As a young entrepreneur, I saw the world as an already painted canvas, but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had been born and set loose on this world to paint as well. I didn’t always quite know what to paint and many times I didn’t understand the importance of knowing which brush strokes to use to get my desired outcome. I did, however, know that the universe had seen fit to create in me an artist.
I approached economic situations with all deliberate intentions and with the preciseness of skill based on thoughtful and intellectually sound ideas that would make van Gogh second-guess his own demise. I’ve often thought that van Gogh’s death could been avoided if he’d had a mentor; someone to help him make sense of his talents, his vision and instill in him a justification of him that would have helped him better understand his artistic contributions juxtaposed to the art world as it was at his creation.
Thankfully, years ago, I learned the importance of mentorship. With even more gratitude, I understood the necessity of it. Mentors help create an understanding of the need for collaboration. In a world built primarily of systems, as great or flawed as you may perceive it, are people across its landscape that many times are solving the same problem from varying perspectives. It’s beautiful if you sit and think about it: one problem; many solutions; a myriad of perspectives. I had the opportunity (thanks to the Forward Cities Initiative) to attend New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) 2016. While there, I met new people, re-engaged with others I’d known already and intentionally networked with like-minded people.
Since 1993, over 63% of all new jobs were created by entrepreneurs and small businesses. While I have been a lifelong, serial entrepreneur or an economic artist, as I like to consider myself, I have also intentionally used entrepreneurship, education and mentorship as a means to address many ills in densely populated, urban minority communities throughout the Southeast. At NOEW, I had the opportunity to speak briefly with AOL co-founder Steve Case, meet Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, and hear Daily Mail COO Richard Caccappolo speak. Just as important to me and to the work of iNvictus Office Center, I had the opportunity to meet with many people who work in the entrepreneurial and social innovation ecosystem and are responsible for addressing how the landscape exists like Phyllis Cassidy and Adele London of GoodWork Network; Jimmy Roussel of PowerMoves; Emily Madero of IDEA Village; Andrea Chen of Propeller; Chief Shaka & Naimah of the Golden Feather Mardi Gras Indian Restaurant Gallery; Michael Fleming of St. Clair Superior Development Corp in Cleveland; and Hassan Bazzi of the Access Growth Center in Detroit, among so many others. The week was invaluable.
The work that we do takes its toll sometimes and it is arduous work. There is a systemic problem with the entrepreneurial landscape and much of our efforts at iNvictus Office Center are to effectively correct this problem and produce change. We work to create a system where underrepresented minorities can work, compete and paint on a level canvas. However, every now and then we all need an opportunity to lift our heads up from the work and be mentored.
Chief Strategy Officer
iNvictus Forward Outreach,