Urban entrepreneurship symposium talks Detroit

By Tanaz Ahmed, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 14, 2014

Amid engineering and dance buildings, North Campus saw the first-ever Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library Friday.

David Tarver, a lecturer at the College of Engineering and the Center for Entrepreneurship, founded the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative and hosted the symposium to foster discussion about sustainable business solutions in urban areas such as Detroit.

“The purpose was to really connect all of the entrepreneurial activity, resources and brainpower with the needs that exist in urban areas,” Tarver said. “And, to get better at identifying problems in urban areas and identifying entrepreneurial solutions. The University has many disciplines in which we are the top in the world so there are a lot innovations that can be applied to the problems in a profitable way.”

Jeffrey Robinson, assistant director at Rutgers University’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, delivered the keynote speech at the event. He spoke about the work CUEED has done in its efforts to revitalize Newark, N.J., along with other urban communities in the state.

Robinson’s address was structured around the three main lessons about how to be a successful entrepreneur in an urban environment that he learned from being a part of CUEED: finding collaborators and partners, being ready to pivot and knowing your audiences.

The event also included four different panels: Urban Entrepreneurship Case Studies, Community Engagement Methods, Student-Led Entrepreneurship and Facilitating Urban Entrepreneurship.

Nick Tobier, an associate professor in the School of Art & Design, also spoke about the courses that he offers at the University and the projects that he oversees such as Detroit Community Apparel, a joint initiative involving University students and Detroit high school students.

Tobier’s goal is to engage youth in revitalizing Detroit communities.

“I am concerned deeply that if our best and brightest students see their communities as places to get out of and education as separate from the community, those students will perpetually go to the center,” Tobier said. “We then perpetually disadvantage those places that need our brightest the most.”

Jill Ford, special counselor to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan for entrepreneurial initiatives, Tom Frank, executive director for the University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Thomas Zurbuchen, associate dean for Entrepreneurial Programs, also spoke at the symposium.

A variety of business ventures in Detroit such as Loveland Technologies, GradeCheck, Fresh Corner Café, Uber in Detroit, Thrift on the Avenue, TechTown Detroit and The Social Grooming Company discussed their work in the panels.