Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium 2016 wraps up with record attendance, new level of community engagement

Eric Thomas

 Detroit –Nov. 8, 2016 –The Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative (UEI) is pleased to announce the successful completion of its third annual Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium (#UES2016).  Held in Flint, Mich., from Oct. 19 to 21, the symposium had 495 registrants over the course of the three day event.  The 2016 Symposium followed sold-out events in Detroit in 2015 and Ann Arbor in 2014 and convened entrepreneurs and thought leaders in business, academia, community organizations and government to facilitate business solutions that bring economic opportunity and quality of life improvements to Flint and other urban communities. 

W. David Tarver, founder and president of the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative, a Flint native and the chief event organizer, proclaimed the event an unqualified success.

“We engaged the Flint community at all levels this year, and that proved to be a key contributor to the event’s success,” Tarver said. “We were pleased to provide a forum for conversation, ideas and strategy, and to help Flint reimagine and rewrite its story to one of renewed spirit and business and entrepreneurial opportunity.” 

Highlights of #UES2016 include:

  • A series of pre-event “community pitches” gatherings that engaged residents where they live — at the library, churches, the bus station, downtown and many other locations — in a grass roots call for ideas that focused on making life better in Flint. Residents were encouraged to offer business ideas, community improvement suggestions, and even gripes.
  • The Community Reception, an event kick-off that drew more than 100 residents, aspiring business entrepreneurs and community leaders to mingle, network and understand the importance of changing the city’s business culture to reignite sustainable growth.
  • The 2016 Urban Infrastructure Challenge and the 2016 Urban Jobs Challenge, which provided young adults and college students with an opportunity to win award money and entrepreneurial guidance for business solutions to pressing jobs and infrastructure issues in Flint.
  • A panel composed of local, state, and national experts, which addressed strategies for creating an “ecosystem” that supports sustainable growth by further developing existing businesses and growing startups.
  • A compelling interview conducted by Tarver with Andrew R. Highsmith, author of Demolition Means Progress: Flint, Michigan, and the Fate of the American Metropolis.
  • The Business Matrix reception at the Flint Farmers Market, which drew approximately 80 entrepreneurs and students – and the organizations that support them.
  • A day-long series of workshops at the Mott Community College Regional Technology Center focused on essential knowledge for urban entrepreneurs, including business creation methods, creative finance strategies, e-commerce opportunities and techniques, and personal and business branding.

A post-#UES2016 survey of attendees elicited the following (sample) responses:

  • “Valuable information for aspiring entrepreneurs, especially those with limited resources. Great inspiration for a city that is struggling so much.”
  • “I loved the 1:1 conversation with the author on day 2 and found the kick-off event to be an inspiring way to set the tone for the full event.”
  • “Friday was a very good ‘nuts & bolts’ day filled with practical advice and models. Thursday was also good in highlighting opportunities in various categories.”

“Urban entrepreneurship is business innovation that produces products, services, and jobs that improve the quality of life in urban communities,” Tarver said. “#UES2016 accomplished our primary goal of highlighting the importance of urban innovation in the context of a community that is at the “ground zero” of today’s urban crisis. Now, an inspired group of attendees are ready to put the knowledge, inspiration, and connections they received into action. This will be exciting to watch!”

Leading sponsors of #UES2016 were Mott Community College, University of Michigan – Flint School of Management, University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Michigan Innovate Blue, SkyPoint Ventures, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

A Flint native, Tarver holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan and also lectures in the U-M Center for Entrepreneurship. In 1983, at age 30, he launched Telecom Analysis Systems, Inc., a telecommunications instrumentation business, and sold it in 1995 for $30 million. Working as group president for the company’s buyer, Tarver then spearheaded development of a telecommunications group with a market value of more than $2 billion. He left that business in 1999 to devote more time to family and community service, ultimately returning to Southeast Michigan in 2007. 

About the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative

The Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative, founded by W. David Tarver, a technology entrepreneur, Michigan native and author of “Proving Ground: A Memoir, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation offering programming and resources that encourage, facilitate and enable the development of for-profit businesses that explicitly and intentionally address the needs of urban communities. Learn more here.

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News Release: Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative 2016 Wrap-Up

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