The United Nations celebrates the 30th anniversary of this monthth Anniversary of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
Although the UN’s goal has not yet been met, Rowan University researchers in the Rohrer College of Business’s School of Innovation and Entrepreneurship believe that poverty eradication is fully achievable and that entrepreneurship can help.
dr Susana Santos, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Associate Director of the Rowan Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, was inspired by experiences in her native Portugal to explore the link between starting a business and breaking an often intergenerational cycle of poverty.
“Although I was fortunate to be born into a middle-class family, many of my classmates came from very poor areas,” Santos said.
In 2022, Santos published two key papers linking entrepreneurship and breaking the shackles of poverty: The Technologization of Entrepreneurial Processes: A Poverty Perspective and Entrepreneurship as a path into and out of poverty: a configuration perspective.
The key to fighting poverty is the working poor’s limited access to basic resources like health care, education and well-paying jobs, but Santos’ research shows that entrepreneurship can be a way out for some.
“Some of the research that we’ve developed is about how we can expand the horizon of opportunity,” said Santos. “Entrepreneurs take a job and over time they can hire an uncle, a son, a daughter and others around them.”
From theory to practice
Santos, who published on “Gender, Poverty and Entrepreneurship” in 2021, said the aim of her research is to put it into practice. Working with colleagues at RCB, she and others launched a program this fall called Accelerate South Jersey: Focus Camden.
Developed for residents of one of America’s poorest cities, the program is led by Dr. Michael Dominik, a senior lecturer in entrepreneurship. In the first year, 14 aspiring businesswomen take part in a range of new ventures including fashion, gastronomy and community farming.
Dominik, a grandson of immigrants who has settled and started businesses in Camden, said the first batch of Accelerate South Jersey participants will be attending an “educational boot camp” over six Saturdays this fall, where they will explore issues such as Address target marketing, business expenses, revenue forecasting and more Secure funding.
Dominik, who was born in Camden and spent part of his life there, said one of his grandfathers was a tailor in town and his father opened and ran Atlantic Cleaners on West Mount Ephraim Avenue.
“I’m passionate about this city and I believe that entrepreneurship can work here because it allows a person to control their destiny,” he said.
Creatina Phillips, one of Accelerate South Jersey’s early participants, said lessons learned from the program are helping her launch a plus-size women’s fashion business in Camden.
“The whole idea behind this is to bring peace, body positivity and acceptance to the outsized community,” said Phillips, who grew up in the city and is trying to open a shop in Camden.
Until then, Phillips said, she will focus on e-commerce (https://www.jeamani.com/) and special event sales, including Rowan’s homecoming celebration on Oct. 22.
“I grew up in Camden and my feeling is why not bring back something that needed to be in our cities?” she said.
dr Eric Liguori, founding director of Rowan’s School of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said a key focus of SIE is connecting researchers, practitioners, policymakers and students.
“The combination of applied research and community-based programming is powerful, and I’m pleased to see that impact being amplified by our student body as they begin to engage with these startups,” he said.
Over the next semester, students from Rohrer College of Business and Ric Edelman College of Communications and Creative Arts will work together to further support Accelerate South Jersey’s startups in areas such as business planning, marketing, photography, graphic design, copywriting and editing.