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Duquesne Lands Funds for New Accelerator for Hispanic, Disadvantaged Entrepreneurs

Duquesne University’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) was one of 50 winners nationwide for funding to target creating and building small business ventures.

The Small Business Administration announced Sept. 4 that Duquesne’s Neo Lab: Fast Track to Inclusiveness was one of the winning proposals selected from 800 for a $50,000 prize to fund recruitment, individualized consulting and networking allowing Hispanic and disadvantaged owners of startup and young businesses to begin and to grow.

“This terrific award is a testament to the hard work of the SBDC’s leadership and staff. Only 6 percent of applicants received accelerator grants,” said Dr. Dean McFarlin, dean of the business school. “Moreover, the SBDC’s accelerator concept is aligned with the values and mission of Duquesne in serving disadvantaged populations.”

The two-year program will build cooperative support among participants and work closely with the SBDC staff, including two experienced, Latin American-born consultants.

Southwestern Pennsylvania’s fastest-growing population is Hispanic immigrants, but the unemployment in diverse communities is the highest in the region. With this prize, the SBDC is poised to offer the intense training and support these entrepreneurs need, said Dr. Mary McKinney, SBDC director, as well as to provide space in SBDC facilities on Duquesne’s campus.

“Duquesne’s SBDC has been serving these populations for several years, helping to establish more than 30 new businesses and 20 existing businesses in the Hill District, historically a minority community,” McKinney said. “This accelerator will strengthen our ability to fundraise, leverage community support and offer the services these businesses need.”

The project plans to help launch at least 10 businesses, with half of them in technology fields such as software, online learning, mobile and Internet apps, robotics and 3-D printing, said Brent Rondon, manager of SBDC’s global business program. About one-third of these companies are expected to export goods and services.

Besides receiving support from the SBDC staff and building contacts within in the accelerator and the investment community, the new business owners also will tap the knowledge and energy of Duquesne students.

“It also brings with it opportunities for collaboration between the SBDC and our Entrepreneurial Studies program here in the Palumbo-Donahue School of Business,” McFarlin said.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.