One of the graduates of the Walker Entrepreneurship Program is Allyson Davoll, who reopened Wendell’s Barber Shop on Jefferson St. in Lexington, as a full-service hair salon. Wendell’s was owned and operated by Wendell Baker, who passed away in 2019. Graduates of the Walker Program, which jumpstarts businesses owned by people of color in Lexington, Buena Vista, and Rockbridge County, are eligible for college credit at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College.
Walker Entrepreneurship Grads Eligible for DSLCC College Credit
Dabney S. Lancaster Community College’s Business Program is offering college credits to anyone who completes the Walker Entrepreneurship Program, a new community initiative launched last August, with the purpose of jumpstarting businesses owned by people of color in Lexington, Buena Vista, and Rockbridge County. The Walker program combines free business training, grant funding, and ongoing support to committed individuals who want to start or grow a business in the Rockbridge area.
Walker graduates may earn 3 college credits for BUS 100, “Introduction to Business,” the first class toward receiving one or more of DSLCC business credentials, such as the Office Skills Career Studies Certificate, Small Business Management Certificate, or Business Management Associate of Applied Science Degree. A complete list of credentials can be found on the DSLCC website.
“The Walker Entrepreneurship Program offers a well-rounded, quality program, addressing a wide range of business topics, such as business development, planning, marketing, sales, operations, networking, budgeting, and a comprehensive business plan,” said Rachael Thompson, who heads DSLCC’s Business Program. “As such, we are delighted to offer college credit to completers of the program and encourage them to continue the pursuit of a business credential or degree. We are so very pleased to see this partnership come to fruition."
"From day one, DSLCC has been an active and invaluable partner in the Walker Program's mission to train, fund, and support Black-owned businesses in our area,” noted Stephanie Wilkinson, Program Coordinator for the Walker Program. “This generous offer to our program graduates to leverage the training they received from us towards a business certificate or degree is more evidence of DSLCC's commitment to improving lives and fostering personal success in the Rockbridge region." Wilkinson is also a small business entrepreneur and founder & coordinator of LaunchLex, the state-funded program that helped establish seven new businesses in downtown Lexington in 2018.
Since January, the Walker Program has provided training and support to two dozen aspiring entrepreneurs, added Wilkinson. Four new businesses have received start-up grants so far, altogether totaling $60,000.
“DSLCC is proud to support the Walker Program,” said Dr. Ben Worth, DSLCC’s Vice President for Academic Affairs. “The Walker program is addressing social injustice by helping launch businesses and promoting business ownership. Their mission is directly in line with DSLCC’s core values: ‘We value the diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and beliefs that collectively form the DSLCC community, and we embrace these differences among students, employees, and community members as ways to enrich, grow and thrive—as individuals and as an institution.’”
Named in honor of Harry Lee and Eliza Walker, leading entrepreneurs at the turn of the 20th century in downtown Lexington, the Walker Entrepreneurship Program’s goal is to lower the barriers to business ownership for entrepreneurs of color in the Rockbridge area community. The Community Foundation for Rockbridge, Bath and Alleghany provides non-profit fiscal support for the Walker Program.
Born in 1875, Harry Lee Walker was one of the most prominent African-American businessmen of his day. The columned building he purchased in 1911 to operate his thriving butcher shop has remained commonly known as the Willson-Walker House (now Macado’s Restaurant). Walker supplied to VMI, W&L and many fraternities the celebrated hams he cured and the beef he shipped in from Fairfield and Buena Vista to his farm East of Lexington. Neighboring Walker Street still witnesses the respect and influence he earned.
Walker & Wood’s “Sanitary Meat Market and Grocery” would become a pillar among the African-American shops and businesses at the foot of N. Main Street in Lexington. In 1917, he purchased one of Lexington’s most celebrated historic homes, Blandome, with its distinctive Italianate cupola overlooking all of Lexington from the top of Diamond Hill.
Walker was also a leading member in First Baptist Church, founded on the heels of Emancipation. His home and his church now both bear plaques witnessing their places on the National Historic Register.
Eliza Bannister Walker, whom Harry married when he was 19, would make her own impact in the community, not through commercial connections, but civic activism. Born in 1874, she was well noted as a singer in “The Nightingales,” and wrote a number of dialect poems that signal her sensitivity to both tone and tradition, while addressing a range of contemporary issues.
Her activism led to leading roles in the Virginia Federation of Colored Women (hosting their conference at Blandome in 1921), and organizing political and religious gatherings with nationally known speakers. She also led local campaigns to advance funding for local schools, to support the needs of orphans, and to raise wages for both women and blacks.
More information about the Walker program may be found at https://www.walkerprogram.com.
For more information about obtaining DSLCC college credit, contact Thompson at (540) 863-2890 or email@example.com.