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IEDC Honors Santa Clara University’s MOBI and the Bluefield WV Economic Development Authority with 2023 Bronze Award

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On Tuesday, September 19, Santa Clara University's My Own Business Institute (MOBI) in the Leavey School of Business and the Bluefield West Virginia Economic Development Authority (BEDA) were presented with the 2023 Bronze Award in the category of Partnerships with Educational Institutions by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) . The award was received by MOBI’s Trish Kalbas-Schmidt and BEDA Executive Director Jim Spencer at the annual IEDC conference in Dallas, TX.

Each year the IEDC, the largest nonprofit professional association for economic development professionals in the world, selects organizations and programs in different categories that exemplify excellence in economic development. These awards are distributed by population groups within each category. MOBI and BEDA were selected to receive the 2023 Bronze Award in the category of Partnerships with Educational Institutions for the MyBluefield Entrepreneur’s Bootcamp within the Population less than 25,000 group.

“In 2015 the Bluefield WV Economic Development Authority set out to strengthen the economic opportunities in our community and region by focusing on three strategic priorities: to support existing businesses, to cultivate entrepreneurship and innovation, and to attract new industry,” said Jim Spencer, BEDA Executive Director. “When COVID-19 emerged, we were challenged to continue the momentum we had begun toward our strategic priorities. Our partnership with MOBI allowed us to go further. We were able to make the MyBluefield Entrepeneur’s Bootcamp a reality, bringing free online entrepreneurship education to our community and building a strong program even during the pandemic.”

The city of Bluefield has been negatively impacted for decades due to the economic downturn in coal and related industries. BEDA was formed in 2015 to create a new Bluefield by supporting existing businesses, cultivating entrepreneurship and innovation, and attracting new industries. In 2020 amid the pandemic, BEDA was forced to scale back on workshops typically held in person and sought an online platform to maintain their program momentum. They discovered MOBI and created a partnership that allowed them to establish a free, online, and self-paced entrepreneurship education program. The MyBluefield Entrepreneur’s Bootcamp offers curriculum from MOBI’s Starting a Business and Business Expansion courses. The program is managed by BEDA and MOBI staff, provided on MOBI’s proven online platform, and includes complementary offerings from BEDA like office hours and webinars.

The results show the impact of the MOBI and BEDA partnership. Since 2020, 270+ individuals have enrolled and taken classes, and 56 have graduated. Bluefield welcomed 47 businesses during the pandemic and has provided many business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs with key insight and education to begin or further their business journeys. Each year MOBI and BEDA are helping 100 individuals, creating over 12 new businesses, and assisting approximately 20 existing businesses, making an impact and exceeding annual goals, together.

“By bringing free entrepreneurship education to its community through the MyBluefield Entrepreneur’s Bootcamp featuring MOBI’s curriculum and platform, BEDA has empowered its participants to pursue and embrace new opportunities for both existing and new businesses,” said Drew Starbird, Ph.D., MOBI Executive Director. “We are incredibly proud to be a part of BEDA’s efforts to build Bluefield’s economy, and we are honored by our inspiring partnership.”

BEDA is further building upon its momentum with a food truck incubator program. In 2022 BEDA applied for and received a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for $400,000 in funds to create the program and purchase two food trucks. Incubator participants can use a food truck for ten events to hone their skills and finalize their business plan with actual financial data. Graduation from the MyBluefield Entrepreneur’s Bootcamp is required as part of the food truck program. The education component is open to anyone, and the use of the food trucks is available to ten counties in southern West Virginia. Without MOBI, the program would not have been feasible due to costs and other barriers. Since MOBI’s support of the MyBluefield Entrepreneur’s Bootcamp is free, the training is provided to participants for free as well. To learn more about the BEDA Food Truck Incubator Program and grant award, visit the press release

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph also covered BEDA's IEDC Bronze Award recognition. Visit this link to read the full story.

The International Economic Development Council is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization serving economic developers. With more than 4,500 members, IEDC is the largest national and global organization of its kind. Visit for more information.

The Partnerships with Educational Institutions award recognizes excellence in economic development through meaningful linkages with postsecondary education. This includes, but is not limited to, collaborations in areas of real estate development, community-related research or technical assistance, economic strategy, workforce development, technology transfer, talent attraction and retention, entrepreneurship, and/or other relevant efforts. Winning projects focus on the nature and character of the partnership as well as the programmatic outcomes.

About the My Own Business Institute

The My Own Business Institute at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business is the world’s leading provider of free online entrepreneurship education. MOBI students and alumni represent all 249 countries and territories recognized by the International Standardization Organization (ISO). MOBI partners with over 80 organizations and institutions around the world to bring free online entrepreneurship education to those who need and want it most. The MOBI curriculum and website are based on the work of Phil Holland, a successful entrepreneur and author of The Entrepreneur’s Guide. MOBI was generously gifted to Santa Clara University in 2014 by Phil and his wife Peggy, an accomplished school teacher and administrator, along with an endowment, valued at $22 million at the time of transfer, to ensure that the organization and its accompanying websites would flourish into the future and continue to support the vital social and economic contributions of small businesses worldwide.

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