Dr. Ebony Edwards is passionate about making a unique and positive impact in Kansas City. She is a member of our ESHIP Communities Council in Kansas City. The ESHIP Communities program is a community-driven approach for building entrepreneurial ecosystems that foster inclusion, relationships, collaboration, and social capital across networks of entrepreneurs and those who support them. Read on to learn what drives this talented millennial, #ecosystembuilder, and business owner to succeed.
Q:What is the deeper “why” behind your commitment and work to support inclusive entrepreneurship in Kansas City?
A: When I moved back to Kansas City from undergrad and grad school (Atlanta and Chicago), I craved the community I felt I had in those places. In those places, I didn’t experience effort to create inclusiveness, it just existed. There were natural communities for people of color in all aspects of culture.
I think in many cases this was because people of color were in positions of ownership and had power to create the culture, but also because institutions respected and appreciated diversity. I crave that for Kansas City and have begun to understand what I can do to encourage the same experience here. So I’m trying.
Q: What is a challenge you’ve faced in your life that has led you to this work?
A: I have experienced barriers to securing startup capital. In some cases this was due very explicitly to institutional racism, as well as impeding traditional mindsets in the Black community, and a deference to those mindsets that stall progress.
A: At our company we’ve been forced to think outside the box to acquire capital. It’s also forced us to refine our business model and ultimately become more sustainable. We also made the decision that creating and supporting entrepreneurs, financially and in business development, is a critical part of our company goals.
Personally, I’m looking for ecosystem builders I can invest in and would like to one day invest in Black-owned businesses to help them scale or reach sustainability quicker than financial barriers currently allow.
Q: What is the change you are seeing or hope to see as a result of your choice/action or commitment?
A: Access to more entrepreneurship opportunities for people of color at all levels.
Q: Can you share an example of how the ecosystem has supported you?
A: The times that rise to the surface are those where I received direct support with an issue I was facing. I am so grateful for the fact that I had someone or an organization that I could go to for help. A most recent example has been working with CHES, Inc. (Credit & Homeownership Empowerment Services, Inc.).
We have been working with CHES, Inc. to improve our personal and business finances to better position our company for a loan. During this process we had a major error that appeared on our credit report. Devastated, my first inclination was to go directly to CHES, Inc. We did and spent an hour there with staff who dropped what they were working on in that moment to help us. They strategized with us, counseled us through phone calls and involved an attorney.
In a devastating moment, they were there. We had multiple people we could consult and did, but having a physical place to go to with people there to help us in a crisis was invaluable.
Q: What do you consider to be your life’s work? Why is this your life’s work?
A: My life’s work is social justice, particularly for communities of color that have been left out of wealth creation. Prior to Neighborbuilt, I worked with international organizations serving the poorest populations across the world, under-resourced school districts in multiple cities, states serving low-income students and education entrepreneurs studying the impact of their ventures on students and teachers.
So why social justice? It’s a personal calling. Once my eyes were opened to issues of homelessness and poverty they were issues I couldn’t ignore. I found my impact in serving organizations working to prevent these issues for children and youth growing up in conditions that place them at greater risk. Now I get to build a business directly impacting these populations, hoping to change their life course.
At Neighborbuilt we’re working to make homeownership possible for even the lowest earners in society, which is incredibly exciting for me. Even more so, we’re looking to diversify neighborhoods while creating homes for people of varying income levels to live side-by-side and encouraging community amongst neighbors. These two things are rare in America due to housing segregation where racial residential segregation is the cause of several inequities our country faces today.
Did something in this interview inspire you?
Get in touch with Dr. Ebony and Neighborbuilt