VSU students embark on entrepreneurship enterprise

5/6/2014, 3:07 p.m.
VSU is adding to one of its programs once again.
Chesapeake, Va., native Ivahna Evans and Ulysses Knight of Phoenixville, Pa., successfully make their competitive sales pitch to a professional panel of Farm Credit business executives. Knight, who holds a bachelor’s degree in business from VSU, is currently pursuing an engineering project management post-graduate certificate. Evans will earn her bachelor’s degree in agriculture with concentrations in business and economics. Although their ECO Renew business is just getting off the ground, the partners envision future operations expanding into surrounding municipalities and to other educational institutions. VSU Photo by William Porter

That students enroll in Virginia State University’s agribusiness entrepreneurship class expecting to earn three credits toward graduation is a given. What some hadn’t predicted is the course might help them amass the business savvy necessary to springboard into starting a business.

An elective course open to all students, the class affords practical opportunities made possible because of a four-year, on-going partnership between VSU’s College of Agriculture and Farm Credit (Farm Credit of the Virginias and Colonial Farm Credit). Farm Credit is part of a nationwide financial cooperative that provides loans, credit and financial services to farmers, ranchers, rural homeowners, rural utility systems and agribusinesses.

Farm Credit each year dispatches a cadre of business analysts who serve as motivational mentors, teaching students the rudiments of effective business planning. At the conclusion of the course, a panel comprised of Farm Credit loan officers and VSU faculty critiques and evaluates student business proposals and oral presentations. A primary criterion in the panel’s deliberation is if the loan requested is one Colonial Farm Credit would customarily approve. Following a thorough review, one winning proposition is selected to receive $1.000 in “seed money” to be used to for the business.

The tandem of Ulysess Knight and Ivahna Evans won this year’s business presentation and is applying the winnings to ECO Renew, their non-profit venture. ECO Renew, which Knight said will begin composting operations on VSU’s campus this fall, promotes environmental stewardship through recycling and the use of renewable energy. The business aims to manage organic waste instead of disposing it in landfills. Initial plans are to use compost as organic fertilizer on campus grounds and for crops on VSU’s Randolph Farm. Knight said additional compost will be sold commercially to local farmers, landscapers and nurseries.