Staff at Morgan State University’s Entrepreneurial Development and Assistance Center (EDAC) expect to expand awareness of their center to more students thanks to some new outside funding.
The money comes from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, which earlier this month announced the school among one of the latest beneficiaries of its LaunchPad program for supporting student entrepreneurship. EDAC directors said that the influx of $500,000 over four years from Blackstone, as well as program support, is already impacting the entrepreneurship culture on Morgan State’s campus.
For instance, the Baltimore-based university has already held one on-campus business pitch competition since the LaunchPad funding was announced, and more are on the way. The grant funded the initial Bear Tank pitch competition, loosely based on the “Shark Tank” TV show.
The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is a charitable arm of Blackstone, a leading global investment firm. The Morgan State grant was one of four recently given out to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). One went to Bowie State University, located close to DC in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The other two were awarded to North Carolina A&T State University and North Carolina Central University in Greensboro and Durham, North Carolina, respectively. Overall, Blackstone has committed $40 million to help bring LaunchPad to higher education institutions that either serve underrepresented communities or mainly consist of students from these groups, a Morgan State announcement noted.
The money the university receives will also assist other organizations with entrepreneurship efforts across campus. Although the EDAC serves about 1,000 people each year, its leadership is now setting its eyes higher.
“This is a great opportunity for us to work with students who are just coming on board,” the EDAC’s codirector Omar Muhammad told Technical.ly. “They’ll be seniors at the end of the program. It really helps us out a lot where we can reach more students across campus. Oftentimes people say the business school is where the entrepreneurs are created; however, I believe entrepreneurs are created across the board, across campus.”
The Founders Academy and EDAC’s future
Along with the Blackstone partnership, EDAC is about to launch its inaugural Founders Academy, a three-month-long entrepreneurial program for 10 campus entrepreneurs. Participants will meet twice a month with mentors between January and March 2023; In April, they will receive $1,000 to help fund their new venture. In addition, Founders Academy finalists will be eligible to enter an inter-school competition involving higher education institutions around the country, through which they can win a $10,000 award from Blackstone.
The Founders Academy is funded, at least in part, through the Blackstone grant.
“So the best thing about this grant from Blackstone is that not only are we able to invest in our students, but we’re actually able to put them in a healthy business state, making their businesses a little more sustainable based on the funding we give them over time,” explained Danielle Frisby, EDAC’s other codirector.
Blackstone’s LaunchPad program also gives students and staff the ability to use the StartupTree application, which Frisby described as the campus community’s “own internal Facebook.” The platform, customized for Morgan State, acts as a networking tool for entrepreneurs on campus. It also offers a way for EDAC to process pitch competition applicants and offer them additional resources.
While Morgan State’s EDAC has existed for more than 18 years, the new Blackstone partnership has helped energize student business ventures. Affiliated students like freshman entrepreneurship major Blair Dyer are already excited about the possibilities Blackstone’s support can unlock.
“I think this could be a really big thing on campus,” said Dyer, who also interns with the EDAC. “Right now, we’re just doing the groundwork. I think that we’re on the right track.”
“All the time and dedication we’ve put into this [is so] everybody can enjoy themselves, right now, as we’re still developing,” added senior marketing major and fellow EDAC intern Alanay Jordan. “ But I really think, in the next four years, this going to be the place everybody wants to come to.”
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