Through these entrepreneurial endeavors, Michael found that it was difficult to reach out to minority development centers for support; there was little communication of information or resources. Through networking events, Michael found access to the resources, mentorship, and connections that he wasn’t previously aware of. This was Michael’s moment of obligation; he realized the network and resources available at most colleges and universities were lacking at HBCUs. With that, Michael’s dream of opening co-working spaces in HBCUs was born.
Exacerbated by the small size of their community, black entrepreneurs face many challenges., and because of a There is a lack of physical spaces for entrepreneurial networks in HBCUs, and because of an historical lack of resources, the mentality in the Black community is that information is scarce, which prevents the sharing of information, hindering the entire community.Through sharing information and having a free flow of resources, the entire community would benefit.
While all women are few and far between in entrepreneurship, women of color are especially underrepresented. In an effort to address this intersection of marginalization, I sat down with Michael English, aspiring founder of co-working spaces in Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs), avid DJ, and project manager of Innovate Your Cool.
Michael is a millennial with a calm, driven, and lighthearted demeanor who started out at North Carolina Central University (an HBCU) pursuing physical therapy, which he described as a ‘safe choice.’ Michael's passion for entrepreneurship dates back to his college days: he made money by DJing and through his t-shirt company and fashion boutique, goldmined. For Michael, his love of music strongly coincides with his love for entrepreneurship. In many ways, entrepreneurship parallels with hip hop -- hustle mentality, self-branding, and ingenuity. Through his position at Innovate Your Cool, Michael is able to combine music, entrepreneurship, innovation, and culture.
Michael’s solution is not to “reinvent the wheel, just put nice rims on it.” Through exposure and active engagement, Michael visualizes a cool, hip space that builds up an inclusive environment to facilitate entrepreneurial growth. Michael says that creating a space that empowers otherwise marginalized individuals eases their transitions into the community.
Many of the issues minorities face in entrepreneurship are similar to those that women experience. For Michael, he enjoys working with women because they are honest and straight-up in business. He says that his space will be welcoming and empowering for everyone, particularly black women, who make up just .04% of tech startups. He wants to change the narrative for black women entrepreneurs -- aside from encouraging inclusion of black women in existing job opportunities, they should be encouraged to start their own!
Look out for Michael’s coworking spaces soon -- the kids are eager to learn, so stop by, share a skill, and check it out!
Read more about the issues black female entrepreneurs face here