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Local Firms Look to Strome Entrepreneurial Center for Tools to Succeed

Some are aspiring entrepreneurs. Others are veterans of the startup process, seeking to share expertise, or gain knowledge they can use to innovate.

But they are all being hosted this summer by Old Dominion University's Strome Entrepreneurial Center, which is conducting a two-month "pre-accelerator" program for nine local companies (some led by Old Dominion students), designed to help provide the tools needed for new businesses to succeed.

The program is co-administered by Strome Center partner Venture Hive, a business accelerator and incubator based in Miami.

Steven Lanivich, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and management in Old Dominion's Strome College of Business, is one of the facilitators of the eight week program. It includes instruction in real-world entrepreneurial skills such as leadership, customer development, promotion and marketing and sales. Lanivich said executive director Nancy Grden and the Strome Center staff have put together a great program for the University's first group of pre-accelerator entrepreneurs.

"The Strome Center is poised to be a valuable springboard for our students and community members to use as they dive into entrepreneurship," Lanivich said. "We hope that the business founders in this group will take advantage of all of the resources we are providing, and that these resources will lead them to greater success in their ventures"

Paul Hoggard, a former Bank of America employee who is pursuing an M.B.A. at Old Dominion, is one of the participants in the program. He said being in a hands-on session with a small group of like-minded entrepreneurs will help him with his own venture, which is still in the concept stage.

"We're all here from such different disciplines, but we work together to support each other. It's a great environment," Hoggard said. "People here at the Strome Center have been fabulous as well, helping out with all of my questions."

The summer pre-accelerator includes face-to-face instruction, virtual sessions with Venture Hive staff and breakout groups where participants receive one-on-one instruction from experts.

Pre-accelerator participant David Richards is a veteran entrepreneur in his own right. The president of Concursive, an applications software company in Norfolk, Richards is taking part in the weekly sessions for two reasons. The company is preparing to stand up a new product, which helps people more easily donate food in Hampton Roads. But Richards is also attending on behalf of Reinvent Hampton Roads, an initiative sponsored by the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, aimed at advancing businesses to the benefit of the entire community.

"I like the method. What they are doing here at the Strome Center is right in line with the most advanced teaching about entrepreneurship - the idea of spotlighting an area of need and moving fast, failing quickly if a venture doesn't work, so you can innovate and move on," Richards said.

"ODU really has a central role to play to help drive economic development in the region."

Grden said the pre-accelerator program helps further the mission of the Strome Center.

"Empowering entrepreneurs with startup tools and training, particularly Old Dominion student entrepreneurs, is a primary request we receive," Grden said. "This program is designed as an intense, hands-on program for the participating student and community entrepreneurs to expedite development of their idea or prototype into a viable business."

New Strome Center graduate assistant Alexandra Iqbal, who graduated this spring from the University of Pennsylvania with an economics degree and minor in entrepreneurship, will help administer the program. Iqbal is pursuing her masters in engineering management from Old Dominion.

The program will run for eight weeks, ending Aug. 5. During the week of August 24, the first week of the Old Dominion fall semester, a group pitch event will be held for all Pre-Accelerator companies to receive advice and follow-up from the team; and also present their product or service to outside experts and potential investors.

Old Dominion's Strome Entrepreneurial Center was created in 2014 following an $11-million donation from the Strome Family Foundation. It is designed to be the centerpiece of the University's campus-wide entrepreneurial strategy, empowering student entrepreneurs at every stage of the business startup lifecycle.

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