Rohrer College of Business research and practice are aligned with the United Nations goal of eradicating poverty | Rowan today

This month the UN marks 30th anniversary of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Although the UN’s goal has yet to be met, researchers at Rowan University’s Rohrer College of Business School of Innovation and Entrepreneurship believe that eradicating poverty is entirely 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 to study the relationship between starting a business and breaking the often-generational cycle of poverty by experiences in her native Portugal.

“Although I was fortunate to be born into a middle-class family, many of my classmates were from very poor neighborhoods,” Santos said.

In 2022, Santos published two key papers that link entrepreneurship and breaking the bonds of poverty, The Technologization of Entrepreneurial Processes: A Poverty Perspective and Entrepreneurship as a Path to and Out of Poverty: A Configurational Perspective.

Key to the struggle to escape poverty is the working poor’s limited access to basic resources such as health care, education and well-paying jobs, but Santos’ research finds that entrepreneurship can be a way out for some.

“Part of the research we’ve developed is about how we can expand the horizon of possibilities,” Santos said. “Entrepreneurs create their own jobs, and in time they can employ uncle, son, daughter and others around them.”

From theory to practice

Santos, who is publishing on Gender, Poverty and Entrepreneurship in 2021, said the aim of her research is to put it into practice. Working with RCB colleagues, she and others this fall launched a program called Accelerate South Jersey: Focus Camden.

Created for residents of one of America’s poorest cities, the program is led by Dr. Michael Dominik, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship, and in its first year involved 14 aspiring businesswomen in a range of new ventures, including fashion, food service and public agriculture.

The grandson of immigrants who settled in Camden and started businesses, Dominic said the first group of Accelerate South Jersey participants are attending an “educational boot camp” for six Saturdays this fall, where they study topics such as target marketing, business expenses, revenue forecasting and securing funding.

Dominick, who was born in Camden and lived part of his life there, said one of his grandfathers was a tailor in town and his father opened and operated Atlantic Cleaners on West Mount Ephraim Avenue.

“I have a passion for this city and I believe that entrepreneurship can work here because it allows one to control one’s destiny,” he said.

Among the first class of Accelerate South Jersey participants, Creatina Phillips said lessons from the program are helping her start a plus-size women’s fashion business in Camden.

“The whole idea behind it is to bring peace, body positivity and acceptance to the plus-size community,” said Phillips, who grew up in the city and wants to open a Camden storefront.

Until then, Phillips said she has focused 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 give something back that should be in our cities?” she said.

Dr. Eric Liguori, founder of Rowan’s School of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said SIE’s primary focus is connecting researchers, practitioners, policymakers and students.

“The combination of applied research with community-based programming is powerful, and I’m excited to see that impact amplified by our student body as they begin to engage with these startups,” he said.

Next semester, students from the Rohrer College of Business and the Ric Edelman College of Communications and Creative Arts will partner to further support Accelerate South Jersey startups in areas such as business planning, marketing, photography, graphic design, copywriting and editing.

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