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UVa-Wise opens 'The Nest' for fledgling entrepreneurs

Stephen Igo • Updated Sep 11, 2018 at 12:55 PM

WISE — The University of Virginia's College at Wise on Monday unveiled its small off-campus facility for entrepreneurial-minded students to pursue and bounce startup business venture ideas off one another, as well as faculty and area businessmen and women so inclined.

Called 'The Nest,' the former single-story, wood-frame small family home was donated to the college and is located across from Family Dollar, not far from the downtown sector of Wise. Class of 2017 UVa-Wise grad McKenna Blevins developed the concept and initiated pursuit for a $15,000 Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development grant for project planning and implementation via the agency's Building Entrepreneurial Economics program.

Blevins, her degree in graphic design and integrative marketing yet fresh, is the facility's first entrepreneurial program coordinator. She said she and others will work with students who are interested in entrepreneurial ideas or want to start a business. The Nest will also offer business competitions and other programs.

Entrepreneurial interest "is increasing every year" on the UVa-Wise campus, Blevins said. "We are trying to promote that with programs like (the college's) Innovation, Inc. club," she said.

UVa-Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry said "really, it's our goal to involve our students" in entrepreneurial innovation. Essentially, it’s a think tank with a focus on business. She said the concept for The Nest was borrowed from a similar program in Charlottesville "for students to come, be thoughtful and support their entrepreneurial work, and interact with employers, hopefully."

Shankar Naskar, a business professor and director of the college's Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, said the name is fitting for "the nest is a place, a sanctuary, where the eggs (and) fledglings are kept safe from external forces" to nurture — in this case — ideas.

"It's a nice incubation space," he said, for a student to have and share an idea "and to grow and develop it," and as is the goal in nature, "the birds fly out to thrive on their own. And that is what we want."

UVa-Wise senior and president of Innovators, Inc., Hunter Hess said The Nest "will become a valuable resource to our students. Having a place for students to brainstorm and work on their business ideas will increase the value of our college in the eyes of young entrepreneurs throughout the region, and utilization of The Nest could be the beginning of the next big thing."

UVa-Wise Innovation Center Manager Josh Sawyers said programs offered at The Nest will meet the needs of students with workshops, speakers and contests as part of the programming.

"We are also going to strive to connect with the community, as we don't want to be isolated," Sawyers said. "We want our students to be able to grow, and when it's time to launch, have them locate in the Southwest Virginia region."

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