Students Thriving Under Guidance of New Entrepreneur Lab

Natifa Powell

As Elizabeth City State University Chancellor Thomas Conway, and Department of Business and Economics Chair Dr. Joy Smith were preparing to cut the ribbon celebrating the official opening of the Entrepreneur Lab in Williams Hall, senior business major Natifa Powell was already hard at work, using the tools in the lab to further develop her business plan.

The reception and ribbon cutting for the lab happened on Feb. 4. The Chancellor, Dr. Smith, staff, faculty, students and community members celebrated the opening of a facility that is designed to encourage and teach entrepreneurship to students such as Powell. And while Powell, 23, says she is using the lab facilities to its full measure, as a student she’s been developing her business plan for some time.

“I always had a dream of owning a chain of hair salons,” said Powell, an Elizabeth City native.

But that dream isn’t simply limited to hair salons. Since she’s attended ECSU, Powell’s idea has evolved to include a line of what she describes as ethnic clothing, some of which she designs using specialized fabric from African nations such as Ghana.

Working with the resources and skills available to her, and with the guidance of her professors, Powell says she is growing confident in her ability to pursue her dream. It’s clear that the ECSU entrepreneur lab was designed for students like Powell.

“ECSU is helping me develop my skills,” she said. “Now in my senior year, I’m finding ways to work my strategies.”

And that is, says Dr. Smith, precisely the function of the entrepreneur lab.

“This gives them the focus and the mentorship to create their own business plan,” said Dr. Smith.

The lab consists of computer terminals with programs designed to enhance business planning skills, and workstations designed to enhance creativity. During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Powell could be seen working in the creativity station.

And there is guidance from faculty. Dr. Confidence Amadi, a professor of business administration, is overseeing the lab activities. Students such as Powell can seek his guidance as they develop their business strategies.

“She’s one of my gems,” says Dr. Amadi of Powell.

Powell’s journey toward entrepreneurship actually began with her parents, who met as students at ECSU. Her mother, Adria Gibbs, actually began a business called The Lion’s Den: The House of Cultural Vibes a number of years ago, and that will be the name of Powell’s venture. With family living in Ghana, and a father who is a native of Jamaica, Powell has the resources to create a multi-cultural business that will provide not only fashion and hair, but inspiration to a community she is certain will embrace the business, Elizabeth City.

The experience Powell is gaining as a student, she says, is preparing her for all of the intricacies of running a business. From budgeting and marketing, to leadership skills, Powell says the ECSU Business and Economics department and her studies relating to entrepreneurship, are setting her off on a path that she hopes will begin to see a great deal of progress after she graduates this May.

“By the time I graduate in May, I’ll have a business plan,” says Powell.

And that plan will be developed, in large part, due to the creation of the entrepreneur lab, and the guidance of professors such as Dr. Smith and Dr. Amadi.

“I’m getting what I need to be an entrepreneur,” Powell said.