The Union of Town and Gown

Howard University and Washington, D.C


Howard University and Washington, D.C
City population:
591,833
Howard student population: 10,623
University employees: 3,869
Metro area small businesses: 108,381
Nearest major airports: Reagan National (7 miles); Dulles International (27 miles)

Howard University learned early on that being an entrepreneur is an attitude--a way of seeing things that can be applied to other aspects of life. "Even if entrepreneurial students decide to go and work for someone else, they've still learned to be innovative and creative in how they get the job done," says Johnetta Hardy, director of the school's Institute for Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Innovation. Each year at orientation, all 1,700 freshmen participate in an entrepreneurial boot camp that emphasizes how entrepreneurship has benefited the black community. Howard also offers no-fee business coaching and the GADGET Center, which offers resources and mentoring for businesses in the university's main commercial district, Georgia Avenue.

Innovation in Action
Howard University has promoted entrepreneurship so heavily that it has small-business hopefuls waiting in line. Every other Friday, the Institute for Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Innovation hosts Black Marketplace, where entrepreneurs market their products or services to the campus and community--and there's a long waiting list for the roughly 12 spots. Students sell everything from jewelry to business coaching. "Students can apply theoretic learning to real-life business situations," says Johnetta Hardy, director of the institute. And they can make some cash--some have brought in more than $900 in an afternoon. Hardy is bringing Black Marketplace to the web and starting similar projects at other black colleges. She points to one student who has started 13 different small businesses. "He came from a place with no money, and now he's paying for his education through his businesses," Hardy says. "We make a difference in the community by changing people's perspectives, and creating wealth along the way."

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Jason Daley lives and writes in Madison, Wisconsin. His work regularly appears in Popular Science, Outside and other magazines.

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This article was originally published in the October 2009 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Union of Town and Gown.

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