Finding Charlottesville: Introduction to UVa's iLab

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (NEWSPLEX)-- Carolyn Schuyler's plans to build Wildrock, a 28-acre natural playscape in crozet, was the crowd favorite at the Crowdfunded Pitch Night during this year's Tom Tom Founders Festival.

Schuyler said the whole night was a great opportunity to network and gain support.

"One of the things I'm really excited about is I've met some people who are really interested in the fact that we're gonna make this park accessible to children in wheelchairs and I'm starting to get to know people that really want to be part of making sure that we really make this accessible and reach a broad range of people," said the New York state native.

Schuyler admitted that she does not come from a business background, which is exactly why she decided to enter UVa's Darden iLab incubator.

"It's going to be really helpful to get that support to make sure that I'm giving Wildrock the foundation it needs to be here for generations to come," she said.

iLab is a year-long program with an intense course that runs for 10 weeks through the summer.

"We require that you be here full time and that this be your only job. So people have to really sort of put whatever else they're doing on hold," Director Philippe Sommer said.

Sommer called entrepreneurship a contact sport.

"Having people in a common space means that conversations are overheard and people say, 'Oh! I heard you talking about this problem. Well, gee, I know somebody who can help you with that,'" he said.

Aside from offering that contact and sense of community, Sommer said the iLab must also drive home a very important point to his entrepreneurs.

He said, "It turns out that a business is a business and it really doesn't matter in some ways if you have a patent or if you don't have a patent. The main problem, and it's what we've started to talk with Carolyn about, is really understanding what's the problem you're solving and who's your customer?"

A challenge Schuyler said she is ready to take on come the beginning of June.

"I've been working on this primarily with my family and I think it's really time to get the input and the energy of other people and the idea of being with other ENTREPRENEURS for the summer is very exciting to me and it's going to give me a chance to really get out into the community and talk to people and find out what people really want out of Wildrock," said Schuyler.

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