I think half of what made Essence Fest so amazing was the Power of the Millennial Entrepreneur panel discuss that I had the pleasure of attending. Among the panelists, were the amazing Kezia Williams, Program Director of The Black Upstart and Howard Jean, Founder and CEO of The Black Male Entrepreneurship Institute.
Though both wear many hats, the main, is that of empowering, training and providing Black entrepreneurs with the necessary resources to create sustainable businesses. In true BBad fashion, I would like to regurgitate the information I found to be most pertinent, and leave you with more details about their businesses below.
1. African-Americans (specifically women) are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in America
As Blacks, we are continuing to flourish, recognize and reach our full potential. And as millennials, we are truly breaking away from this "yessa massa" mindset. We are thinkers and what's far more powerful than that, is that we are do'ers. However, with so many Blacks throwing their hat in the entrepreneurship ring, about 88% of Black owned businesses don't make it past the first year. While the reasoning may run the gammon, the majority of those businesses lack the resources, and capital in order to maintain a sustainable business. Resources will be outlined at the bottom of the post.
2. "Cast down your bucket where you are" - Booker T. Washington
Kezia dropped many gems, but one that stuck out to me most, was that of casting down your buckets where you are. She referenced the Booker T. Washington quote to encourage us to create businesses where our people are spending money. She paralleled that statement by listing where the majority of Black dollars are being spent, and contrasted it with what types of businesses Black people are creating, and showed us how the two don't add up. Thus casting your buckets down where you are, to both create businesses for the needs of Black people, but to also keep that money internally.
3. "Every Legend Started out an Amateur"
Though our generation has been conditioned to seek instant gratification, being an entrepreneur takes time, energy, tireless effort and strategy. Also, don't fall into the mindset of, you have to do it on your own. That's where a part of the 88% comes from. Don't be afraid to tap into those networks and utilize those resources. Another thing they mentioned was to know what you don't know, by finding out what you don't know.
Lastly, you don't already have to have a business in mind, or even a concept to know that you would like to be or were designed to be an entrepreneur. Kezia suggested that we start with a problem that we are passionate and about, and ideate around creating a solution.
The Black Upstart
About: Our mission is simple at the Black upStart, we increase the number of Black-owned businesses that have the capacity to employ others. We accomplish our mission in two ways, the Black upStart curriculum and the Black upStart Bootcamp. We use these tools to train aspiring African-American entrepreneurs to start successful and profitable businesses. Our Black upStart curriculum and Bootcamp teaches entrepreneurs basic business principles, that are combined with experiential learning opportunities and the ability to connect with potential investors.
The Black Male Entrepreneurship Institute
About: The Black Male Entrepreneur (BME) Institute provides both seasoned and novice millennial black male entrepreneurs with a 16 week dynamic and personalized business developmental experience. The selected cohort will matriculate through a curricula led by subject matter experts from the framework of our nation’s most competitive business institutions.The entrepreneurs will also receive business development counseling from a cadre of diverse business leaders with a culminating experience that allows cohort members to pitch to a selection of CEO’s and investors from the region. Through this experience, cohort members will exchange ideas, lessons learned and best practices with fellow entrepreneurs during formal and informal sessions as they enhance, education & empower one another.