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Ford Motor : At VCU, budding businesspeople attend Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Academy Budding entrepreneurs attend Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Academy at VCU

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08/13/2017 | 09:12 am

Aspiring entrepreneurs from the Richmond region and beyond gathered at Virginia Commonwealth University last week for the first Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Academy held in the U.S.

They were of all ages and backgrounds, pursuing diverse business ideas from technology startups to fashion. The three-day academy covered numerous topics such as business models, cash flow, decision-making, customer interactions and pitching.

"Since I was little, I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur," said Carter Glotz of Midlothian, one of the 29 participants.

A rising senior at Virginia Tech, Glotz has worked with family and friends to create a technology tutoring service called TechStar Tutors. It enables tech-savvy college students and graduates to earn some extra cash by teaching older adults lacking technology skills how to best use their devices such as smartphones.

"We like to say we provide a win-win for the community," Glotz said. "Not only do we help bridge the technology gap between generations, but we provide résumé-worthy and flexible jobs to college students and graduates who really need the money."

Other student participants included Paloma Correal, a native of Colombia and a VCU student who plans to sell leather bags and belts sourced from her home country, and Taylor Lam, a VCU senior who is co-creator of an app that provides interactive training for student nurse anesthetists.

"We are trying to increase patient safety by providing a training simulation for students to practice," said Lam, who won an award for making the best one-minute business pitch at the end of the program.

The academy also drew experienced businesspeople who are pursuing second careers through entrepreneurship, such as David Blankley, a financial analyst and former Capital One Financial employee who has developed a new photo-sharing app.

A $1,000 prize for the participants best representing the entrepreneurial spirit went to local professionals Nancy Kuppich and Debbie DeHart to help them with their technology consulting startup JRG Concepts.

Participants paid $45, but the Ford Motor Co. Foundation covered the rest of the costs for the academy. The first academy was held in December 2015 in Rabat, Morocco, and the program has focused on developing entrepreneurs in Africa and the Middle East.

This week's event in Richmond was the inaugural academy held in the U.S.; the plan is to host another in Richmond sometime during the next year.

"We believe that entrepreneurship education is a force that develops economies," said Jay Markiewicz, director of entrepreneurship programs for the VCU School of Business and lead facilitator for the program.

"If we can get 20 entrepreneurs to start a business, that is a great way to inject economic wealth into a region," he said.

Although most startup programs or business incubators focus on cultivating a particular business idea, the emphasis of the academy is on developing the skills of people who will become entrepreneurs, Markiewicz said.

"Projects will come and go," he said, "but the entrepreneur is the person who needs to continue to develop."

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