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Entrepreneurship Panel provides advice for young aspiring business owners

An added emphasis on entrepreneurism in the business community has sparked the interest of many Jacksonville University students to discover the success of local innovative businesses.

Elton Rivas, founder of Jacksonville’s One Spark event, has been working with JU and the University of North Florida (UNF) to enhance awareness of the future of business and the benefits of controlling one’s own fate. Local business incubator CoWork Jax, owned and operated by Rivas, is celebrating its second anniversary serving local entrepreneurs and small business owners as Downtown Jacksonville’s first co-working space. This location served as host for a recent entrepreneurship panel discussion, which was open to JU and UNF students, faculty, staff and alumni. Rivas served as moderator for the three-person panel event which was co-sponsored by CoWork Jax, One Spark, JU and UNF.

JU Dean of the Davis College of Business Don Capener, a self-proclaimed “recovering entrepreneur,” kicked off the event by introducing Rivas.

“The panelists gave us some insight on the good, bad and the ugly of their entrepreneurial experiences, as one of the panelists spoke about two failed companies prior to his big successful venture,” added attendee junior business administration major Alexandra Roberson-Dudley. “The highlight of my night was being able to speak personally with one of the panelists, sharing my ideas and exchanging contact information.” Dudley was the winner of last year’s “Dolphin Pitch” event.

Approximately 50 students were in attendance. Panelists included a variety of entrepreneurs who have utilized CoWork Jax at one time or another to start or support their growing business ventures:

(Left to Right) Panelists Eleanor Vajzovic, Jeff Croy and Andrew Rush, listen to Rivas' addition to a discussion at the Entrepreneurship Panel.
(Left to Right) Panelists Eleanor Vajzovic, Jeff Croy and Andrew Rush listen to Rivas’ addition to a discussion at the Entrepreneurship Panel.

Jeff Croy, CEO of Yo-Fi Wellness, an online platform with videos and content for employee wellness programs. In 2013, Yo-Fi participated in the Healthbox Florida accelerator program.

Andrew Rush, a patent and technology lawyer specializing in emerging areas like Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses, 3D printing and space-related technologies. He founded two startups prior to becoming an attorney and particularly enjoys advising and assisting early-stage companies.

Eleanor Vajzovic, Operations Director at Ignite, the innovation lab of Adecco Group.

Rivas, a dynamic individual who identifies as a serial entrepreneur, triathlete, speaker and passionate human, has founded, co-founded and advised various ventures ranging from footwear to tech startups. He left corporate America in 2011 and launched a number of initiatives, including CoWork Jax. Since then, he’s led the charge to the expansion of One Spark globally.

Some resources in Jacksonville the panelists mentioned for aspiring entrepreneurs included Startup Jax Meetup, Startup Digest email, LEAN canvas, Wicked Smart and One Spark’s Creator Academy.

“Events like this and One Spark offer students a real-world perspective that complements the theory that is offered in a classroom, creating a holistic learning experience,” said Martin Luytjes, Resource Professor of Entrepreneurism at JU. “It was great to see how engaged JU students were, with many of them developing personal networks with the panelists.”

In 2013, the Entrepreneurship Certificate for undergraduate students was revived, along with the Davis Entrepreneurs Organization (DEO) under the leadership of Luytjes. This certificate and DEO is open to all undergraduate JU students, regardless of major, to serve as complement to their degree. Students take three additional courses in entrepreneurism to earn this certificate. The DEO will be sponsoring a “Dolphin Pitch” event in March, similar to the one from last year, which was an overwhelming success.