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ODU’s Enactus Entrepreneurs Impress with Socially Conscious Zeal

By Tom Robinson

The creative enthusiasm of Old Dominion University's Enactus team, which launches entrepreneurial projects designed to improve communities and empower individuals, impressed judges at the national Enactus competition in Kansas City, Missouri, for the fifth consecutive year.

The socially motivated Monarchs presented five ventures they have brought to life, including The Monarch Way retail store, which promotes and mentors student entrepreneurs, and the Starfish Project, a collaboration with the ForKids shelter to deliver job training to disadvantaged families.

ODU's team, among more than 400 in the United States, earned a regional championship and was one of 32 teams to qualify for nationals in Kansas City where it placed second in its group after preliminary presentations, but didn't reach the final round.

"Exposure at the conference is especially beneficial to students, and all ODU members were impressive in the eyes of the judges and corporate sponsors," said Connie Merriman, associate dean of undergraduate programs for the University's Strome College of Business and co-adviser of the Enactus club with Akeyla Barbour-Reid, transfer success coordinator.

"Two team members received full-time job offers, two were offered paid internships, and three were recruited as brand ambassadors," Merriman added.

Student members of the Enactus team were Aaron Washington, Jessica Johnson, Rahsell Owens, Danielle Freeman and Koby Lomax. Support team members Matthew Bennett and Christopher Saunders were back-up presenters.

The Monarch Way, a store where student and alumni entrepreneurs sell their products, has been particularly impressive, Merriman said. Opened last August, the store generated $15,000 in sales in six months and more than doubled the number of vendors it hosts.

Merriman identified passion as the key characteristic behind the success of ODU's Enactus team.

"The students care deeply about helping others improve their lives, from their fellow students to our community neighbors," Merriman said. "When an Enactus member comes to me with tears because she has witnessed a person in one of our programs finally starting to believe in herself and her abilities, that's when I know we are doing something good and something right."

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