By Tim Ryan

The Hampton Roads Chamber, in collaboration with the ODU Strome College of Business, recently hosted a roundtable discussion focusing on the region’s entrepreneurial potential. Emceed by Jennifer Vaziralli, a steadfast advocate for the region’s entrepreneurs, the event featured a diverse panel of local figures known for their significant contributions to the entrepreneurial landscape.

Among the panelists were Paul Nolde, Executive Director of 757 Collab and a seasoned venture capitalist with a wealth of experience in fostering startup growth. He emphasized the benefits of collaborative efforts, particularly when securing funding while cautioning about the pitfalls of partnerships without shared vision and transparency.

The dialogue was further enriched by Dr. Angela Randolph, an esteemed professor at Babson College and Newport News native, who steered the conversation toward the ecosystem’s culture, infrastructure, and information flow. She underscored the importance of ensuring businesses have efficient structures and access to vital resources.

Blair Durham, co-founder and president of Black BRAND, Hampton Roads’ Black Chamber of Commerce, shared insights on the progress in fostering inclusivity for underrepresented founders. Durham emphasized the importance of sustaining these efforts to ensure they become integral to the ecosystem’s fabric.

Katy Schuck, co-founder of Reelist and a leader with a passion for empowering female entrepreneurs, championed the idea of nurturing robust connections within the ecosystem. She believed that increasing the interconnectedness would amplify the ecosystem’s overall impact.

The roundtable discussion reiterated collaboration, inclusivity, efficient structures, and strong connections as the key drivers of a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. While Hampton Roads has made commendable progress, there’s an acknowledged room for improvement that could further bolster entrepreneurship in the region.

The insights gained from this thought-provoking roundtable will undoubtedly prove invaluable as the Hampton Roads community continues to navigate the entrepreneurship journey. The region can genuinely unlock its full potential by harnessing the power of shared visions, diverse perspectives, and the spirit of collaboration. The journey may be challenging, but with persistent effort and unity, the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Hampton Roads can continue to flourish and become an inspiring model for other regions. The seeds have been sown, and now, it’s time to cultivate a robust, diverse, and inclusive entrepreneurial landscape that will drive Hampton Roads forward.