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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU, Opportunity Inc. Join Forces to Offer Entrepreneurship ‘Boot Camp’ for Area Residents

"All right everyone, we're going to practice our elevator pitches."

Stephen Lanivich, assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at Old Dominion University, faces his class of 10 aspiring tycoons - local residents each with an idea, and a willingness to do what it takes to turn it into a business.

One by one, the men and women stand and deliver their one-minute descriptions - ideas for starting a group home, a mobile notary service, a pet grooming service and other business plans.

The students are at ODU's Innovation Research Park for a weeklong entrepreneurship "boot camp," in a program jointly run by ODU and Opportunity Inc.

"This is one of the examples of how ODU is trying to become a leading resource in the area for entrepreneurs," said Lanivich, who co-teaches the camp with J.C. Brinker, associate director of the ODU Business Gateway.

The partnership with Opportunity Inc., known as Launch Hampton Roads, is a grant to provide entrepreneurship training under the U.S. Department of Labor's Workforce Innovation Fund, as part of a three-region consortium that includes organizations in Northern Virginia and Richmond, as well as Hampton Roads.

The group, also known as the Virginia Employment Through Entrepreneurship Consortium, received more than $8 million from the Department of Labor to provide 1,000 statewide adult and dislocated workers eligible for Workforce Investment Act services with comprehensive entrepreneurship training and technical assistance.

In the program at ODU, participants receive instruction on creating a business plan, legal considerations, finance and credit and salesmanship. The sessions are taught by Brinker, Lanivich and guest instructors throughout the week. On the day the elevator pitches were practiced, Brinker showed participants a segment of the ABC-TV show "Shark Tank," where wannabe entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to would-be investors. "When it comes right down to it, what you folks are doing is the same thing," Brinker told the class.

Shauna Dineen, a participant in the program with an idea for a pet grooming business, said the weeklong session has been invaluable. "I've learned so much," said Dineen, who is switching careers after relocating to Hampton Roads from New England. "All of the details you need to take care of before launching a business are so important, and it's incredible to get so much information in one session."

Following the week of instruction, participants in the boot camp are matched with a successful small-business owner, who will mentor them as they work to get their business off the ground. ODU staff and faculty will also conduct or facilitate access to specialized training that is not provided during the weeklong program.

The goal of the grant is to put 250 aspiring entrepreneurs through the program by April 2015 "and hopefully create some new businesses," Lanivich said.

Ultimately, plans call for rolling ODU's component of the partnership into the university's Center for Entrepreneurship, which is being created thanks to a $10 million gift from the Strome Family Foundation for the development of an entrepreneurial curriculum.

The latest session for aspiring entrepreneurs going through the program at ODU's Business Gateway started Monday, Nov. 4. For more information about the Launch Hampton Roads entrepreneurial boot camp, or to inquire about participating in a future session, visit http://www.opp-inc.org/launchhamptonroads or call program coordinator Karen Miller at 683-3825.

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