Darden, SCPS Team to Aid in Growing Businesses in Distressed Parts of Virginia

June 6, 2011 — The University of Virginia School of Continuing and Professional Studies and the Tayloe Murphy Center at U.Va.'s Darden School of Business, in partnership with the Danville Regional Foundation, recently recognized the first class to complete the Certificate in Entrepreneurship program.

A graduation ceremony was held June 2 in Danville.

The pilot program, a collaboration between the School of Continuing and Professional Studies and the Tayloe Murphy Center, for the first time brought the Darden case learning experience to Virginia entrepreneurs in communities facing economic challenges.

Scheduled to expand to Wise in the fall and possibly other communities in Southwest and Southside Virginia next year, the five-day course examines successful Virginia-based businesses using Darden's case study method. The program teaches existing and aspiring business leaders, economic development officials, managers and others how to start, grow and protect an entrepreneurial business.

Chris Moore is one of the first 19 individuals to earn a certificate. He is co-owner of Growing Virginia, a Danville-based start-up that will raise fish and grow organic vegetables indoors using hydroponic, aquaculture and aquaponic technology when it opens for business in the fall.

"It was one of the best learning experiences of my life," Moore said. "I'll take away a lot that I can use in my own business, such as how to make decisions in a partnership or the fact that, sometimes, the best offense for a business is a good defense. The class gives you a good, basic plan to formulate building blocks to go into business for yourself or to improve your existing business."

Program instructor Greg Fairchild is executive director of the Tayloe Murphy Center, a Darden professor and one of the top 25 business leaders in the state to watch in 2011, according to Virginia Business magazine.

"This program is one way for the University of Virginia, through this collaborative effort, to help foster entrepreneurial growth in communities around the commonwealth," Fairchild said. "We have the benefit of case studies about Virginia entrepreneurs who are located in challenging contexts, but have been very successful in their businesses. For those running or thinking about starting a business, our hope is this program supplements existing educational opportunities with case study instruction. Case studies allow participants to learn from real-world situations and practice business decision-making."

The Danville Regional Foundation helped publicize and underwrite the program in Danville.

"Developing more entrepreneurs is critical to the future of Southern Virginia," foundation president and CEO Karl Stauber said. "Darden is well-known for its excellence in business education and we are happy to help bring the entrepreneurial training program here to foster the growth of job creators in our community."

The Certificate in Entrepreneurship complements other programs that focus on the specifics of launching a business offered by business incubators, chambers of commerce and small business development centers.

The course is not a traditional block-and-tackle "how to" lecture. Instead, participants learn key business concepts through case studies that reveal real-world business leaders facing key challenges and decisions. Read a full description of each of these courses and their content.

The program studies successful businesses from similarly economically challenged parts of Virginia, such as Petersburg-based BandyWorks, one of five Tayloe Murphy Resilience Award winners from 2010.

"The fact that they use businesses from right here in Virginia allows you to compare apples to apples and realize that you too can be successful," Moore said. "That's important, because we're not just trying to raise fish and grow organic produce, we're trying to grow jobs."

Individuals who cannot enroll in the full certificate program can select to attend full-day or half-day classes.

For information about the Certificate in Entrepreneurship program, contact Barbara Kessler at the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at bbk4b@virginia.edu or 434-243-5324.

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Beth Schmid

Senior Writer McIntire School of Commerce