In West Baltimore, where entrepreneurial spirit meets the challenges of underserved communities, a unique collaboration is turning dreams into reality. The West Baltimore Entrepreneurial Sustainability Project (WBESP) has teamed up with the Maryland Small Business Development Center (MSBDC) and Coppin State University to provide local visionaries with the knowledge and resources needed to launch and sustain successful businesses. But what sets this project apart is the collaboration between the MSBDC, Coppin State, and the aspiring law students from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law who bring legal expertise and a passion for helping others to the table. Together, they are igniting a transformative wave to successfully launch or maintain business plans to better foster economic growth in their communities.
Members of the WBESP cohort, who all hail from the Baltimore community of the same name, go through a months-long program to learn skills and information vital to starting and running a small business. Celine Esmeir ’23, Eniola Ajose-Adeogun’24, Don Kim ’24, and Keegan Farley ’24 of the Business Section of the Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Clinic (IPEC) presented "How to Form a Business" to program attendees for the third consecutive semester under the purview of Professor Katherine Taylor.
Entrepreneurs in underserved communities often lack access to legal counsel and are frequently unaware of the incredible importance of the documents and planning that underlies business formations. Students offered the audience of prospective business owners the various options that exist for business formation along with their benefits and how each is best suited to meet business needs.
Student presenter Eniola Ajose-Adeogun felt it was a great experience, “It felt so rewarding to encourage the community by simplifying the business formation process. We discussed the various options and risks to consider when choosing a business entity.”
By sharing their legal expertise, IPEC students were able to assist these burgeoning entrepreneurs in understanding and protecting their personal assets, business relationships, and intellectual property. Their presentations supplied the audience with the tools they need to safeguard their ideas and creations with the goal of stimulating economic growth and fostering a culture of innovation within West Baltimore. Some of the Project members were even able to procure the formal services of the IPEC which provides legal services for clients looking to protect their intellectual property rights.
While law students provide guidance on business formations and intellectual property matters, they also gain firsthand experience in business start-ups and entrepreneurship, enriching their education and professional development. IPEC student Don Kim noted, “Overall, the clinic gave me an opportunity to take ownership of my work and get practical learning experiences not in a traditional classroom setting. Given this responsibility, I felt that I had to truly master all the materials learned in the clinic. More importantly, I worked on learning how to digest all the material, so that I can effectively communicate that material to the public. Clinic also helped me learn client relationship skills that are not taught in law school classes.”
As Professor Katherine Taylor explains, "the IPEC clinic is usually the first time the law students have direct interactions with clients, and the WBESP program is usually the first time WBESP cohort members deal with business attorneys. The students love the chance to present what they have learned and then see that advice become the basis for clients to launch their businesses. The experience for both students and program participants is both enlightening and professionally rewarding."