I had the honor of returning to my alma mater, Cornell University, to address and advise the first official cohort of Cornell Black Entrepreneurs in Training. This was one of several events planned by the organizers to “stimulate creative ideation and problem solving,” as part of a program whose ultimate vision includes preparing black entrepreneurs to found startups focused on some of “today’s most pertinent problems.”
I was there to teach the participants about self-awareness, finding purpose and founder-opportunity fit, defining and developing one’s story, finding one’s “tribe”, and navigating the business (nonprofit to for-profit) and funding (donations to equity investments) model spectrum and the plethora of programs (e.g. incubators, accelerators and fellowships) through which one might develop a new venture.
The members range from undergrads to professional and graduate students, and the majority are studying engineering, with a few in business and science majors.
What became evident to me after spending time with these extraordinary students — both while leading the workshop and while meeting with them one on one during office hours — is that we all need the occasional reminder of our own greatness and a framework for sharing our visions and stories in a manner that honors our unique gifts and identities.
They are working on some awesome venture ideas that address real gaps in the market.
I can’t wait to see what’s to come next semester when they begin working on their Minimum Viable Products (#MVP).
No matter which professions the cohort participants ultimately choose, having an entrepreneurial mindset and approach to problem solving is critical to achieving success in any area. And even if they do not choose to pursue their startup ventures on a full-time basis, the participants might reasonably continue working on those ventures as supplementary/alternative revenue sources. As I’ve learned repeatedly over the years from various contributors to Black Enterprise Magazine, it is wise to lay the groundwork for a diversity of revenue streams, including at least one “side-hustle” that can be developed into its own full-time business.
Learn more about Cornell Black Entrepreneurs in Training: https://crea.cornell.edu/project/black-entrepreneurs-in-training/