The Jackson Ward Collective partners with the VCU Da Vinci Center

The VCU da Vinci Center for Innovation is pioneering a new model of delivering 21st-century innovation and entrepreneurship skills. Through a new grant, the VCU da Vinci Center will partner with the Jackson Ward Collective and Activation Capital to form the ‘VCU Entrepreneurship Academy,’ consisting of a blended learning environment where students and entrepreneurs from the local community will learn and work together.

The Academy will consist of a blended learning environment where proportionally representative students and ecosystem partners learn and work together. The Academy will bring together 150 underrepresented students consisting of first-generation college students and low-income students alongside 50 community members identified by the Jackson Ward Collective and Activation Capital. This 200-person cohort will engage in four learning modules: design thinking, digital literacy, business model canvas, and the art of the pitch. Students and community members will earn digital badges in these modules resulting in an expected 2,000 hours of 21st-century skills delivered in concert with Richmond’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. The program Academy coupled with a new entrepreneurship facility, the Student Storefront, will create ongoing and sustainable mentorship, networking, and employment opportunities.

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“As a leading urban public research university, VCU is an important catalyst for the future of higher education. This APLU/USU grant will allow VCU and the da Vinci Center for Innovation to serve students in new ways, like the storefront on Broad Street, and continue to build a more inclusive and innovative ecosystem through community partnership.” – Garret Westlake, Ph.D. Executive Director of the da Vinci Center for Innovation.

“Our name pays homage to our roots in Richmond, Virginia. The Jackson Ward was one of the first known Black Wall Streets in the country: a thriving and prosperous community at the turn of the 20th Century.

The opportunity to support VCU students and Black entrepreneurs who are members of the Jackson Ward Collective through an Entrepreneurship Academy, and physical storefront on the VCU campus, is aligned with our overall vision and fosters important conversations about race, equity, and opportunity in Richmond and beyond. Our ultimate goal is to Learn, Grow and Own in the Black community, and we know that we do that best when we do it together.” – Melody Short, Co-Founder of the Jackson Ward Collective.

“Activation Capital is proud to partner with VCU and the Jackson Ward Collective on this initiative to test a new model for university and community collaboration. Activation Capital is a champion of inclusive entrepreneurship. This effort is not only a great skill-building program for students and local entrepreneurs, but it also creates community among a diverse pool of entrepreneurs – strengthening the connective tissue of our ecosystem.” – Chandra Briggman, President/CEO of Activation Capital


About the Association of Public & Land-grant Universities (APLU)

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.


About Urban Serving Universities (USU)

The Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) is a network of public urban research universities that represents every region of our country. University presidents created the Coalition to leverage the intellectual capital and economic power of urban universities, thereby improving urban life and America’s competitiveness in the global economy.


About VCU da Vinci Center for Innovation

The vision of VCU da Vinci Center is to impact communities through bold curiosity and intentional innovation. The academic and experiential offerings of the VCU da Vinci Center for Innovation aim to create T-shaped individuals who are anchored in a discipline and have the capacity and openness to span across disciplines.


About The Jackson Ward Collective

The Jackson Ward Collective is a Social Enterprise made up of Black business owners and supporters of Black businesses who are committed to pooling together resources for the purpose of building ownership across the Black community.


About Activation Capital

Activation Capital engages and connects the many influential players in our innovation ecosystem and strives to give startup founders access to the tools and resources they need to navigate the entrepreneurial process. These resources include the VA Bio+Tech Park campus focused on life sciences and advanced technology companies; the Riverflow Growth Fund, a seed fund; and the Ecosystem Direct Investment Fund (EDIF), which provides grants to entrepreneur support organizations.