At the beginning of the year, we announced The VCU Entrepreneurship Academy, a partnership between the VCU Da Vinci Center, The Jackson Ward Collective and Activation Capital. When Garett Westlake approached us about partnering in this grant opportunity last year, it was easy to say yes. We all understood that the entrepreneurship ecosystem can be siloed, and are constantly seeking ways to make deeper, more meaningful and sustainable connections.
Through this partnership, we are connecting VCU students to community entrepreneurs, and facilitating a mutual learning opportunity. The goal is to create a 200 person cohort made up of 150 students, with a focus on first generation college students and students coming from a low income background. They will be joined by 50 community members, sourced through The Jackson Ward Collective and Activation Capital. The cohort will have the opportunity to jointly learn through classroom experiences (virtual) focused on four modules that are key to business success: Design Thinking, Digital Literacy, Business Model Canvas and The Art of the Pitch. They will earn digital certifications and badges; certifications that normally require individuals to make a significant investment to attain. The hope is that all cohort participants will share experiences and learn from each other in the classroom, and gain skills that will help propel them in their entrepreneurial journey.
The second phase of this partnership is what I am probably most excited about, The Student Storefront. Later this year, VCU will open a Student Storefront near the Siegel Center, where students will be able to test out retail and product strategies. In addition, three community business owners, sourced through The Jackson Ward Collective and Activation Capital, will have the opportunity to sell their products through the space. The ability to test different strategies while learning about your business and customer base without incurring high facility and overhead costs during that phase, is critical. This will be a great opportunity for students and community business owners to grow their businesses and to learn from each other in a tangible, hands-on way.
One of the greatest lessons I learned in my Leadership Quest year was the importance of collaborations, even when they didn’t seem so logical. We all have our expertise, but we are most powerful when we can bring our various skills to the table to effect change. This is one of many steps being taken in the entrepreneurial ecosystem to build a more collaborative space, and I’m excited about what is to come.
Learn more about The Entrepreneur Academy, including how to sign up, here.
Rasheeda N. Creighton
LMR Class of 2013
Co-founder of The Jackson Ward Collective & Founder of Killing Superwoman™
Chair-Elect, LMR Board of Directors
You can find her on LinkedIn, IG & Twitter at @rncreighton