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Make it real.

Make it real. Jack Alden

Entrepreneurship and Business Administration Student, President of Startup VCU, Artist and Small Business Owner Story by Brittney Barbour, Student Journalist

Photo by VCU Athletics

Choosing a major in college is a difficult task for students. One usually experiences an internal conflict between what best suits their personality and what best suits their career. Since its launch last year, the VCU “Make it real” campaign has helped bridge that gap by encouraging merging disciplines as a means of innovation. “Make it real” emphasizes that learning and creation doesn’t just happen in the classroom, it happens everywhere. Jack Alden, a junior in the School of Business, serves as a prime example with the growth of his local glass art studio. Before coming to VCU, Alden attended Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fl. It was here that he took his first class in glassblowing, which involves turning glass into a molten

liquid so it can be shaped, molded, and expanded into artistic figures. “I came from an artistic background. I played music and did art in school, but glassblowing really stuck and it was something I was good at,” said the

22-year-old. While in Florida, Alden studied under local glass artist, Dave Walker, and eventually met glass art icon Dale Chilhuly while working as a docent in an art gallery. “[Dale] gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten for my career. He told me that if I really wanted to do glass art, then I should focus on that right now.” From there, Alden moved to North Carolina and did an 8-week intensive program on glass blowing at Penland School of Crafts. Soon after, he moved back to Florida became a resident artist at Zen Glass Studios owned by his former instructor, Dave Walker. Although working in the shop for six hours a day helped him hone his craft, Alden came to another realization.

“Even if you’re a really talented artist, you need to know how to market yourself,” he said. “Working in the shop everyday made me realize that I wanted to go back to school and study the business side of my craft.” Alden transferred to VCU’s School of Business in the fall of 2012 and is currently studying entrepreneurship and business administration. In his junior year, Alden has many accomplish-

Alden handling work by world-famous glass artist, Dale Chihuly while he worked as a docent at an art gallery.

ments under his belt including being elected president of VCU’s entrepreneurship club, Start Up VCU. His proudest moment so far, however, was opening his own glassblowing studio.

“I wasn’t really happy working at other people’s shops and since I’m learning things like accounting and marketing, I thought, ‘Why not take all these things and start my own studio?’” Using his own savings, Alden rented a studio space from Art Works studios on Hull Street and built everything he needed from the benches to the professional-grade ventilation. The studio combines his love of art with his passion for business. Not only is it a space for creating and showcasing

art, he also shares the space with 5 other glass artists and offers lessons. In the spirit of entrepreneurship and the “Make It Real” campaign, Alden attributes his studio’s growing success to his willingness to reach out to students in other programs.

“My biggest advice is to get out of the business school and meet artists, engineers, screen printers, graphic designers, whoever you need to make your idea happen.” Alden also credits his accomplishments to Richmond’s artistic culture. With platforms like the First Friday’s art walk, the VMFA, where Alden reunited with his hero Dale Chilhuly last year, and the VCU Arts School, which is ranked #1 in the country, Richmond

Recent work by Alden. To see more work visit

provides excellent networking opportunities for its hub of artists and business people. “Its easy to go out and meet likeminded people, and usually I’ll carry a business card. I’ve had people reach out to me on LinkedIn wanting to work together or just to say, ‘Hey, I saw your work and I really liked it.’” It also helps that Richmond was voted one of the top ten places for budding entrepreneurs like Alden. With affordable properties, targets districts, and strong market for venture capitalists, Alden contends that Richmond is a good place to take on the risks that come with starting a new business. “Moving out here was a big leap, but I think its the happiest I’ve been as an artist and entrepreneur.” In the future, Alden hopes to expand his studio into an arts collective, com-

bining other mediums of visual art like wood and metal. His work shows the possibilities of crossing disciplines and using resources both on and off-campus to further your ideas. His decision to pursue entrepreneurship also shows how a degree in business can be applied to almost any field.

“I love that I am able to do whatever I want with my degree. Entrepreneurship is about innovation, and I’m glad that I’ve got the right tools and right knowledge to make a living out of something I love to do.”

To see more of Jack’s work, visit his website at

Do you have a Make it real story or know someone who does? We want to hear about it!

Contact Holly Hansen at 804.827.2702

Make it real: Jack Alden  
Make it real: Jack Alden  

Find out how the VCU School of Business students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors "Make it real."