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Students at the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center

Shaw Fosters Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs at Shaw University now have a valuable resource to help them launch their businesses thanks to a partnership with the Carolina Small Business Development Fund. The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (IEC) is just a couple of blocks from campus and is quickly filling up with students eager to launch the next Raleigh startup or small business. The Center provides resources for students, as well as an opportunity to connect with fellow entrepreneurs. 

Tyler Hamilton Ford, a senior Political Science major from Stone Mountain, GA, says that he joined the IEC after winning $10,000 in a United Way pitch competition. He started an app called Raining Jobs to better connect employers with job seekers. He now works out of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, which not only gives him a chance to work on his own business, but the opportunity to interact with the community.  Because the IEC is a partnership with the Carolina Small Business Development Fund, the Center is also open to non-students who are interested in starting their own businesses.

“It’s made a big difference because it’s given me a spacethat’s nearby,” said Ford. “I don’t have to go across town to find a work spacewith entrepreneurs. It’s also given me a chance to network more with theSoutheast Raleigh community. We’re in a pretty busy walking area, so we get alot of people coming in and out who are small business owners or want to be entrepreneurs…this is a good place where the doors are open and people can come in.”

Ford and his team are beta testing the jobs app with construction companies and hope to launch in the spring of 2018. He says they chose construction companies to partner with because of the thriving job market in the area and high turnover rate in the industry. He hopes to have the kinks worked out and be in the app store by spring of 2018. 

Keith Alston, sophomore who plans on majoring in Entrepreneurship, says that having access to a community of innovators on campus and at the IEC is inspiring. 

“When you’re around more people with business minds, it’s helpful,” said Alston. “I enjoy being in class with people who have the same motives as I do. There are a lot of people here who have that same drive.”

Senior Liberal Studies major Akilah Banks Alexander agrees.

“I feel like it’s a way to connect more with your peers and get to know people that you never met,” said Alexander. “Coming here, I get to meet more of my peers and get to build connections with faculty and staff."

Alexander plans on becoming an elementary school teacher when she graduates. While an elementary school teacher may not fit the typical profile of an entrepreneur, she is interested in how innovation and entrepreneurship can improve education. She encourages any student with an idea or interest to check out the Center.

“Take advantage of the opportunity,” said Alexander. “If you have an idea, don’t second guess yourself. Just come here and see what they have to say and get the help you need… I know there are some bright students at Shaw University who have creative ideas and I hope to see them here.”

For more information on the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, visit www.shawu.edu/InnovationCenter.