Virginia State University Receives Major Grant to Spur Economic Development in Minority Communities

GO Virginia funds will promote entrepreneurship through the creation of  the "VSU Minority Small Business Launch Center”.

VIRGINIA STATE UNIVERSITY, VA, June 24, 2021 - The VSU Center for Entrepreneurship in the Reginald F. Lewis College of Business and the Division of Research and Economic Development at Virginia State University have been awarded a $453,000 grant by GO Virginia, a Commonwealth of Virginia-funded program, to spur minority entrepreneurship via the creation of the "Minority Small Business Launch Center." The Minority Small Business Launch Center was designed to increase the self-employment rate of minorities and the performance of early-stage minority-led firms in the cities and counties within the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

The new program will offer business planning training and certificates; facilitate access to co-working space, maker space, business networking opportunities, and free legal business counsel; host intellectual property and patent workshops; create youth innovation and entrepreneurship fellowships; and host investor-ready financial planning sessions and pitch competitions so minority entrepreneurs can access capital to fund their businesses. The program was developed by Dr. Patrice Perry-Rivers, the PI for the grant and the Director for the Center for Entrepreneurship, and by Dr. Milton Faison, Vice President of Research and Economic Development, co-PI for the grant. Other parties at VSU involved in supporting or planning for the project included Lorin Sodell, Director of Industry Relations in the College of Engineering; Jonathan Young, Director of Industry Relations in the College of Business; and Eldon Burton, Director of Government Relations for VSU. 

To implement the program, VSU has secured the support of several entrepreneurship support organizations, municipalities, and private firms who have committed to provide free or discounted support services to entrepreneurs and/or match funding for the program. These support organizations include the Metropolitan Business League, Lighthouse Labs, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Virginia Hispanic Foundation, the Africa Network Initiative, Girls for a Change, the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), the Sanders Entrepreneurship Fund, the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD), the Crater Planning District Commission, the municipalities of Henrico County, Chesterfield County, Petersburg, Colonial Heights, and Richmond, Metrostar, Jordan IP Law, Edmonds Law, Success Companies, and Spider Management. 

According to Perry-Rivers: "This project is motivated by the fact that entrepreneurship is a key driver of economic development for economies and communities. However, because entrepreneurship is driven by wealth and resource access and not all groups have had equitable opportunity to accrue wealth or access wealth-building resources, self-employment rates and entrepreneurship performance levels are lower for minorities than for non-minorities. This disparity is very important in Virginia given its disproportionately high percentage of minorities. Through the Minority Small Business Launch Center, we seek to create a supportive entrepreneurship pre-accelerator customized to minority community needs to enable minorities more opportunities to access resources to launch scalable, sustainable enterprises. Our proposed center can increase minorities’ capacity for generating wealth and for contributing more to Virginia’s economy."

If you have a business or are planning to launch a business in the Richmond MSA, including its surrounding suburbs, you may enroll in the Minority Small Business Launch Center at no cost at for students are planned for Summer 2021 and programs for entrepreneurs in the community are planned for early Fall 2021.

This project was funded in part by GO VIRGINIA, a state-funded initiative administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) that strengthens and diversifies Virginia's economy and fosters the creation of higher-wage jobs in strategic industries.