Monmouth expands efforts to help entrepreneurs from underserved communities

Woodrow Wilson Hall at dusk. The building was built in 1929.

Monmouth University announced Thursday that it will establish an entrepreneurship incubator and support program at the school’s Leon Hess Business School — an initiative aimed at developing, educating and accelerating entrepreneurs from underserved communities in central New Jersey.

Programming will include cultivating aspiring entrepreneurs within local high schools through a hands-on, intensive summer boot camp hosted by the Center for Entrepreneurship at the Leon Hess Business School, as well as ongoing technical assistance for graduates of the program to help bring their ideas to fruition.

In addition, the funding will support an accelerator-style program for existing entrepreneurs who are ready to elevate their business to the next level of success. Content for the accelerator program will include evolving a business plan to focus on growth, designing a winning elevator pitch and equipping entrepreneurs with skills that will expand and successfully grow their professional network.

The funding for the project, $640,000, was included in the omnibus federal spending bill for Fiscal Year 2023.

The school thanked U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.) and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.) for helping the funding get to the school.

“We are incredibly grateful to Congressman Pallone, Sen. Menendez and Sen. Booker for the confidence and support they have shown to Monmouth University,” Monmouth President Patrick Leahy said. “This funding will allow us to provide crucial educational opportunities to budding and aspiring entrepreneurs, helping to achieve social and economic progress in our communities.”

The renewed focus on entrepreneurship at Monmouth stems from the university’s five‑year strategic plan, “Excellence. Access. Ambition,” resulting in the reimagining of the Center for Entrepreneurship, and the hiring of its new director, Alison Gilbert, who sees the center as a catalyst for innovation and creativity.

“The more we engage in and support entrepreneurship in our local and regional communities, the richer our ecosystem of people, activities and resources we create — and the more impact we’re able to make on society and the economy,” she said.

Pallone was pleased to be of help.

“I am proud to have secured this funding for Monmouth University and the underserved communities of central New Jersey,” he said. “This funding will help educate the next generation of entrepreneurs and strengthen our state’s economy.”

Booker said making sure all regions of the state have access is key.

“Talent is not bound by geography, and we must foster the entrepreneurial spirit in all communities to strengthen New Jersey’s economy,” he said. “I am proud to secure this vital funding that will invest in Monmouth University’s economic and professional development programs for underserved communities so entrepreneurs and local students can receive the education and support necessary to thrive.”

Menendez agreed.

“The Fiscal Year 2023 funding bill we passed at the end of last year contains significant wins and critical funding for New Jersey, including $181 million for community projects throughout the state that I helped secure,” he said. “I was proud to advocate on behalf of Monmouth University to help deliver funds to establish an entrepreneurship incubator focused on developing, educating and supporting entrepreneurs from underserved communities.

“In today’s global economy, our businesses rely on diverse voices and ideas to maintain an equitable marketplace. Programs such as this will ensure that New Jersey’s future businesses can continue to compete on a global scale.”