Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium 2016Celebrating Record Attendance


The Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative (UEI) announced the successful completion of its third annual Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium, which was held in Flint from October 19 to 21.


The UEI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation offering programming and resources that encourage, facilitate and enable the development of for-profit businesses that explicitly and intentionally address the needs of urban communities

Steve Wolbert, Julia Kehoe, and Dr. Bobby Mukkamala.

Steve Wolbert, Julia Kehoe, and Dr. Bobby Mukkamala.

In the past, the symposium has held sold-out events in Detroit in 2015 and Ann Arbor in 2014. The event brought 495 registrants together who are entrepreneurs and leaders in business, academia, community organizations, and government to facilitate business solutions that bring economic opportunity and improvements to Flint and other urban communities.


“We engaged the Flint community at all levels this year, and that proved to be a key contributor to the event’s success,” said Founder and President of UEI, W. David Turner. “We were pleased to provide a forum for conversation, ideas and strategy, and to help Flint reimagine and rewrite its story to one of renewed spirit and business and entrepreneurial opportunity.”  A Flint native, Tarver holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan and also lectures in the U-M Center for Entrepreneurship.


Leading sponsors of the UEI Symposium were Mott Community College, University of Michigan-Flint School of Management, University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Michigan Innovate Blue, SkyPoint Ventures, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Panelists Steve Wolbert, Phyllis Sykes, and Michael Finney.

Panelists Steve Wolbert, Phyllis Sykes, and Michael Finney.

As a prelude to the symposium, residents were encouraged to offer business ideas and suggestions for community improvement. To kick off the event, the Community Reception drew more than 100 residents, business entrepreneurs, and community leaders to network.


In addition, the Urban Infrastructure Challenge and the Urban Jobs Challenge provided young adults and college students with an opportunity to win money and guidance for business solutions. Following that, a panel of local, state, and national experts addressed strategies for creating an ecosystem that will support sustainable growth by growing startups and further developing existing businesses.


 W. David Tarver, Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative Founder & President.

W. David Tarver, Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative Founder & President.

Other compelling components of the event included an interview conducted by Tarver with Andrew R. Highsmith, author of Demolition Means Progress: Flint, Michigan, and the Fate of the American Metropolis; the Business Matrix reception at the Flint Farmers’ Market, drawing approximately 80 entrepreneurs and students; and a day-long series of workshops at the Mott Community College Regional Technology Center, the focus of which was on essential knowledge for urban entrepreneurs, including business creation methods, creative finance strategies, e-commerce opportunities and techniques, and personal and business branding.


Andrew R. Highsmith, author of “Demolition Means Progress,” who will be speaking at the symposium on October 20.

Urban entrepreneurship is business innovation that produces products, services, and jobs that improve the quality of life in urban communities,” Tarver said. “#UES2016 accomplished our primary goal of highlighting the importance of urban innovation in the context of a community that is at the ‘ground zero’ of today’s urban crisis. Now, an inspired group of attendees are ready to put the knowledge, inspiration, and connections they received into action. This will be exciting to watch!”




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