Entrepreneurship minor, Startup Virginia providing new opportunities for Richmond students

April 25, 2018
There has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur at University of Richmond.

Giving students opportunities to feed their passions and start their own businesses is a major priority of the Robins School. With a new entrepreneurship minor for non-major students beginning in fall 2018, as well as a thriving startup landscape in RVA, there has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur at University of Richmond.

“The entrepreneurship curriculum is very hands-on,” said Susan Cohen, assistant professor of management at the Robins School. “We encourage students to start their own business and learn by doing.” 

To inspire her students, she took a group of them to Startup Virginia, a non-profit organization and business incubator that is dedicated to building a long-term, sustainable economy for Virginia, founded by two Richmond alumni.

Brad Cummings and Will Loving, B’92, founded Startup Virginia in 2016 in order to help startups become successful in Richmond.

“There was no organization in central Virginia that provided dedicated office space for high-growth startups and programming to match,” Cummings said. “We wanted to provide education opportunities, mentoring by entrepreneurs that have started and sold companies, and programming that help the companies grow faster and smarter than they would have on their own.”

The non-profit now houses multiple startups and hosts events and mentoring receptions for budding entrepreneurs to help them on their journey. Which Cohen says is the perfect environment to introduce to Richmond students.

“Many of our students have had more traditional internships at large companies, but this gave them the opportunity to envision what being an entrepreneur might be like for them,” Cohen said.

Cummings met with the students during their visit, and explained that being an entrepreneur means you won’t have a set career path.

“The most important point I wanted to convey is that not all startups are Uber. Being an entrepreneur comes in many different flavors,” Cummings said. “For example, start a nail salon if that is what you are passionate about!”

Liam Rose, ’19, visited the startup with Cohen, and says it gave him a new perspective on being an entrepreneur in Richmond.

“I learned that studying at the University of Richmond provides a great foundation of connections with the local business community, particularly with the entrepreneurial community,” Rose said. “Though we had met several of the alumni entrepreneurs previously in our class, it felt all the more validating to know that my Robins School education would set me up to perform in this high demand environment.”

Cohen wants to provide that opportunity to other students throughout the University of Richmond, which is why she helped develop the curriculum for the minor.

The minor requires six courses, with accounting, microeconomics, and marketing as the core classes, then three upper level management courses.

“It provides an opportunity for someone who has a passion to create a business to launch it even if they’re not a business student,” Cohen said. “Students from across campus have taken a real interest in it because it allows them to marry their fields of study with the ability to learn how to frame a business around those interests to solve real problems.”

She says Startup Virginia is another avenue to support those entrepreneurs in the critical early days of startups, and to encourage them to keep their business in RVA.

“Richmond has created a significant number of successful startups,” Cohen said, “but the problem is with keeping them around. I think that Startup Virginia can play an important part in that equation.”

And that support system inspires Rose to start his own business right here at Richmond.

"Knowing that they can make it on their own when just one or two years prior they had no idea of their career path further gives me the confidence to start my own company without significant experience in the work force," Rose said.