Radford University cuts ribbon on its new lab for student entrepreneurs
Radford University officially opened its new home for student entrepreneurship Thursday, Sept. 26, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Kyle Hall.
The ceremony was for the Venture Lab, a space for would-be student entrepreneurs, from any discipline, to develop and test business concepts, to breathe life into them and construct a bridge that will connect developed ideas of value to the first sale of their product or service.
“The Venture Lab comes to life today,” Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., said. “I’m so looking forward to the opportunities that will be provided to our campus through the Venture Lab.”
The spacious, modern lab has 24-hour, seven-days-a-week access and is filled with resources that include business plan preparation software and guides, tools for marketing research, meeting and storage space, maps and guides to existing Radford University technological resources such as 3D printers, and most importantly, human guidance to direct the future entrepreneurs every step of the way.
“The Venture Lab is a place for the inspired, a place where we can help our students – and faculty and staff, if they wish – make their dream business come true,” said Steve Childers, a professor in the Department of Management, who helped lead the lab’s creation.
One of those inspired students is senior Justin Halsey, a military veteran and senior business administration major. He spoke at the ceremony and said owning a business was his American dream.
“I have traveled the world while being in the military. I have led brave men and women while being deployed. I have work ethic and grit, but I lack the resources or the know-how in order to obtain my dream of being a business owner,” Halsey said.
“With the opening of the Venture Lab, I will be spending every ounce of my free time pursing my idea, and hopefully with the tools provided today, I will be able to build my foundation and chase my American dream.”
When planning the Venture Lab, Childers and members of the Venture Lab steering committee thought of everything, from the design and location – the Kyle Hall basement floor – to the individuals who run it. “That’s why we created the lab, to help our students create the businesses of their dreams,” Childers explained.
Radford University has a tradition of entrepreneurship, said Jeff Pittges, Ph.D., professor of Information Technology and director of the Applied Research Center, citing many alumni who have successfully delved into starting businesses. At the ceremony, Pittges shared the importance of students learning at universities through experiences and by working with professional partners.
“The Venture Lab will provide mentors, services, programming and other resources to help students transform ideas into action,” said Pittges, who has more than 25 years of experience with data warehousing and business intelligence. “We are extending an open invitation to students, faculty, staff and the entire community to join us in the Venture Lab.”
A strong point of emphasis during the ceremony was students need not be business majors to work in the lab.
“We know from data that most students who start a business are not business majors,” Davis College Dean Joy Bhadury, Ph.D., said.
Department of Music Chair Tim Channell knows the data well and is informed and influenced by it. He served on the Venture Lab steering committee because students in the College of Visual and Performing Arts are, by the nature of their disciplines, Channell explained, “entrepreneurial in their thinking.”
The Venture Lab is providing students with “a place to work with others, to develop innovative businesses that incorporate their crafts; music, art, theatre, dance and design,” he said. “To have a center on campus to help students start a new business venture is huge for their success in the industry.”
The Venture Lab addresses a focal area within the University’s strategic plan, which emphasizes Radford’s commitment to contributing to economic development and strengthening community partnerships through its physical and intellectual resources.
“This space is being established in order to provide a business incubator aimed at promoting news startups,” President Hemphill said.
Speaking on behalf of the Board of Visitors, Rector Bob Archer said the Venture Lab will make a significant impact on the campus and the community. Archer said when the Board was first presented with the concept of the lab, they were “immediately drawn to it, and we are so pleased to see it come to life today.”
Archer stressed that “Today’s event represents a bold step forward in furthering the mission of our great University.”
After the ceremony, management major and student representative to the BOV Breon Case said he believed the Venture Lab to be “one of the world’s premier outlets for students who want to take their ideas and turn them into something greater than they ever imagined.”
“Providing us with this space and giving us the resources and mentors makes the whole package even sweeter,” said the junior from Suffolk. “I love to see how Radford is giving students the opportunities to do these great things. It is making a large impact.”