Jeff Wraley, GB’15, graduated from Purdue University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering and management. Before graduation, he gained valuable work experience through internships in California and South Carolina. “I always liked the idea of business and started working early. I gravitate toward technical topics like math and science, and I always try to challenge myself.”

A native of the Midwest, Wraley moved to Richmond, Va., in 2009 through his work at Barton Malow Company, a general contracting and construction management firm. Shortly after his move, he began to consider graduate school. “As I looked at graduate school, my wife and I learned we’d be expecting our first child. With both of our work schedules and our growing family in mind, it made a lot of sense to pursue The Richmond MBA. I’ve benefitted greatly from being in an academic setting while working full-time to advance my career. Class topics aren’t merely class topics; they offer insights that I can put into practice at the office the following day.” 

In January, Wraley became a co-founding member of UnBoundRVA, a nonprofit organization that aims to alter the life trajectories of low-income individuals through the positive power of business. “As the business incubation director, I work directly with our entrepreneurs as they launch their businesses,” he said. 

Wraley shared how he became involved with the nonprofit. “I met Richard Luck and Sarah Mullens through connections that started at University of Richmond last year. During a conversation, we developed what has now become our fellowship program prior to any discussion of me joining the team. As it turns out, they were looking to add someone with business experience to founding team.” Wraley had transitioned from working in the construction industry to consulting and had been involved in the Richmond startup scene for several years. When Luck and Mullens approached him about joining the team, it was a natural fit. “The work they had done to that point was extremely compelling, and I’m happy to call them my colleagues and friends.” 

Wraley explained the mission of the organization. “We partner with local nonprofits to identify talented individuals from low-income communities. In our initial group of potential candidates, we received roughly 40 referrals. We eventually narrowed the class to five high-potential candidates.” UnBoundRVA provides training for each high-potential and supports them as they start their businesses. “Many of our high-potentials tend to come from families who have been in poverty for generations. Many of them lack formal education and many have some sort of criminal history. We look past these circumstances and identify the individuals who are working toward a breakthrough. We have already seen people alter their life trajectories through the positive power of business. Our high-potentials are smart, talented, personable and ready to work hard. We’ve simply given them the opportunity and resources to realize their potential.”

He added, “We get to see people take steps to better their lives on a daily basis. Partnering with the high-potentials and teaching them the basics of business is incredibly rewarding. Each business owner recently set revenue, profitability and personal income goals. That process was eye-opening and has given the business owners a healthy sense of urgency and has given our team a great sense of purpose.”

Three months into his job, Wraley and the UnBoundRVA team are celebrating the small things. “Richard, Sarah and I renovated our office space recently. In true startup fashion, we bootstrapped the furniture and decor. It's really still a work-in-progress, but our team bonded a lot over the project. My wife and two-year-old son even came to help,” he shared.

Wraley spoke on his time at The Richmond MBA. “I use what I've learned as an MBA student every single day at UnBoundRVA. The Richmond MBA has not only provided me with valuable business knowledge, but I’ve also enjoyed being able to develop personal relationships with members of the Richmond community and am grateful for the networking opportunities The Richmond MBA made possible. I’ve made some lifelong friends here.”

He concluded, “I really want to impact people’s lives through business while being the best father and husband I can be.”

To learn more about Wraley's work at UnBoundRVA, visit www.unboundrva.org