VU-SEED provides people with disabilities the required tools to become successful entrepreneurs by providing tools and education to navigate challenges and succeed in new business creation.

The program recruits and trains adults with disabilities in an entrepreneur development program. Through skills training, mentoring, and financial counseling, individuals who are considering starting their own business are offered the encouragement, motivation and knowledge to succeed in their own venture



The Program

Unlike other programs taught solely in a classroom setting with theoretical case studies, VU-SEED:

  • is taught by successful entrepreneurs and business leaders, including several Villanova University alumni.  
  • delivers a structured curriculum where instructors share their own real-life corporate experiences, including successes and failures.  
  • helps individuals plan, build, market and launch their venture, with instructors serving as advisors for successful ongoing operations. 
  • understands that business ownership is not for everyone. Through the VU-Seed Basic Training Course, instructors work with participants to determine if new venture creation is the right fit. 

A 4-day, all-encompassing program tailor-made for people with disabilities, Basic Training is designed to introduce individuals to the business world and intricacies of new venture ownership. It will call upon the participants to:

  • deeply scrutinize their own personalities and backgrounds.
  • understand how their achievements in life and dealing with adversity can and will give them a competitive advantage in business.

VU-SEED’s Basic Training will introduce the process of “New Concept Creation” and determine whether an idea is actually a market-driven, viable business opportunity. Participants will learn:

  • the economics and financials behind businesses 
  • the steps to funding their ventures
  • the legal structures available
  • intellectual property protection they will need to seek.   

In addition, the students will learn to:

  • define their markets 
  • identify key competitors in their industry
  • build effective teams
  • discover the most effective ways to market their ventures.

Playbook Creation is available to those who have completed Basic Training and is a one-on-one program where a business coach is assigned to each participant who is ready to expand their concept following the Basic Training Course. The coach and student work side-by-side, taking the student from aspiring entrepreneur to vet, creating and building a full business plan for the venture.

VU-SEED understands that new venture creation is not for everyone and that some participants would be better suited to joining the workforce to build confidence, gain vital experience, and most importantly, prove that they are a person worth a future investment. Whether going right into business for themselves or private enterprise, Business Entry Prep is the ultimate tool to help individuals in this quest. Each student will be provided:

  • guidance in resume and biography building
  • building a personal brand
  • networking
  • social media
  • marketing
  • interviewing

This is where the rubber meets the road! A program offered to participants who have completed the prior three modules, VU-SEED Launch Pad is the ultimate mentorship whereby VU-SEED provides advisory board services to participants and their new careers or ventures.

Steve McWilliams has served as Advisor to Students Living with Disabilities at Villanova since 1993 and received his Ph.D. and M.F.A. from Temple University. McWilliams handles student advisement, ADA inquiries, academic support and faculty training, and issues of accessibility. In addition to these responsibilities, McWilliams is the founder and co-director of the Social Justice Documentary Film Program, where he has produced and directed students in making over 15 award-winning films. A frequent subject of his creative work has been the topic of living with a disability.

McWilliams is the founder and president of Point Guard Media, a production company specializing in Advocacy Media for non-profit organizations. He has been a lifelong entrepreneur and has successfully founded and run three companies. Additionally, McWilliams has written, produced, and directed for stage, television and screen. He has written extensively on disability topics including his recent book, Green Bananas: The Wisdom of Father Bill Atkinson.

Jamie Davis has served in executive roles for major corporations including News Corporation, ESPN, Comcast and Fanatics since 2001. A proven entrepreneur, Davis was the fifth member of the Fox Sports (NFL on Fox) launch team in 1994 and since that time has launched seven additional television networks. Additionally, Davis expanded his experience to e-commerce and served as the President of Fanatics, the largest online retailer of licensed sports merchandise. He has a global view on business having lived and worked in Asia for 12 years and served as the President of News Corp. China and Managing Director of ESPN STAR Sports in Singapore. 

Possessing an MBA and having been a CPA in New York, Davis is currently an instructor for Syracuse University’s Boots to Business program which helps US service members transition from active duty to business ownership. In this role, Davis has aided hundreds of America’s bravest launch their second careers through new business creation. Mr. Davis has also served on the Board of Directors for Special Olympics Pennsylvania since 2008.

Stephen Sheridan, Jr. has been a member of the disability community at Villanova University as a student, alumnus and employee for over 22 years. After several years in private industry as an investment accountant, Stephen returned to Villanova to work in the Controller’s Office. From there, he transitioned into the Office of Planning and Institutional Research where works closely with the University on coordination and preparation of accreditation visits, correspondences, finalization of reports, and updating institutional files. He also provides expertise in the design and implementation of assessment activities and the interpretation of data related to student development and learning outcomes.

Stephen is a member of Villanova’s Senate Budget Committee and serves as the Treasurer for his regional professional association, the North East Association for Institutional Research. Additionally, Stephen teaches Financial Management and Strategic Planning in Villanova’s Online Master of Public Administration Program. He also serves as a co-facilitator in the University’s Intergroup Relations Program that provides undergraduate experiences for credit in creating understanding relationships among people from different social, economic, racial, and ethnic groups. Communication skills related to careful listening and meaningful dialogue are also discussed and developed for all who participate.

Marybeth Avioli worked at Villanova University for over 24 years, including 17 years in University Information Technologies as the University trainer for software and computer programs, where she taught and created educational materials for faculty and staff. As a Technology Support Services staff member, she provided front-facing IT services and solutions to the Villanova community. Marybeth was responsible for the design and implementation of the University website, authoring tools, web applications, and websites where she focused on UX and IT solutions.

Marybeth also worked within the Villanova University Division of Student Life as the IT, web and assessment coordinator for Student Life departments and student organizations. She assisted with the VU-Seed program as a designer and program developer along with Steve McWilliams and Jamie Davis.

Greg Hannah has worked in Disability Services as a counselor, advisor and advocate for the past 10 years. He received his Master’s Degree from Villanova University where he specialized in counseling special populations. Currently, he serves as the Assistant Director for Disability Services at Villanova University. He is the founder and Director of LEVEL, an advocacy group that has been recognized nationally for its work with the disability community.

Greg has also worked in media production, focusing on the area of disability awareness. He is one of the founding producers of Mission Possible with Eric Legrand, a show that focuses on stories within the disabled community. Greg has worked extensively with United Cerebral Palsy and the Christopher Reeves Foundation in promoting opportunities for people living with disabilities.

Learning Objectives and Outcomes

  • An individually-based curriculum and support system with the understanding that disabilities are varied and that individual consideration of varied abilities is imperative.
  • Four distinct modules, including a 4-day workshop that gives individuals with disabilities the momentum needed to build their own business.
  • Provides a pre-test and determines individual aptitude, passion and skill level needed to become an entrepreneur.
  • Identifies and educates participants about navigating through the barriers to start a business, particularly those that often discourage individuals with disabilities away from entrepreneurship.
  • Reviews policy tools, resources and organizations that help people with disabilities own independent businesses.
  • Works with agencies (Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Small Business Administration, disability advocacy organizations, etc.) to identify resources in the evolution of a business idea.
  • Provides participants with individual mentoring from the brainstorming phase to the execution of a business idea.
  • Participants gain knowledge on how to build the network needed to obtain start-up capital for their business idea.
  • Participants undergo a professional vetting process and receive constructive feedback about their business ideas.
  • Participants develop relevant business skills and create a knowledge base on effectively launching their unique business.
  • Participants are provided a personal business mentor and support team throughout the planning and execution of their business plan.
  • Participants demonstrate the self-confidence to become successfully self-employed or otherwise employed in their desired business arena.



Learn More

VU-SEED is a product of a partnership between Steve McWilliams, entrepreneur and Director of Disability Services at Villanova University, and Jamie Davis, former President of ESPN Asia Pacific and Comcast-NBC Universal Sports. Both have worked extensively in the business and disability communities.

Office Location
Connelly Center, Second Floor

Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


(610) 519-6524

Our Sponsors

Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry
Magee Rehabilitation Hospital