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Students bring enhanced visibility to Renaissance East Corridor

Ribbon cutting for new signage
Community leader Hazel Mack applauds after cutting the ribbon on new signage at her Renaissance East Corridor business, Other Suns Events Center.

A historic business area near Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) is seeing a rebirth thanks to the work of WSSU business students.

One by one, owners of seven small businesses in the Renaissance East Corridor – joined by WSSU Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson, students and faculty – cut ribbons on new signage, during a celebration on Tuesday, April 9.

Since January, the students – enrolled in Entrepreneurial Marketing (MTK 3305) – have partnered with a cluster of small business owners at Laura Wall Boulevard and 5th Street to develop a marketing plan that includes new signage. They called their project “Stake Your Claim.”

Ja’nia Davis, a junior mass communications major and marketing minor from Raeford, said the course gave her the opportunity to make an impact in the community and also learn from local entrepreneurs.

“This is like a birth of something new and will create more commerce in the community that will hopefully generate wealth for the residents here,” she said. “This class also has given me hands-on training in what it will take to be strategic one day in corporate America and in the community.”

High-impact Learning

In preparation for the class project, Dr. Notis Pagiavlas, a marketing professor who is also the founding director of the WSSU Center For Entrepreneurship (CFE), attended meetings with the business owners to gain insights. They agreed on a three-phase strategy:

  • Create a community organization of neighbors collaborating to strengthen their businesses.
  • Collaborate with the S.G. Atkins Community Development Corp. and CFE to install and design matching outdoor signage and marketing material.
  • Prepare marketing plans that includes improved property appearance.

“One of our institutional strategic goals at WSSU is to provide high-impact educational opportunities to our students, and another is to engage with the community,” Pagiavlas said. “I could not think of a project that accomplishes these goals with more meaningful impact.”

Based on the needs provided by each partner business, students chose a business and worked in teams to create a marketing plan that included matching signage for each business, and to develop a website to support an extensive social media presence.

The S.G. Atkins Community Development Corp., which partnered with the City of Winston-Salem to develop the East End Master Plan, also supported the project. The name East Renaissance Corridor came out of the master plan development.

“We want to help increase the visibility of businesses in this historically significant corridor, and we’re excited that these entrepreneurs are working with WSSU students to form their own marketing collaborative and generate ideas to promote the area,” said Carol Davis, executive director of the Atkins CDC.

Jump-starting Black Businesses

Hazel Mack ’77 – owner of Other Suns Events Center, one of the businesses that participated in Stake Your Claim – said the students did a lot of the legwork.

“It’s our prayer that we will help to jump-start Black businesses in this area,” Mack said. “Historically, we had businesses, but many of them left the area. If we’re going to craft the future, we have to own. We have to buy here and buy businesses here.”

James Taylor Jr., the publisher of The Winston-Salem Chronicle, cut the ribbon on new signage for his business.

“There could not be a more appropriate name for the work we are doing,” said Taylor, who also represents Winston-Salem’s Southeast Ward on the City Council,. “This is the Renaissance East Corridor. I think that is exactly what we’re experiencing here – a rebirth.”

The other business owners are:

  • Dr. Jonathan Weston, an obstetrician/gynecologist.
  • Jeremy Johnson, 4th Street Taxes.
  • Cheryl Harry, Triad Cultural Arts.
  • Kenya Thornton, Eliza’s Helping Hands.
  • Helen Moore, Bail Out Bail Bonds.

The signage was custom-built by Leon’s Custom Signs & Designs.

 About Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem State University fosters the creative thinking, analytical problem-solving, and depth of character needed to transform the world. Rooted in liberal education, WSSU’s curriculum prepares students to be thought leaders who have the skills and knowledge needed to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Founded in 1892, WSSU is a historically Black constituent institution of the University of North Carolina with a rich tradition of contributing to the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic growth of North Carolina, the region and beyond. Guided by the motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” WSSU develops leaders who advance social justice by serving the world with compassion and commitment.   

Student stands in front of new signage for

WSSU student Ja’nia Davis says the marketing course gave her the opportunity to impact the local community and also learn from entrepreneurs.

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