By: Lexie Newhouse
Envolve Entrepreneurship partnered with the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute at Georgia State University to host the 2018 Envolve Award USA on June 20, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. The event was an awards luncheon and fireside chat with some of Atlanta’s burgeoning entrepreneurs, which also included the announcement of the 2018 region winners. Guests enjoyed intimate and honest conversations from the panelists on their successes and failures with establishing and scaling their own ventures.
Dr. Jennifer Sherer, Director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute (ENI), extended a warm welcome to kick off the event at Georgia State’s Buckhead campus. Christopher Upperman (B.A. ‘09), CEO of Envolve Entrepreneurship USA, followed with an overview of the afternoon’s program.
Driven to cultivate a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem for all, Envolve provides aspiring diverse and underserved entrepreneurs with resources, advice and support services to achieve their business dreams. “We need to reimagine our definition of a mentor,” said Upperman, “We expect it to be one person who is a life partner or someone who will chat whenever you need it, but it can be 100 different people who can each offer you a nugget of information.
Associate Director of ENI Jackie Davis (B.A. ’09, M.Ed. ’12, M.B.A. ‘18) then co-led the panel discussion with Upperman featuring Gamal Codner, Labriah Lee, Maiya Newton (B.B.A. ‘19) and Felicita Pineda (B.I.S. ‘21).
Gamal Codner, CEO & Founder of Fresh Heritage, operates an e-commerce brand that sells high quality, chemical free, personal care and grooming products for men of color. “When starting with a business idea remember the Three P’s – People, Pain, Promise,” said Gamal, “What people will you serve? What’s their biggest pain? What promise can you make to them with your product/service?”
Labriah Lee serves as the Founder of Sweet Roots Hair Studio, a hair bar offering services catered towards women with textured hair. Sweet Roots also exclusively uses plant-based, nontoxic products, and socially conscious brands. When asked about mentorship, Lee encouraged the audience to “Offer something back to your mentor, don’t expect it to be a one-sided exchange. You can volunteer your time supporting their efforts such as working an event or creating a PowerPoint Presentation for them.”
As the founder of DuffleApp, a crowdfunding platform that provides resources for athletes in low-income communities, Maiya Newton opened up about the challenges of balancing a business with personal responsibilities. The panel all agreed that there is no real balance, where life as an entrepreneur requires juggling multiple responsibilities all of the time. In closing, Newton stressed the importance of time blocking to manage priorities, especially as an entrepreneur and student-athlete.
Felicita Pineda, Founder of Travelin’ Music Lessons, shared about her experiences with providing in-home music lessons. When asked what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, Pineda explained, “Be prepared. If my clients want to learn a certain song, I have to learn it in advance, because you cannot teach what you don’t know yourself.”
A Q&A session followed the panel discussion. One audience member asked, “How can a company implement a customer-first strategy?” Davis explained that customer-first strategies occur at every touchpoint, sharing how companies like Carvana innovated the car to customer experience by saving them the hassle of spending hours at a car dealership.
As students waited in suspense, the moment finally came to announce the 2018 Envolve Award USA Atlanta Region Winners. Congratulations to Robert Hatcher (B.A. ’16, M.B.A. ‘20) of SoundCollide, Ashley Richardson (B.S. ‘17) of Totem Agency, Carolyn Pitt of Film Connx, and Lawrence Chen (B.S. ‘17) of Observe as Honorable Mention!
Thank you again for Envolve for this partnership to continue supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs. To learn how they are cultivating a global entrepreneurial ecosystem, visit their website here.
Photography credit: Shay Starks