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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Business Gateway Opens Entrepreneurial Camps to ODU Students

Since last year, small groups of aspiring entrepreneurs have come to Old Dominion University - armed with good ideas and a desire to work. Through a partnership with Opportunity Inc., known as LAUNCH Hampton Roads, these would-be tycoons have participated in weeklong "Launch Camps," designed to help bring their ideas to fruition.

Since many ODU students have caught the entrepreneurial bug, a special Launch Camp is being offered free of charge during spring break, targeted to students who hope to create their own companies during or after their time at university.

"The entrepreneurial boot camps are perfect for students with drive and ambition, and a good idea," said Stephen Lanivich, assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at ODU, and one of the lead instructors for the weeklong programs.

"It's a tremendous opportunity for students to receive a week's worth of intensive, hands-on learning about the many facets of launching a business, plus ongoing mentoring afterwards."

The spring break course will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 10-14. The classes - which feature instruction on entrepreneurship pillars such as creating a business plan, legal considerations, finance and credit, and salesmanship - will be held at the ODU Business Gateway offices (Innovation Research Park 1), 4111 Monarch Way.

Following their week of instruction, participants in the LAUNCH program are matched with a successful small-business owner, who mentors them as they work to get their businesses off the ground. ODU staff and faculty also conduct or facilitate access to specialized training that is available outside the weeklong course.

The courses are co-facilitated by Lanivich and J.C. Brinker, associate director of the ODU Business Gateway. Other instructors include Jim Lant, instructor in the Department of Management in ODU's College of Business and Public Administration; Ed Sykes, founder of the Ed Sykes Group; and Lisa Fourner, founder of Norfolk Fair Trade Co.

For more information about the student-focused spring break program, visit http://www.opp-inc.org/launchhamptonroads or call program coordinator Karen Miller at 683-3825.

Funding for the project comes from the U.S. Department of Labor's Workforce Innovation Fund, which supports a three-region consortium that includes organizations in Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads.

The group, also known as the Virginia Employment Through Entrepreneurship Consortium, received more than $8 million from the Department of Labor to provide 1,000 statewide adult and dislocated workers eligible for Workforce Investment Act services with comprehensive entrepreneurship training and technical assistance.

Several weeklong accelerators have already taken place at ODU. Students who may not be available during spring break are free to sign up for other weeklong LAUNCH sessions later this year, starting Feb. 24, March 31, May 5, June 9, July 14, Aug. 18, Sept. 29 and Nov. 3.

In order to enroll in a LAUNCH program, each participant must attend a one-hour information session, which is mandated by the Department of Labor.

This is the first time a LAUNCH program has been aimed specifically at ODU students, who would qualify for the program by being not fully employed at a different location (a stipulation of program participation under the grant requirements).

Ultimately, plans call for rolling ODU's component of the partnership into the university's Center for Entrepreneurship, which is being created thanks to a $10 million gift from the Strome Family Foundation for the development of an entrepreneurial curriculum.

The goal of the grant is to put 250 aspiring entrepreneurs through the program by April 2015, and to spur economic development in Hampton Roads.