students in the lounge area of the Apex Center
At the new Apex Center space, Tahjere Lewis, who is majoring in building construction, talks with students in the Startup Hokies program about his business venture, Aunt Carol’s Sauce.

TAKE THE ELEVATOR TO THE SECOND floor of 432 North Main Street in downtown Blacksburg, above PK’s Bar and Grill.

The doors open to reveal a trendy lounge area, with whiteboard walls, tables and chairs, multicolored couches, and plush swivel seating. Other amenities include a small kitchen and cafe area, featuring high-top tables and booths. Toward the back of the room, there’s a large open space for meetings, seminars, and special events.

This inviting space serves as the new home for student entrepreneurs who are part of the Startup Hokies community within the Apex Center for Entrepreneurs and Pamplin College of Business. Here, students interested in entrepreneurship can learn how to start a business and educate themselves about the full portfolio of programs that Apex offers.

The Apex Center provides interdisciplinary programs and support to approximately 3,500 Virginia Tech students annually and at least 40 startup teams each semester. The new 6,000-square-foot space gives Apex the place to do this on a much larger scale than its original 500-square-foot office in Pamplin Hall.

Previously, Apex hosted student programs in pop-up locations, such as auditoriums and classrooms, throughout campus.

Students in one of the conference rooms in the Apex Center.
Students in one of the conference rooms in the Apex Center.

“Our pop-up model for running programs made it challenging because students had no consistent place to go,” said Derick Maggard, executive director of Apex. “They didn’t know where to find us on a day-to-day basis. Now, we’re going to have this space to call our own. It’s going to be very transformative for us and our students.”

The new space also houses an office for Apex’s entrepreneur-in-residence program, as well as offices for the Apex staff and conference rooms.

Being in downtown Blacksburg is also key for the center, Maggard said. The design matches similar innovation spaces atop retail buildings in large urban areas. The goal is to increase the center’s visibility to the public and to be accessible to the student teams that it serves.

The space will be open to all members of the Startup Hokies community Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and for extended hours from 5-11 p.m. for students in the incubator or accelerator programs.

“Students don’t always work the typical 9 to 5 [day],” Maggard said. “They often work on their startups at night outside of standard class hours. We want to be that collaborative, flexible space where students work in cross-functional teams to bring new products and services to market.”

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