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Described as a “serial entrepreneur,” Pat Hull is a globally known entrepreneur and philanthropist. He started his first business while in college and later founded, the first online freight-matching service for long-haul truckers. Today he controls financial interests in over 30 different companies. 

Yet Hull’s real passion lies in the foundation he established in 2009 “to invest in companies and people who embody creativity, innovation and passion.” This year, the Hull Foundation established its first-ever endowed scholarship at the . Awarded to a student demonstrating keen interest in entrepreneurism, the scholarship underscores Hull’s focus on education. “I am a firm believer in continuing education,” he says. “It’s a lifelong process, and it’s especially important for entrepreneurs. Today it’s a matter of how quick can you learn it, and how quick can you implement it in your industry.”


A 2012 graduate of Appalachian State, Emily Brown worked in Washington D.C. at Playworks, New Futures and Capital Fundraising Group. In the summer of 2017, she moved to Richmond for a new job with the Virginia Housing Alliance. However, it was Brown’s first entrepreneurial foray that sparked her interest in the Brandcenter. 

That first effort at founding her own business took the form of Whistling & Company (“dedicated to seeking hope in the midst of darkness, inspired by the notion that ‘even in the dark, we can whistle’”). Brown created a blog and Etsy shop as an outlet for both her grief and creativity when her mother passed away. She repurposed expired bullet casings and crafted whistle necklaces that served as reminders of hope after a tragedy. But it wasn’t long until she realized the importance of branding and communication in a new business. “I was Googling how to do everything,” she says. “I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if I actually knew how to do some of these things myself?’”


Hull and Brown first met each other in October, after the scholarship had been awarded. “I am so pleased they chose Emily,” Hull says. “She is exactly what I envisioned when I planned the scholarship – very bright, very warm.”

“I was more excited than nervous,” smiles Brown, remembering that day. “I read up on him before. I am so impressed at the breadth of his knowledge. And when he shared a little of his history, I identified so quickly with him saying you need to assess what you have, see what you need, then bridge the gap between the two.”

In addition to skill building and strategic thinking, Brown sees the Brandcenter as key to learning how to leverage talent and opportunities. “Pat hinted at this and it stuck with me,” she muses. “If you remove yourself and your business does not function, your business is not sound. Your job as an entrepreneur is not complete. You need to put in the infrastructure, so your business does not rely solely on you. I want to learn how to do that.”

“One of the things that resonated with me,” Hull explains, “is that Emily fell into her business sort of by accident. I did the same thing. It happened very fast. Her story reminded me of me, and I’ve stayed in this my whole life. She has every intention of doing it too.”

The Brandcenter is an intensive, two-year program, and Brown is determined to succeed. Today there is a rapidly growing trend among alumni to start their own business. She certainly has a head start. She may even have a mentor. “I’d be open to that,” Hull says. “We could get together periodically and talk about business questions. It’s all about creating the right team.”

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