Skip navigation

TCC biz whiz captures second place in global competition

Tidewater Community College Funeral Services student Jaden Fowlkes took second place in an entrepreneur competition held at the Virginia Beach Campus on Jan. 21.

He was one of six Virginia student entrepreneurs who presented their businesses in a shark-tank style competition for the ultimate prize of up to $50,000.

All six students started a business while in college and competed in the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. They pitched ideas to a panel of judges, with ideas ranging technology, board games and real-estate.

Jaden with his parents Jeff and Tonya McDowell.

“The event was amazing, even life-changing,” Jaden said. “It made it easier to see the value of my business and boosted my resolve of helping funeral homes better serve their families with technology.”

Jaden, 19, learned the ropes of the funeral services business as a teenager working for Fitchett-Mann Funeral Services in South Norfolk.

Today, he has his own business, J. Fowlkes Consulting, and provides branding, marketing and access to needed technology for funeral homes.

“I’m working to pull funeral homes into the 21st Century by connecting them with live streaming; cyber security and database management; funeral home administration; and website and social media support,” Jaden said. “I want them to have access to the best technology at a fair price so they can meet the needs of their clients.”

The Grassfield High graduate plans a career in the field and is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science in Funeral Services which he will complete in 2024.

Jaden credits Dean Nancy Prather-Johnson with helping him on his journey and being a mentor and one of his biggest supporters. “She has been a lifesaver and connected me with so many opportunities, including this one!”

Two other TCC students were recognized during the competition including Maria Arely Jimenez who earned 4th place and Lexus Ashley Lee for 6th place.

Winners received certificates, mentorship and investment opportunities. Virginia Commonwealth University student Jack Phillip Oppenheim was the 1st place winner. He will compete in the final competition that will be held in Africa.

For more information about TCC business programs and opportunities, contact Prather-Johnson at

Dual enrollment students who took care of business at TCC now thriving at James Madison University

Leora Friedman and Landon Elforsi didn’t want to waste time or money in college given the daunting load both anticipated as undergraduates in James Madison University’s College of Business this fall.

Both are among the inaugural class of graduates from the Entrepreneurship and Business Academy, a partnership between Tidewater Community College and Kempsville High School.

The academy offers three strands of study: entrepreneurship/innovation; business information; and the area that best suited Elforsi and Friedman, corporate finance. Students accepted into the academy are exposed to multiple dual enrollment credit opportunities, which allow them to earn an associate degree while in high school.

Last May, Friedman and Elforsi, along with a dozen of their peers, earned TCC’s Associate of Science in Business Administration. A month later, they completed their high school diplomas.

All of their general education requirements and six of the nine courses required for admission to JMU’s College of Business — ranked in the top 20 among public institutions nationwide — transferred seamlessly. Five of the 14 graduates of the academy attend JMU.

“The opportunity at TCC was very good,” said Elforsi, a finance major who was also accepted into the University of Virginia. “To be offered to complete two years of college before you graduate high school — especially when you’re completing the college part that nobody wants to do — I think it’s great!”

Essentially, the dual enrollment program added up to the future financial advisor, who did not want to pay four-year tuition rates for biology, communication and the other courses that typically fill a college freshman’s schedule.

Friedman’s mouthful of a double major — quantitative finance and math— is arguably the most rigorous at JMU’s College of Business. Fewer than 20 graduate from it every semester. A high level of difficulty appeals to Friedman, who is appreciative that she can commit so much time this semester to her business classes as dual enrollment through TCC satisfied all of her gen-ed requirements.

“It’s definitely one of the harder majors here,” said Friedman, who added an economics minor. “Now that I don’t have to take those gen-ed classes, I can really focus on my harder classes and take less credits each semester. I don’t have to worry about writing a paper on something that doesn’t really interest me.”

Both embrace numbers and mathematics and have for as long as they can remember. Elforsi, 18 and already talking about opening a Roth IRA, jokes he would return from vacation with more money than he left with. Friedman enjoyed math even in elementary school and embraces calculus with a passion.

“When I did the AP Calculus exam I did really well,” she said. “That’s how I knew I should major in it in college.”

In addition to the credits and accounting firm internships completed by each, Elforsi and Friedman felt prepared for the demands of the college classroom. They credit their TCC foundation for that.

“In college, the work is put on you rather than the teacher telling you what to do,” Friedman said. “You have to study. It totally helped me now that I’m at a university. I’m more used to it than my peers.”

Elforsi recommends the academy for those driven to succeed.

“Take dual enrollment over AP classes,” Elforsi said. “Because if you do well in a dual enrollment class, that’s guaranteed college credit.”

For more information, contact Meghan Timlin, academy coordinator at .