Many of the successful trailblazers from past generations, up until now, are praised for creating their path to success. Although such stories are inspiring to the masses, the likelihood for most aspiring career professionals to reach a similar fate without external guidance isn’t the norm, and tech investor and entrepreneur Cortney Woodruff and music executive veteran Cortez Bryant are aware of that.
To provide that external guidance and help the Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) community gain access to mentorship to jumpstart their careers, they created Assemble, an online educational platform with courses from Black and brown experts and innovators. With Woodruff as Assemble’s CEO and Cortez alongside him as its president, they aim to lead as the first platform to purposely highlight successful BIPOC professionals in their respective fields and showcase their journeys to a wide audience online.
“I just had this idea to do something that was a bit bigger than just anything that had a solution to a problem,” Woodruff told AfroTech. “And we thought about the idea of Assemble and education and it’s something that we were all passionate about.”
The two teamed up with actor and activist Jesse Williams, co-founder of Assemble, to fill in the lack of exposure within the community and heighten awareness of the endless possibilities for people to pursue and achieve success. Ultimately, the idea is that the acquired knowledge will snowball into future generations to have the keys necessary to start their career paths.
“I think that with me having to yearn and search for mentorship and for new possibilities literally around the world is what I really want to bring to [Assemble] because I think there are kids all around the world just who don’t know what exists for them outside of really what’s been curated for us to want to aspire to be, which is within the entertainment and the sports sectors,” Woodruff said. “Whereas there are a million other things that could be just as fulfilling, just as rewarding financially, successfully and spiritually and that’s what we’re really trying to provide in a very authentic voice as well.”
Woodruff and Bryant both saw firsthand growing up how the lack of mentors that relate to one’s dreams in their community oftentimes limits the size of their vision for their future.
“I think that the beauty of Assemble is we’re trying to solve that problem,” Bryant told AfroTech. “We’re trying to give a solution to show these dreamers and young kids that the sky is the limit and there are plenty of things that you can do and plenty of places you can be to be super successful in a lot of different ways.”
In 2020, Assemble’s executive team started building the platform, in which it offers 20 courses scaling across various industries and consists of 12-15 episodes per instructor. The online platform’s instructor lineup includes global makeup artist Sir John, Grammy-winning Trumpeter Maurice “Mobetta” Brown, radio personality and entrepreneur Angela Yee and Bryant himself.
“I don’t think its been hard for us to onboard instructors at this point because it’s so much that we want to expose our people to,” Bryant said. “We’re just starting out, but there’s so many places I know that we have to explore. So many sectors of successful Black and brown people that these kids need to look at and see that they can do a lot of different things in a whole lot of different areas.”
Assemble launches on Nov. 26 and is offering a limited free trial through December. Members will be able to access classes for free until the start of 2022.
To sign up for Assemble, click here.
Editorial note: Portions of this interview have been edited for clarity.