sova innovation hub

Entrepreneurship is a powerful tool for growing local, regional and global economies, but sometimes it can be overlooked as a career pathway. The upcoming SOVA Youth Entrepreneurship Kickoff will help eighth-12th grade students in Southern Virginia understand the entrepreneurial mindset and explore the risks and rewards of starting a business.

The SOVA Youth Entrepreneurship Kickoff is a virtual event taking place on Wednesday, May 5, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. using the Zoom video meeting platform. The event is free to attend, and all students in grades 8-12 are encouraged to participate, no matter what academic path they are on or what level of interest they currently have in starting a business. 

The event will provide an engaging, informal learning experience for students to explore entrepreneurship as a career pathway, network with business leaders in the region, and understand next steps for starting a business.

The event will begin with two interactive sessions aimed at defining entrepreneurship, led by Ilsa Loeser, Principal and Founder of Letterpress Communications, and Melanie Saunders, an educator and entrepreneur in Halifax County. Next there will be a panel discussion, where students can listen and learn from real life stories from local entrepreneurs and business executives from a variety of industries.  This will be followed by breakout sessions, where each student can choose to enter a smaller group learning session based on their industry of interest, including Agriculture & Forestry, Beauty & Fashion, Construction & Trades, Health & Wellness, Entertainment, Marketing & Influencing, Food & Restaurants, Products & Manufacturing, Science & Technology and Outdoor Recreation.  

Jacob Dolence, faculty at Longwood University, is part of the event planning team and will help facilitate the Agriculture & Forestry session.

“I’m looking forward to helping students think about where our food, furniture, clothing or houses come from,” said Dolence. “The future of these things will rely on innovation in the agriculture and forestry industries. Many opportunities exist to launch businesses to literally help grow and build our future. From using technology to make crops grow better, to figuring out ways to utilize lumber more efficiently for building stronger and cheaper houses, to developing new fabrics and dyes for fashion – the potential is unlimited.”

The event will conclude with a discussion about next steps for students interested in pursuing entrepreneurship, including a presentation about MajorClarity, career exploration and academic planning platform that empowers students to discover career pathways and search for work-based learning opportunities within the region.  In the final session, students will be asked to share their feedback on the event and provide input for future youth entrepreneurship training opportunities.

The SOVA Youth Entrepreneurship Kickoff is free to attend, but pre-registration is required. To register for this event and to view a detailed agenda with a list of speakers, visit

The SOVA Youth Entrepreneurship Kickoff is co-hosted by the SOVA Innovation Hub and Longwood University’s Office of Community and Economic Development as part of the launch of a comprehensive entrepreneurship training pipeline to serve youth and adults in Southern Virginia. This project was funded in part by GO Virginia, a state-funded initiative administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) that strengthens and diversifies Virginia's economy and fosters the creation of higher wage jobs in strategic industries.

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