The University of Virginia’s College at Wise has been awarded a $15,000 planning grant for the student organization Innovators, Inc. to develop a space in the town of Wise where students and local entrepreneurs can work together on concepts and ideas that could lead to new businesses.

Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced nearly $202,600 in Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) grant awards for eight projects in the Commonwealth. The UVa-Wise project, called “The Nest,” is one of the eight.

The BEE grant program provides funding to local governments and nonprofit organizations for entrepreneurship programs aligned with local and regional economic development strategies, primarily in distressed communities and populations.

“Small business development is a vital component of the new Virginia economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “The Building Entrepreneurial Economies grant awards will support our homegrown assets and create new opportunities for economic diversification. By supporting small business programs in communities across the Commonwealth, we are building a strong entrepreneurial environment that will ensure that Virginia continues to be the best place for individuals to start and grow their companies.”

Shannon Blevins, associate vice chancellor of economic development and engagement at UVa-Wise, explained that the proposed plan for The Nest, brought forth by the Innovators INC, formerly CEO, entrepreneurship club, would develop a hub of creativity and ingenuity filled with entrepreneurial spirit. It is a space for student and community entrepreneurs created by student entrepreneurs. In The Nest, entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds can come together to work on their concepts and ideas, and fully develop them into a business. Once these individuals leave The Nest, they will be ready to move into the network of incubators in the region to fully function and operate their company.

Following the models of Hack C-Ville and the iLab in Charlottesville, Virginia, The Nest will be a co-working space for students and community members to interact with each other and develop business concepts and strategies. Since this space will be open to the public, unlike the models in Charlottesville, it will be a unique establishment located off campus, in the town of Wise. In The Nest, entrepreneurs from the community will be exposed to new, different ideas and perspectives, while students will gain access to the experience and expertise of the community members.

The main objectives of The Nest will be to:


  • Promote and encourage entrepreneurship within the University and community.
  • Provide students and community members with resources and contacts for starting a business, resulting in new businesses and additional job creation in the region.
  • Provide entrepreneurs with a space to work on projects, have discussions with their team, and serve as a place to meet with potential clients.
  • Provide workshops and lectures related to professional development, website building, marking your brand, design, and social media campaigning.
  • Provide students and community members with mentorship and a network of individuals who are like-minded and career driven, as well as the experience and skills needed to be successful in running a business.
  • Provide CEO with a permanent location in which they can host their weekly meetings and events.
  • Host student and community entrepreneurial competitions.
  • Create a cluster of activity in the Town of Wise, drawing students and entrepreneurs to the community.
  • Serve as a pilot project for coordinated incubation by creating a pipeline of Nest graduates to regional incubators.The Nest would be a gathering space for UVa-Wise students and would attract students to the College and give graduates, as well as local residents, an incentive to stay in the region and launch their business in Southwest Virginia.

Blevins cautioned that the planning grant is just the beginning of the process. The students will use the grant to develop a budget, search for a location in Wise, and do other tasks needed to establish the program.