University of Richmond Receives $1 Million Gift to Benefit the Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Initiative

November 10, 2021

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND ─ A recent $1 million gift from the Jason & Jaime Brown Family Foundation and the RB Charitable Foundation, affiliates of Brown Distributing Company, will accelerate the development of the University of Richmond’s Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship (CIE) initiative. This early-stage investment will allow the University to launch new programming and significantly expand student, faculty, and staff opportunities. 

CIE@UR aims to foster creativity, entrepreneurial ingenuity, willingness to take risks, resilience, and competence in addressing problems and challenges from multiple perspectives. It builds on a solid academic framework — including an entrepreneurship minor for non-business majors, a concentration in entrepreneurship, and a design-thinking course — as well as experiential opportunities outside of the classroom, like the Sustainable Solutions Challenge, Lighthouse Labs Fellows program, and student participation in the University Innovation Fellows program.

“Our family has been operating businesses in the Richmond area for four generations.  We are excited to support the Richmond entrepreneurial ecosystem now, and in the future, and we are looking forward to seeing how the CIE program builds over the next few years in capabilities, resources, and programs,” said the Browns.

Earlier this year, the University hired Somiah Lattimore as the inaugural director of CIE. Lattimore most recently served in a joint role as Experiential Learning Director at the VCU da Vinci Center for Innovation and Managing Director, Lighthouse Labs University Initiative. Having also launched and exited companies spanning consumer and digital products, Lattimore brings a wealth of experience to the new role.

“In developing CIE at UR, we took a modular approach with multiple on-ramps that allow students, faculty, and staff to develop their creative muscles and test innovative ideas in supportive, highly-mentored, real-world settings,” said Lattimore. “As participants progress from ideation to acceleration, UR will provide support through academic and experiential offerings, prototyping funds, and mentorship from UR-campus experts and Richmond’s startup ecosystem.” 

The CIE has already launched or planned several new offerings for the 21-22 academic year, including:

  • A Bench Top Innovations “Creating & Commercializing Culinary Magic” course where students ideate, develop, and commercialize innovative and practical food and beverage products. Shane Emmett, entrepreneur-in-residence with the Robins School of Business, and Joel Mier, marketing lecturer, teach the year-long course.
  • An Introduction to Design Thinking course taught by Geof Hammond, who serves in a new role as UR’s university-wide “Design Thinker-in-Residence.” The course helps students learn, develop, and address complex challenges in new ways.
  • The Social Innovation Challenge allows students, faculty, and staff to go on an entrepreneurial journey using the university’s sustainable development goals as a kick-off.
  • A summer incubation experience (in partnership with Startup Virginia’s Idea Factory), which will provide student-founded startups with co-working space, mentorship, and seed funding.

“CIE invites our entire campus community to engage new mindsets, skills, and tools in solving the greatest challenges of our time,” says UR President Kevin Hallock. “We are grateful for the support of the Brown family and excited for their partnership, now and in the years to come.”