Professor showcases entrepreneurial success of Saxapahaw for international audience

Associate Professor Elena Kennedy, Elon’s Doherty Emerging Professor of Entrepreneurship, shared how specific strategies developed by residents and business owners have created “civic wealth” for a popular Alamance County community only a short drive from campus.

An Elon University professor who researches social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial community formation recounted the history and successful economic growth of a North Carolina mill town when she traveled to Puerto Rico in March for an annual conference featuring several of the world’s leading entrepreneurship scholars.

Associate Professor Elena Kennedy, Elon’s Doherty Emerging Professor of Entrepreneurship, joined with colleagues from four other universities for the keynote opening panel of the 2023 Sustainability Ethics and Entrepreneurship Conference held March 2-5 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The developmental conference provides an annual forum for what is described as a worldwide network of scholars dedicated to advancing the scholarship and practice about sustainability, ethics & entrepreneurship.

The opening panel – Researching Civic Wealth Creation: Insights from Qualitative and Quantitative Studies across Contexts – explored what occurs “when communities, entrepreneurs, and supporters of local initiatives coalesce to improve their well-being and vitality through cooperation, kinship, and commerce.”

Kennedy explored the entrepreneurial community of Saxapahaw, which grew out of a mill redevelopment project in a rural village in southern Alamance County, approximately 20 minutes away from Elon University’s main campus. She explained how early movers in the entrepreneurial community engaged in specific strategies to attract a broad range of stakeholders to mobilize resources to create both civic wealth and opportunities for new entrepreneurs within the village.

Since its formation, the community has established a farmer’s market, a food pantry, and a summer concert series that regularly draws large crowds from across the region. Kennedy discussed how Saxapahaw has also established support structure to meet the needs of village residents during the COVID-19.

Joining Kennedy on the panel were research colleagues from the University of Tennessee, Indiana University, the University of Oklahoma, and Technical University Munich.

Kennedy joined the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business in 2016 after earning a doctorate in organizations and social change from the University of Massachusetts-Boston. Her research focuses on strategic decision making in social enterprises, entrepreneurial community formation, and entrepreneurship education, and has been published in the Journal of Business Venturing, Public Management Review, Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, and Entrepreneurship Education & Pedagogy.