changes the face of innovation at UMSL and what we can do to further connect the campus with St. Louis’ vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Kendra Perry is partnering with Lauer ( in the new endeavor, which is headquartered in 513/501 Social Sciences & Business Building Tower.

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