By Alex Trihias, The Progress-Index
ETTRICK — On Friday, Sept. 18, Virginia State University celebrated the opening of the center for entrepreneurship through the Reginald F. Lewis College of Business. Vendors and community partners gathered in Singleton Hall to network with and talk to students interested in the entrepreneurship program.
“Really, today’s ceremony was just to bring community partners, entrepreneurs, and the students together to fellowship, exchange resources, connect to the center, and learn about the different amenities and resources that it’s going to be providing,” said India Parson, president and founder of Building Economic Stability Together, LLC., the sponsor of the center. “Some of these resources are going to be the curriculum, the academic entrepreneurship education that VSU is going to put together, and then the partnership with established companies that are going to come in and train and develop and create employment opportunities for the VSU students.”
The center for entrepreneurship has been in development for four to six years, but the Director of Corporate Relations in the business school, Jonathan Young, said that the school only started to really focus on it in the last two years after being awarded a $100,000 grant for the software in the center for the 2015–2016 school year.
“About two years ago, and in that 24 months, we have met with a lot of people,” said Young. “But the truth is we’ve probably had a conversation with over 100 relevant stakeholders about what this should look like and what we should do.”
Young also said that he feels the center will give students real-world experience at their convenience.
“Initially, we will have entrepreneurs, start-ups, and other persons that are still young in their business cycle in this room on Fridays to interface with students, but for the entrepreneurs to barter, to exchange ideas or goods to leverage our students for their capabilities,” said Young.
The center is described by Dr. Patrice Perry-Rivers, the assistant professor of management at VSU, as having a three-prong focus. One of the focuses is letting students or existing business owners gain a minor in entrepreneurship or a certificate in entrepreneurship through the program. Another goal of the program is to reach out to the community entrepreneurs and provide them with a space in which they can use the resources provided and network with each other.
“Then we have this third prong focus on research and so we want to actually produce some relevant academic research that helps us understand what drives entrepreneurs in this region or entrepreneurs of the demographics that are dominant here,” said Perry-Rivers.
Perry-Rivers said that the entrepreneurship rate is lower in African-Americans than it is in any other group.
“Even more educated or wealthier African-Americans are also not choosing to go into entrepreneurship, so we want to understand that phenomenon and figure out what we can do to spur great entrepreneurship amongst that group,” said Perry-Rivers.
The research will also focus on veterans who are looking into an entrepreneurship.
“We have a large population of veterans here and so that’s a large part of the research that we want to begin to develop, as well as some of the services that we’re going to want to provide,” said Perry-Rivers.
For more information on the center for entrepreneurship, visit www.vsuentrepreneurship.com.