RALEIGH College and universities are always looking for ways to get students real world experience in preparation for life after graduation.The Carolina Small Business Development Fund and Shaw University are taking it to a new level, joining forces to give students and small businesses a jump on that partnership with a new Entrepreneur Center in Southeast Raleigh.”Here you have a historically black university in Southeast Raleigh saying that we want to be a part of the entrepreneur community,” Lenwood Long, president and CEO of the Carolina Small Business Development Fund. “That’s a statement, I think, in a very pronounced way.”The center, located on Cabarrus and Blount streets, will give students and members of the Shaw community, along with small businesses, access to cutting-edge technology and help with best practices. It could also serve as a catalyst for Southeast Raleigh, where growth and expansion haven’t come as quickly as to other parts of the capital city.”I view the university as a liaison between Southeast Raleigh and our downtown businesses,” Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy, president of Shaw University, said. “The mission of our center and of our university, in particular, centers on increasing talent and serving a global audience. And part of that is also that we are great community partners.”The center, which will open Jan. 19, already has one planned user: Shaw junior Tyler Ford, whose job searching app earned him funding and a spot at the center.”I’m working on an app which essentially gets people a job within 24 to 48 hours kind of like the Uber of jobs is the way I like to put it,” Ford, a native of Stone Mountain, Ga., said. “An on-demand system which restaurants or different industries can reach within a certain mile radius and contact potential employees.”Ford called the center “game-changing” for Southeast Raleigh.”I definitely see the disparities in Raleigh,” Ford said. “I’ve been here for about three-and-a-half years, and over the three years I’ve seen new buildings, I’ve seen businesses come into town. But there’s such a disparity of where those businesses are being built. … I think it’s very important for Southeast Raleigh because it is a part of Raleigh, just like everywhere else, to have access to something innovative like this.”Dubroy said the center will give students like Ford a political science major who has interned with the N.C. General Assembly and also in the Obama Administration a chance to sharpen their entrepreneurial skills.”When we have students who are not able to cultivate their ideas while in school, it’s a missed opportunity,” Dubroy said. “So we want to be able to cultivate more students like Tyler who can grow successful businesses while here on Shaw University’s campus.”How beautiful it will be when a business student is able to translate concepts that they’re learning in the classroom into a business idea, develop a marketing plan and be able to implement that marketing plan in something that they’re passionate about.”And the center is also aimed at helping small businesses in the area become smarter, faster and more technologically sound.”It will give students an opportunity to engage in the business community, and faculty to make the transition of the application from theory into what’s real and what’s practical,” Long said. “So you can take business application and really apply them in a real live setting. So I think there will be this seamless transfer of academics to the real business world and see how we can apply those concepts and theories in a way that can help businesses be better managed, be better prepared for new technology.”Long said the Carolina Small Business Development Fund is hoping to expand its idea to other historically black universities.”But first we want to perfect what we’re doing here, because I think we’ll be a model across the state in helping small businesses,” Long said.
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