Global Shapers Norfolk inspires millennials to create new jobs in sustainability

Global Shapers Norfolk is hosting an event to inspire millennials to create jobs in Virginia’s growing sustainability industry.

“Green with a Purpose” will feature local millennials who have already launched innovative sustainable companies, along with experts in sustainability. Global Shapers Norfolk is proud to host the event this Thursday January 26 at 7 p.m. at the new ODU Innovation Center in downtown Norfolk.

“With Norfolk ranking second only to New Orleans for the threat of sea level rise, we see an opportunity for innovation. The mission of Global Shapers Norfolk is to activate millennials in the 757 to drive creative change. We believe investing in sustainability can help keep millennials in Hampton Roads, as studies show nearly 75 percent of millennials value working for businesses that have a positive impact on society, according to the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016,” Shaper Nisha Witt said.

Witt, a veteran and millennial, took the lead to organize “Green With a Purpose.” She has been recognized nationally for creating Aesop Technologies, which develops renewable methods to recharge cell phones. After winning $50,000 in business competitions to launch her company in Norfolk, the city has ordered Aesop’s newest product: benches outfitted with solar panels that can charge your cell phone.

Local millennial and ODU graduate Hamilton Perkins is also a featured speaker at Thursday’s “Green with a Purpose” event. Perkins will share his story about creating a company that turns trash into fashion. After learning that billions of plastic bottles are thrown away each year and it takes up to 1,000 years for plastic to degrade, Perkins wanted to make a difference. His Norfolk-based company recycles plastic bottles to make affordable, designer bags that look good, perform well, and reduce pollution.

In addition to Witt and Perkins, Jeff Staples of the Sierra Club Chesapeake Bay Group will speak about Virginia’s vast resources of clean, renewable energy and opportunities to expand solar and wind use.

“Green with a Purpose” is a free event that is open to the public. Global Shapers Norfolk chose to host the forum at the Old Dominion University Innovation Center to showcase the newest hotspot to launch and incubate startups in downtown Norfolk.

“We are impressed by the partnership between ODU and the City of Norfolk to promote innovation and diversify our economy by investing in start-ups of all shapes and sizes. ODU provides excellent resources to help individuals in our community launch startups - just like us,” Global Shapers Norfolk Curator Claire Wulf Winiarek said.

As a social start-up itself, Global Shapers Norfolk recently received a grant to help grow its hub from ODU’s Center for Enterprise Innovation (CEI). “We want to ensure that local millennials are aware of these sorts of opportunities to create new ventures. The challenge our region faces with sea-level rise is an opportunity for community engagement and entrepreneurial innovation, and we believe millennials can help lead the way,” Winiarek stressed.

Global Shapers Norfolk is a hub of the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers Community developed and led by distinguished, diverse young men and women under 30, driven by a shared responsibility to make a difference in their community. We are apolitical, not-for-profit, and committed to creating a better world by activating millennials in Hampton Roads.

The Hub will be organizing its 2017 community impact projects to align with the four primary themes that emerged from the 2016 #WeAre757Millennials report: sustainability, regionalism, economic development and growth, and arts and culture.



Hub-ernation for the Holidays and a Shaper Spotlight

As we enter the busiest and merriest time of year, our Norfolk Global Shapers Hub is taking a short hiatus. A hibernation. A HUB-ernation, if you will. We aspire to great things as a Global Shapers and we believe that we are doing important work in Hampton Roads; however, people are the building blocks of our regional community and this is the time of year that should be spent in celebration and relaxation with the family and friends that support us and our efforts. Do not despair - we will return in full force on January 9, 2017!

With our final post before a temporary social media silence, we want to leave you with a recap of our last week and some final thoughts and questions to carry you into the new year.


Last week, our very own Aazia Mickens-Dessaso, the founder of Pitchblack, an initiative to build technology solutions for organizations that serve diverse communities, was a panelist for "Millennial Muscle: Making Their Mark on Business in Hampton Roads," a breakfast panel assembled as a part of the Cox Business Executive Discussion Series.

Aaz joined three other millennials in business: Hamilton Perkins, the founder and president of Hamilton Perkins Collection, a certified B Corporation that offers designer travel bags at an affordable price, Chelsea Mandello, the founder and CEO of Troopster, a website that provides care packages to military members on deployment, and Brad Hunter, a vice president in commercial lending at TowneBank.

The panelists superbly articulated the collective millennial voice. Here are a few of our favorite quotes:

"We aren't going to be a New York or an Atlanta, but we can leverage the strong industrial products available in Hampton Roads to build a strong and vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem that is particular to our region." 
- Aazia Mickens-Dessaso
"It is not uncommon to live in one city, work in another, and go to church or visit friends in yet another. Regional transportation supports this, as well as business productivity. I support public transportation and believe it attracts millennials." 
- Brad Garrett
"We are such a naturally information now generation. I don't have my phone on me at work - I'm not allowed - and I think that actually decreases my productivity. With my phone, I can find the answer to my question, plus ten others, in a second. Then I can move on with my day."
- Chelsea Mandello
"At the end of the day, networking is never going to go away. I might know someone in my network that I can introduce to someone else and they might know someone that I should meet. I don't think social media has replaced traditional networking, it has just changed how networking takes place." 
- Hamilton Perkins

As millennials have become "the largest share of the American workforce," we can guarantee that formal and informal conversations about how to attract, engage, and retain millennials in Hampton Roads will increasingly take place, because the future of the regional economy depends on it. Less than two weeks ago, Larry Filer, an economist at Old Dominion University, touched on this topic at the Virginia Economic Summit. He stated that we need to "get away from the idea that a Wegmans and a craft brewery” will bring millennials to Virginia. Last week, the 'Millennial Muscle' panelists had an opportunity to address these comments within the overarching discussion of millennials and economic development in Hampton Roads. These quotes probably summarize the conversation best:

"There is a 'there-there' - an energy and excitement - in so many successful communities that encourages entrepreneurship and millennial retention. There are things to grow a community around."
- Aazia Mickens-Dessaso
"Guess what - if Amazon popped up in Hampton Roads, you're not going to have to worry about whether there is a craft brewery. It's naturally going to be there."
- Brad Garrett

So, what do you think? Do communities attract millennials with amenities, so that millennials will bring jobs, or do they attract millennials with jobs, so that millennials will bring amenities? What do you think that Hampton Roads should be doing to stay ahead of the curve?

ODU Center for Enterprise Innovation Recognizes Two Hampton Roads Organizations with Grants

NORFOLK, Va. — Old Dominion University is taking more steps to drive innovation, economic development and millennial retention for the region by awarding two grants.

A $3,000 grant was awarded to the Hampton Roads Innovation Collaborative (HRIC) to help advance HRIC’s mission of expanding innovation, business success and regional economic competitiveness.

A $1,000 grant was awarded to Global Shapers Norfolk to help the millennial leadership group fund innovative projects to catalyze creative change in our region. 

Marty Kaszubowski, executive director of Old Dominion's Center for Enterprise Innovation (CEI) stated: “Old Dominion University is dedicated to creating a culture of innovation to diversify our economy and fuel economic growth in Hampton Roads. HRIC’s new leadership, new ideas and actionable programs are all intended to optimize area business success and job creation.  Additionally, attracting and retaining millennials to combat brain drain in our region is a challenge. We believe that Global Shapers Norfolk is a millennial organization focused on taking action through leading projects and we are proud to support their efforts.”

Dan Bell, president of HRIC stated; “We are very happy to collaborate with ODU and for their assistance in supporting our collective efforts.  We have worked together on cyber security, are launching a Women’s Forum of Coastal Virginia with ODU’s Women’s Business Center.  We are also working on a new co-branded series of technology forecasting to commercialization programs intended to start in early 2017.

In addition to ODU, the Hampton Roads Innovation Collaborative has also invested in Global Shapers Norfolk by serving as a program host for the organization. Speaking on the relationship, Dan Bell said: “We promote innovation of all forms, including social entrepreneurialism, within our region while building regional economic strength. We welcome and are honored to provide program hosting support for Global Shapers Norfolk. This group of millennial leaders is a tremendous addition to our regional fabric.”

“We are proud to have the support of Old Dominion University’s Center for Enterprise Innovation and the Hampton Roads Innovative Collaborative to help us continue to drive new projects to engage millennials. We believe in the tremendous potential of our region as a whole and that it is essential for millennial leaders to step up to help shape our future,” said Global Shapers Norfolk Curator Claire Winiarek.

The Hampton Roads Innovation Collaborative is the former Technology Council, formed in the late 1990s as a 510c6 established to support technology advancement in the region.  HRIC has historically been an early developer of business incubation programs, annual Tech Night awards to honor best in class technology business in the region and Critical Mass, a periodic gathering of tech companies to share ideas and network.  Learn more about HRIC HERE.

Global Shapers Norfolk, which was established in 2015 by millennials ages 20 to 29, is dedicated to leading projects to drive creative change in Hampton Roads. The Hub’s first project, the #WeAre757Millennials social media campaign, led to a report detailing the diverse perspectives of millennials and ways to attract and retain them in our region. The Global Shapers Community is a network of Hubs supported by the World Economic Forum (WEF); there are now Global Shapers Hubs in over 400 cities around the world, and the Norfolk hub is the first in Virginia.  Learn more about Global Shapers Norfolk HERE.

Recognizing the HRIC and Global Shapers Norfolk is one of many initiatives ODU is leading to promote entrepreneurialism. The University’s Center for Enterprise Innovation offers resources to help local businesses grow, and the new ODU Innovation Center — Norfolk acts as an incubator to expand the downtown startup community. On campus, the Strome Entrepreneurial Center guides students as they launch businesses and the Entsminger Fellows program educates faculty members about entrepreneurship. Learn more about The Center for Enterprise Innovation HERE.

Old Dominion University, located in Norfolk, Va., is Virginia's entrepreneurial-minded doctoral research university with 25,000 students, rigorous academics, an energetic residential community, and initiatives that contribute $2.1 billion annually to Virginia's economy. Old Dominion is a hub of innovative teaching and research. Under President John R. Broderick's leadership, the University has emerged as an international leader in sea level rise and flooding resiliency, bio electrics, and modeling and simulation-tying into Coastal Virginia's regional strengths and promoting job creation and retention.

Honorary Shaper of the Week: Sam Pressler

Tomorrow, we co-host an event with the Town Point Club to benefit a worthy organization: Armed Service Arts Partnership, a nonprofit that encourages art expression to engage veterans in the community.

Sam Pressler founded ASAP while he was still an undergrad and it is prospering today!

Sam has qualities that we value at Global Shapers Norfolk: Focus, Determination, Passion and Compassion. He strives to make a difference and, for that, we recognize him as an Honorary Shaper this week! Keep reading to learn more about Sam and ASAP.

Name: Sam Pressler

Age: 24

Hometown: Wayne, NJ

Alma Mater: College of William & Mary, '15

GS: What is the number one inspiration that drove you to begin ASAP and work to keep it growing?

SP: There is a quote from legendary comedian, Bob Hope that goes, "I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful."

When I was in high school, we lost a close family member to suicide. My family and I used comedy, laughter, and humor to cope, overcome, and even grow following the trauma. Through my research in college, I learned about some of the challenges that veterans and their families face upon leaving the military. I understood first-hand what comedy could do - not only for mental health, but also for building connections and community - and decided to start the first stand-up comedy class for veterans and their families. 

GS: What is your biggest win to date? What are you most proud of?

SP: In October, eight of ASAP's Comedy Bootcamp alumni delivered the first ever Veterans Comedy Show at The White House. Part of our mission is to empower our veterans and their families with a platform for their stories to be heard. On that day, they were given one of the world's biggest platforms. Check out the highlights here!

GS: What is your vision for ASAP's future?

SP: To ensure that every veteran and military family member across the United States can come home, find a voice, and thrive through the arts. If you want to learn more about ASAP and their mission, click here!

GS: Bonus Question! You have a rare day off, you want to relax, so you pull out the best movie of all time - what is it?

SP: Anchorman, of course.