Business leader and philanthropist David Blair announced that he has partnered with the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) to launch the new Lab for Entrepreneurship and Transformative Leadership (Entrepreneurship Lab), to advance students, entrepreneurs, and small business owners in Montgomery County by bringing together educational and economic innovation.
With growing concern over vacant commercial lots, stagnant job growth, and now historic job losses in Montgomery County, as well as lagging career-readiness levels, Mr. Blair believes strongly that entrepreneurial activity and small business creation is a key to the reversal of these trends. The launch of the initiative is being funded through a grant from The David and Mikel Blair Family Foundation, to the Universities at Shady Grove Foundation.
The Entrepreneurship Lab will be housed on the USG campus in the new Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Education Facility and will provide resources not only for students, but for emerging startups and entrepreneurs. Local venture capitalists will have the opportunity to engage with participating students and startups through various platforms hosted by the lab.
“The partnership between our family foundation and USG began with the desire to improve and create sustainable economic development opportunities for students and residents in Montgomery County,” said David Blair. “By connecting local emerging talent with key stakeholders, the Entrepreneurship Lab will provide a roadmap for new successful businesses. Investment in our community and local businesses starts with training the next wave of entrepreneurs, particularly in those industries where Montgomery County has unique expertise and potential.” Mr. Blair, who is on the USG Board of Advisors, will also be taking a leadership role on the Entrepreneurship Lab’s Advisory Board and will bring his first-hand experience in building business in Montgomery County to the community.
Marc Steren, former Co-director of Georgetown University's Summer Launch program and Director of Entrepreneurship at the Bullis School, has been named the new Director of the Entrepreneurship Lab. Author of “The Student’s Guide to Entrepreneurship,” the 2015 NFIB's National Entrepreneur Educator of the Year and the winner of the David S. Stone Excellence in Teaching Award, his extensive experience will be an invaluable addition leading the lab. Lab initiatives will include hosting workshops, lectures and classes to support entrepreneurial learning, as well as connecting startups to community resources, companies and organizations with investment funding, mentorship opportunities, and physical space for training, research and testing.
“The Entrepreneurship Lab will embolden not only students but entrepreneurs to learn in a collaborative culture and propel economic development in Montgomery County,” said Mr. Steren. “The local focus will allow us to address the specific intricacies of Montgomery County and its unique needs in a way not done before.” He noted that work is already underway on the formation of an advisory board and development of an opening series of events – both virtual and in-person, where possible. A formal launch for the lab is being planned for this fall.
“We are so appreciative of the opportunity David and Mikel Blair have given to students at USG by funding the Entrepreneurship Lab,” said Dr. Stewart Edelstein, Executive Director of USG and Associate Vice Chancellor of the University System of Maryland. “We are very excited that Marc Steren will be the founding director of the Lab and will use his considerable experience and talents to develop and nurture the entrepreneurship talent at USG. This funding could not have come at a more important time, as our economy pivots and so badly needs these enterprising students who will fuel the recovery efforts now underway and far into the future.”
The Council for Advocacy and Policy Solutions, an organization developed by David Blair, will help to develop programming for the Entrepreneurship Lab that aligns with economic development and growth in Montgomery County.
Located in Rockville, the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) is a regional higher education center of the University System of Maryland, serving students from nine Maryland public universities, all of which share in the mission of creating educational and economic opportunities for the residents of Montgomery County and the surrounding region. Nearly 80 undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered at USG through its nine partner universities: Bowie State University; Salisbury University; Towson University; University of Baltimore; UMBC; University of Maryland, Baltimore; University of Maryland, College Park; University of Maryland Eastern Shore; University of Maryland Global Campus.