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Welcome Back to Campus

By Vince Lewis

The beginning of the Fall Semester is always an exciting time on campus, it as if everything starts to come to life. We see new students arrive every day. Some are just starting their college journey, and others are nearing the end of their time as a UD student. For a faculty member it is a tremendous time to reconnect with former students and colleagues, and to re-engage and re-ignite one’s passion for teaching and learning.

Today is a fascinating time to be on a college campus studying the entrepreneurship discipline and engaging with small businesses. The Small Business Administration in the United States defines any business with fewer than 500 employees as a small business. There are more than 30 million businesses in the U.S. that qualify as small companies. Many of them are in a fight to survive. The Covid-19 pandemic has hit small, Main Street firms exceptionally hard. Underrepresented firms, those with black or woman owners, have been disproportionately impacted by the Covid downturn. According to a CNBC/Survey Monkey Q320 survey, just 36% of small business owners believe current operating conditions are good. The U.S. House Small Business Committee said in July that at least 110,000 small businesses had closed permanently due to the pandemic, and another 7.5 million across the country could face the same fate. The next 12-24 months will certainly be challenging for small business owners and could fundamentally reshape how small businesses operate on a day-to-day basis. Many entrepreneurs will need to iterate or pivot in the coming months to ensure their continued success.

This need to pivot will also be true for everything we do within the Crotty Center and Entrepreneurship Program at UD. For the first time our micro-companies will need to become omnichannel startups rather than pure retail operations. Our Capstone Course in Entrepreneurship will meet fully online, this will ensure the health and safety of our students, mentors and clients. It will also help our students understand how to operate effectively in a virtual business setting, something many believe will not go away with the eventual resolution of the pandemic. Each of our Flyer Enterprises retail locations have had to fundamentally rethink their operations to comply with distancing requirements and ensure the safety of their customers and employees, and our Flyer Consulting team is building on their summer work with The Connor Work to develop an effective online consulting operation.

I am sure there are some who will look at these changes as a burden or hardship, we see them as an opportunity. This opportunity gives all of the students that engage with the Crotty Center a chance to develop new critical skills that will help them to be more effective entrepreneurs, and business and community leaders. Our students will be spending this academic year, more than in any other in the past, learning to leverage technology to start a new venture, grow that venture and help manage other businesses and non-profit organizations. The opportunity to build these skills will pay significant dividends for our students and the organizations they serve in the future.

There is no doubt the 2020-2021 academic year will be like none we have ever encountered. The opportunities for learning and growth will be innumerable due to current events and ongoing Crotty Center initiatives. The long-term impact will be profound. Over the next few months we will see new and exciting changes in Flyer Pitch, with larger cash prizes and an exciting new format. We will also see the launch of a new local, micro-loan fund and a new pre-seed fund. These new initiatives build on our great portfolio of incredible experiential learning programs, combine them with the coming launch of The Hub powered by PNC Bank, and the Greater West Dayton Incubator, and we will have set the stage to provide all UD students with a one-of-kind, fully immersed entrepreneurship experience. One that provides myriad experiences across the entrepreneurial spectrum, working side-by-side with high-growth startups, Main Street Businesses, and Social Entrepreneurs.

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