On September 12, 2023, the Jackson, Mississippi-based Center for Social Entrepreneurship proudly presented its third group of emerging entrepreneurs who have completed their training through the iVillage Legacy Project. The six trainees exhibited a wide array of innovative business concepts, including a nonprofit dedicated to grief counseling, an after-school arts program, a mobile bartending service, and a commercial cleaning service.
iVillage Legacy Project and Emerging Entrepreneurs
Launched in 2021, the iVillage Legacy Project aims to foster economic development and innovation by providing underrepresented entrepreneurs with essential resources and mentorship for a successful entrepreneurial journey. As these six businesses step out into the world, they showcase the diverse skillset and creative solutions that social entrepreneurship can offer, addressing community needs and driving positive change.
Center for Social Entrepreneurship: Transforming Neighborhoods and Supporting HBCUs
Guided by its president and CEO, ex-engineer and city planner Kimberly Hilliard, the Center for Social Entrepreneurship is dedicated to transforming neighborhoods, with a special emphasis on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). This focus has led Hilliard to participate in development, renewal, and affordable housing initiatives at Jackson State University (JSU). Under her leadership, the Center for Social Entrepreneurship has successfully collaborated with JSU to create sustainable and inclusive communities for students and residents alike. By incorporating innovative ideas and solutions, they aim to foster equitable growth and development in the surrounding areas, ensuring a positive impact for HBCUs and the broader community.
The iVillage Legacy Project: Empowering Residents of West Jackson
A program designed for residents of West Jackson who are 18 years old or older, the iVillage Legacy Project is supported by a 30-month grant that promotes intergenerational connectivity and creativity. With the goal of eliminating systemic and generational poverty in West Jackson, the project aims to foster a community where individuals can reside, work, and shop. To achieve this objective, the project focuses on empowering participants through various workshops and activities that enhance their skills, knowledge, and self-confidence. These workshops cover a wide range of topics such as financial literacy, entrepreneurship, job training, and artistic expression, all aimed at helping residents create a sustainable and vibrant community.
Comprehensive Education for Entrepreneurship Success
Throughout a 10-week timeframe, small-business developers from JSU assist and guide participants in establishing their businesses, offering training for startups, financial-literacy development, and education on soft skills. During this comprehensive program, participants not only receive valuable mentorship from experienced professionals but also gain access to a vast network of resources and connections, improving their chances of success. Additionally, the focus on financial literacy and soft skills ensures that these emerging entrepreneurs are well-equipped to navigate the challenges of funding and managing their startups, fostering sustainable business models and growth.
Addressing Systemic Issues and Building Strong Families
According to Hilliard, “Our goal is to create generational wealth. We believe that if you build up the individual, it strengthens the family.” By focusing on the personal growth and financial stability of each individual, this approach aims to foster a robust support system within families. This, in turn, paves the way for future generations to inherit not just monetary resources but also the knowledge and values to maintain and grow this wealth.
A Showcase for Women’s Entrepreneurial Success
The iVillage group in September was comprised of six Black women entrepreneurs. These visionary businesswomen collaborated to share their experiences, strategies, and valuable insights with one another to enhance their entrepreneurial skills. As like-minded individuals, they sought to provide support and encouragement to help each of them thrive and succeed in their respective industries.
The Resilience of Black Women Entrepreneurs
Although Black business ownership experienced a decline during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a recent growth in Black-women-owned businesses throughout the United States. This upswing is not only a testament to the resilience and determination of these businesswomen, but also an indication of the vital role they play in the nation’s continued economic recovery. Their success stories offer motivation and inspiration to other aspiring Black women entrepreneurs, demonstrating that challenges can be overcome with hard work, creativity, and community support.
Challenges, Opportunities, and the Importance of an Inclusive Environment
However, Hilliard notes that in 2023, access to venture capital funding has decreased, presenting a distinct challenge for Black entrepreneurs. This decrease in funding opportunities disproportionately affects Black entrepreneurs, who already face obstacles such as racial bias and lack of representation in the startup ecosystem. To counteract this trend, it is crucial for investors and industry leaders to actively work towards fostering a more inclusive environment by supporting and promoting initiatives that specifically aim to empower Black entrepreneurs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the iVillage Legacy Project?
The iVillage Legacy Project is a program designed to foster economic development and innovation by providing underrepresented entrepreneurs with essential resources and mentorship for a successful entrepreneurial journey. Launched in 2021, the project is supported by a 30-month grant and aims to eliminate systemic and generational poverty in West Jackson, Mississippi.
Who is behind the iVillage Legacy Project?
The Center for Social Entrepreneurship, based in Jackson, Mississippi, is responsible for creating and implementing the iVillage Legacy Project. The organization is guided by its president and CEO, Kimberly Hilliard, an ex-engineer and city planner dedicated to transforming neighborhoods with a special emphasis on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
What does the training program for emerging entrepreneurs involve?
The iVillage Legacy Project offers a comprehensive 10-week program during which small-business developers from Jackson State University assist and guide participants in establishing their businesses. The program includes training for startups, financial-literacy development, and education on soft skills. Participants also gain access to valuable mentorship and a vast network of resources and connections.
What are some examples of businesses that have been created through the iVillage Legacy Project?
Some innovative business concepts from the iVillage Legacy Project include a nonprofit dedicated to grief counseling, an after-school arts program, a mobile bartending service, and a commercial cleaning service.
How does the iVillage Legacy Project address systemic issues and build strong families?
The iVillage Legacy Project focuses on personal growth and financial stability for individuals, aiming to create a robust support system within families. By building up the individual, the project strengthens the family, paving the way for future generations to inherit not just monetary resources, but also the knowledge and values to maintain and grow this wealth.
Why is it important to create an inclusive environment for Black entrepreneurs?
Creating an inclusive environment for Black entrepreneurs is essential due to the challenges they face, such as racial bias and lack of representation in the startup ecosystem. The decrease in access to venture capital funding in 2023 disproportionately affects Black entrepreneurs. To counteract this, it is crucial for investors and industry leaders to actively work towards fostering a more inclusive environment by supporting and promoting initiatives that specifically aim to empower Black entrepreneurs.
First Reported on: mississippifreepress.org
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