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

Student Businesses on Display at Strome Entrepreneurial Center

By Brendan O'Hallarn

The tangible growth of student and alumni entrepreneurship at Old Dominion University isn't just with the number of companies launched, it's with the sheer diversity of business ventures.

And at the first Student Company Expo on March 22 at Old Dominion's Strome Entrepreneurial Center, that range of business talent was on full display. There were apparel makers, online technology solutions, products ranging from surfboards to bacon.

And as the exhibitors answered curious questions from the more than 125 students who attended the event, Strome Center executive director Nancy Grden looked on with pride.

"It's the students that are making this happen," Grden said. "We give them the event and the support and just watch them make connections with each other. They're open-minded kids. They're engaged. They think. I could easily see other businesses coming from the fact everyone is here together."

That was part of the rationale for hosting the Student Company Expo. Alexandra Iqbal, a graduate assistant at the Strome Center and a master's student in engineering management, said the expo was suggested to help forge even more partnerships and idea-sharing.

"I'm so excited with how it's going," Iqbal said. "We had students practically lined up when we opened the doors this morning. We're hoping we can do it every semester."

In addition to companies started by Old Dominion students, recent alumni were invited to participate in the expo as well.

Mike Beyrodt, who graduated last May with a degree in mechanical engineering, attracted a crowd for the demo videos of his product Pull Start Fire, a packaged fire-starting product for anyone spending time outdoors.

The patented product that is about to launch - Beyrodt's third startup -- is currently being manufactured in a tiny facility next to a relative's house. Beyrodt saw a lot of similarity in his entrepreneurial efforts and the students taking part in the expo.

"I really like to see the passion that everyone has for their business. It's really exciting to be a part of this," he said.

The Strome Center launched in 2014 following an $11-million gift from Old Dominion alumnus Mark Strome and his wife Tammy, designed to spur entrepreneurship at the University.

Strome, who lives in Southern California, graduated from Old Dominion in 1978 with an engineering degree. Today, he is the chief investment officer for Strome Group and Strome Investment Management.

Housed within the Visual Arts Building, the Strome Center has hosted dozens of events for young entrepreneurs, and has expanded to provide a shared workspace for Old Dominion students with their own businesses.

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