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Georgia Tech Grads Boost Black Businesses

by Kristyn Back

“When I started my first business, I constantly read books, magazines, attended conferences, and networking events and to my dismay, I didn’t see too many people who looked like me or who was my age – and that is why we created this organization,” says Brandon Miller, president of The Black Burdell, an organization on a mission to bridge black entrepreneurs to resources, scholarships, and networks. Working with Miller are two other Georgia Tech grads, Darren Sanders, vice president, and Henderson Johnson II, secretary and events coordinator. Together, in the 10 short months since launching, The Black Burdell has partnered with universities like Georgia Tech and Georgia State University, hosted workshops, and handed out their first round of scholarship money.

Hypepotamus recently caught up with Miller to learn about The Black Burdell vision, how they hope to change the face of entrepreneurship, and why Atlanta is the perfect place to launch their non-profit.

How did you get the idea for The Black Burdell and why did you decide to kickstart your own nonprofit startup?

We’ve always intended to create an organization to positively impact and bring solidarity to our community, it wasn’t until Darren, Henderson, and I realized our passion for entrepreneurialism that we decided to create The Black Burdell.

Although our target is the black, millennial demographic, we aim to provide value to all entrepreneurs of all demographics. Historically black entrepreneurs have had limited access to the professional networks, knowledge of career tracks, and feelings of belonging needed to reach these leadership positions.

It is imperative that we provide young, black entrepreneurs (YBEs) with the support needed to better their business, so we can cultivate their potential and promote their genius.

On a high level, what does The Black Burdell do and how are you changing the face of entrepreneurship?

In short, The Black Burdell, Inc. is laser focused providing access to knowledge, resources and networks in an effort to efficiently build strong black businesses in our communities. Our three prongs are supporting, promoting, and cultivating young, black entrepreneurs.

We support existing and aspiring entrepreneurs through curated events and workshops addressing key topics that are essential to the formation of strong businesses. We promote the importance of entrepreneurialism and patronage of small businesses. Lastly, we cultivate young entrepreneurs through our Cultivating Entrepreneurs Scholarship and mentorship opportunities.

Can you tell us more about your scholarship program?

With the vision of making it easier to start and grow small businesses The Black Burdell is committed to ensuring the Cultivating Entrepreneurs Scholarship is unlike any other scholarship. It is intended to help all applicants to cultivate their business and essentially benefits all applicants, not just the scholarship recipient. All applicants submit a business plan, a business pitch, and their resume to our Board of Advisors who determine the scholarship winner(s).

All applicants receive feedback on their business and are one step closer to starting or enhancing their enterprise. We are excited to award more scholarships categories in 2017, focused on STEM and non-STEM businesses. You can learn more about our scholarship here.

What problem are you solving/what are you hoping to accomplish?

We realized there was a lack of a social community for YBEs, there was no direct-source we felt we could go to comfortably with ideas or questions related to our business. We aren’t an incubator or accelerator, we are a social community where aspiring or current entrepreneurs can break out of their comfort zone and seek mentorship, consultation, or get their questions answered for both their business and education.

Outside of YBEs, The Black Burdell helps to address the problem of lack of diverse suppliers of majority-owned businesses by generating a talent pool of black-owned businesses in which these businesses can work with to enhance their diversity and inclusion practices. As well as provide consultation on diversity initiatives for businesses in the technology space.

Do you have any competitors? If so, how do you stand out?

There are numerous organizations and resources specifically tailored to aiding minority businesses and entrepreneurs. As an organization for black, millennial entrepreneurs created by black, millennial entrepreneurs, we plan to bring a personal touch and empathetic mindset to our services.

As we intend to change the face of entrepreneurship. We firmly believe that any organization aiming to aid in black business formation is a part of the community we intend to build as we continue to crowdsource knowledge and resources.

Not long ago, you and the other founders were GA Tech students. What fueled your desire to create a startup at such a young age and what’s your best piece of advice for other young entrepreneurs?

It’s actually pretty funny, as a Georgia Tech student I realized that so many of my peers were starting both STEM-related, and like myself, non-STEM-related businesses, Sanders, Johnson II, and I realized a few things:

  1. Collegiate students really like starting businesses – whether it is STEM-based, photography, or doing hair – our peers weren’t acknowledging the entrepreneurial spirit they had.
  2. Young entrepreneurs often “don’t know what they don’t know.”
  3. We spend a lot of time trying to read and study things like business plans, pitches, how to get funding, etc. and it really cuts into “study time.” We could catalyze efficiency from workshops and mentoring from other entrepreneurs.
  4. A lot of the entrepreneurial resources in the community lacked representation from people of color. The biggest inspiration for starting businesses young is seeing people that look like you and act like you that are starting successful companies.
  5. The idea of “drop out and follow your passion” was uncomfortable and sometimes crippling.
  6. We often struggle to identify where black businesses were in the area and didn’t know where to look to find them.

Our biggest advice to young entrepreneurs is to never ignore your passion and to never allow lack of time or capital be an excuse to ignore that passion. There will always be ways to get funding and find time, resources, mentors, or opportunities to make your passion a sustainable business. Your passion is the strongest fuel to drive a business engine, if you manage your time, manage your expectations, and manage your network, the sky is the limit.

What have you accomplished so far and what’s on deck for 2016?

In our first 10 months as a business, we have hosted numerous workshops including a Kickoff with the Georgia Tech Society of Black Engineers, a Black Entrepreneurs Panel with some of Atlanta’s brightest startup talent, and an “Art of Business Planning Workshop.” We’ve also awarded our inaugural “Cultivating Entrepreneurs Scholarship” to Michole Washington, a Georgia Tech student pursuing a degree in Applied Mathematics and recent founder of Afrithmetic – a non-traditional tutoring service whose mission is developing students’ confidence with all levels of mathematics.

We are very excited about this year as we are planning a Burdell’s School of Entrepreneurship one-day conference in November. This high-intensity, interactive (and fun) conference for high school and college current and aspiring entrepreneurs, as well as young professionals, will feature the some of Atlanta’s best and brightest minority entrepreneurs and give practical tactics on growing your business no matter what stage of the process you are in.

We will be offering more scholarships and in addition to our current Cultivating Entrepreneurs Scholarships, we will be awarding scholarships specifically for collegiate STEM entrepreneurs.

The team is also very excited to extend our target colleges to include not only Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia State University but also The Atlanta University Center, Emory, Agnes Scott and other Metro-Atlanta Schools.

How does Atlanta weave into your story and why did you decide to stay in this city to launch a startup?

It is always easiest to start a business where your heart is, that would definitely be Atlanta for us. We all met in at Atlanta at Georgia Tech, Atlanta is where we discovered our entrepreneurial spirit, Atlanta is where we have developed our networks and spread our roots – there was no better place than Atlanta for us to start this endeavor.

It also helps that Atlanta has the second highest percentage of black-owned businesses in the country, it is the largest black-owned market in terms of number of registered businesses, it is one of the largest growing cities in the United States, and it is a Technology hub (and as Georgia Tech alumni, we love that!). Setting up shop at our alma mater only seemed right and we want to help grow black enterprises and cultivate the next generation of entrepreneurs right where our heart is.

How can student entrepreneurs get involved with The Black Burdell initiatives?

Entrepreneurs of color and all entrepreneurs can get involved with The Black Burdell by subscribing on our website to get information on upcoming events and opportunities. They can also visit our website to gain access to past workshop materials, entrepreneurial resources, RSVP for upcoming events or reach out to us via email or social media.

Interested in The Black Burdell’s resources? Find out more on their scholarship here and follow them on Twitter and Instagram.


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