By: Sinclare Johnson
On Thursday, February 15th, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute (ENI) in partnership with the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, hosted its second Entrepreneurs for Good event. Chris Markl, an instructor for social entrepreneurship moderated the discussion featuring a panel of local social entrepreneurs, who shared their paths to entrepreneurship. This semester’s group of speakers consisted of Terri Bradley of Brown Toy Box, Jenn Graham of Civic Dinners, and Alexander Acosta of Soul Food Cypher.
Bradley founded Brown Toy Box based off of a simple observation. She told the audience “you’re constantly told ‘representation matters,’ but who’s doing that work? Who’s making sure that there is representation out there?” Brown Toy Box is a subscription-based service that introduces children of color to STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math) careers by supplying them with toys and books that positively affirm these ideas.
Graham is the founder of Civic Dinners, a platform that aims to create conversations about important issues with individuals from diverse backgrounds. “Civic Dinners started out a social experiment,” said Graham. “We started it out of a friend’s living room with wine and cheese!” Now, they help people transform dinner tables into forums for positive social change.
Acosta started out in photojournalism before creating Soul Food Cypher. After graduating from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (B.S. ’08), Acosta found his purpose through volunteering. Acosta founded Soul Food Cypher (SFC), whose mission is to utilize the power of speech to transform the lives of individuals and their communities. SFC hosts periodic events that showcase freestyle rap and lyricism, educate, entertain and stimulate emcees and participants.
The panelists were open about their experiences as entrepreneurs, including the setbacks and failures that they experienced. Graham spoke about her experience with having a tech-based business, informing students that “when you’re building a tech platform, you’re always going to have failures. The more we can learn right away, the faster we would get to the product we need and want.”
Acosta talked about personal failures while seeking entrepreneurship. “One of the worst things that can happen is when you lose a friend and a business relationship because then you lose two ways,” said Acosta.
Towards the end of the event, each panelist gave their advice for the aspiring social entrepreneurs. Graham gave the students encouraging words, saying “I’m not saying that [entrepreneurship] isn’t the right way to go. This [career] is the passion way to go. It takes time and instead of getting frustrated, be patient with yourself.”
Bradley urged the students to take advantage of what the university has to offer. “What I wish I had [when becoming an entrepreneur] was something like this. You guys don’t know how fortunate you are to have a program like this.”
Did you miss Entrepreneurs for Good? No worries, ENI plans events throughout the semester that are intended to educate students, faculty, staff and other university affiliates on topics relating to entrepreneurship and innovation. For more information about our upcoming events, head over to our events calendar.