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Shift Retail Lab Exterior

By Fast Company

After years of educating budding entrepreneurs, Garret Westlake was struck by the fact that there was no way for his students to practice the skills that they acquired in the classroom. “We would never think about teaching chemistry without a chemistry lab,” says Westlake, executive director of the da Vinci Center for Innovation at Virginia Commonwealth University. “So why would it be okay to teach entrepreneurship without a lab?” 

The Shift Retail Lab—winner of the Learning category in Fast Company’s 2023 Innovation By Design Awards—is a real-world space for students to peddle their wares and collect feedback from would-be customers and is Westlake’s answer to that. Since its launch in late 2021, VCU students have used the space to sell everything from vegan jerky to sneakers.

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