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

ODU Celebrates Official Opening of Student Retail Store, THE Monarch Way

By Noell Saunders

University leaders, students and community members celebrated the official opening Nov. 2 of Old Dominion University's new student retail store, THE Monarch Way.

THE Monarch Way, which houses the products of more than 15 vendors, provides students, alumni, faculty and staff entrepreneurs the opportunity to gain selling experience in a retail environment. The store is also intended to be a learning lab for young entrepreneurs to get first-hand experience in pricing, merchandising and scheduling while offering their products to the Hampton Roads community.

Old Dominion President John R. Broderick said the new store is one example of how the University embraces entrepreneurship and fosters principles based on experiential learning, development and innovation to measure educational outcomes.

"We teach problem solving, business plan development and customer acquisition techniques; however, it's only something like this lab of reality behind me that these principles are fully grasped and applied," President Broderick told the crowd. "THE Monarch Way is emblematic of our approach to supporting entrepreneurs on this campus by providing opportunities to gain experience and partner with others as well as benefit from a strong academic curriculum."

Attendees were invited to browse inside the store as well as test and buy some of the products ranging from gourmet bacon treats to clothing, purses, cupcakes, candles, fire starter kits, artwork and more.

Aaron Washington, president of ODU Enactus and general manager of THE Monarch Way, said seeing the store come together from a proposal made in February was a true testament to the tireless efforts of students, faculty and staff.

"During the summer, the demolition team came to the store and cleared everything out," Washington said. "When we came here in late July, they had just put down new floors. It was at that point, I realized the sky was the limit with this space."

Maurice Brooks, CEO and student entrepreneur of SHWIM Clothing LLC, reiterated Washington's sentiment.

"I speak for the other fellow entrepreneurs by saying I feel like the store has made a big impact on us because of the customers that come in," Brooks said. "The passion they can see from us when we talk about our products has created customer loyalty."

Nancy Grden, executive director of ODU's Strome Entrepreneurial Center, said the store's genesis came from Old Dominion's former COO David Harnage, who was presented with a bag of store merchandise as a gift of appreciation.

"Like many successful entrepreneurial endeavors, THE Monarch Way started with an inspiration to solve a problem and seize an opportunity," Grden said.

Connie Merriman, associate dean of the Strome College of Business, was overwhelmed with emotion when she told attendees how excited she is to see what the future holds for the student companies.

"At Dave's retirement celebration, he looked me square in the eye and he said, 'I am counting on you to do right by these kids,'" Merriman said. "As you can see, Dave, that comment made a lasting impression on me, and I think this amazing opportunity that you have helped to provide will make a lasting impression on all of our young entrepreneurs."

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