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How Shayna Atkins Founded Atkco, Which Was Named The Third-Fastest-Growing Company In The Midwest Of 2024 By Inc. Magazine

Shayna Atkins is a multi-generational entrepreneur now leading the third-fastest-growing company in the Midwest and the fastest in Illinois of 2024, according to Inc. magazine. She credits her interest in entrepreneurship to her mother, who owned several businesses on the West Side of Chicago, IL, including a pager shop in the early ‘ 90s. During this time she recalls being exposed to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as she would program beepers at the shop. “I used to program beepers when I was young. Like those were some of my early science experiments for school, and also help her out at the shop,” Atkins shared in an interview with AFROTECH™. “I would actually program, like turn on and turn off, pagers using a DOS program at a very, very young age. Those two things I think really reduce the barrier of fear around both STEM as well as entrepreneurship.” In high school, Atkins developed a liking towards physics and selected the field for her...

May 20, 2024

With Various Partnerships And Deals, Skai Jackson Shares How Her Authenticity Keeps Her Grounded

TikTok has been at the center of many recent conversations. Despite its battles at Capitol Hill, the social media app is still one of the primary places Gen Z and others go for entertainment, recommendations, and news. Disney star Skai Jackson is among the people who have tapped into TikTok’s ubiquity. Jackson has been vocal about using TikTok and how it has impacted her personal life. According to a report from Blavity, the 22-year-old has a partnership with hair brand Cantu Beauty. However, her searches on TikTok taught her hairstyling techniques that would allow her to maximize the use of the products she promoted. View this post on Instagram A post shared by S K A I (@skaijackson) “I really feel like these products [Cantu] are so special because they took the time to answer everybody’s needs and deliver and put them into the product,” she told Blavity. She continued, “It’s just so amazing to see that there are millions of people in the world dealing with the same issues as me...

May 16, 2024

Cristina Jones Shares The Intentionality She Has Behind Creating Partnerships As CEO Of Black Girls Code

Black Girls Code (BGC) is living true to its name. The organization exists to ensure at least 1 million girls of color will establish a presence in the tech industry by 2040 by partnering with schools, individuals who share its mission, and other organizations, a press release mentions. Among its efforts to bolster career paths in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM) is providing computer programming education. In October 2023, the organization hired former Salesforce executive Cristina Jones as its CEO. Jones’ experience also includes having worked at Twentieth Century Fox, where she was able to gain further experience within the entertainment sector and technology. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Black Girls Code (@blackgirlscode) Now, in her latest role, the focus is on workforce development and fostering industry partnerships that will help to build the skills of its students and forge career pathways, as previously reported by...

May 14, 2024

How Felix Brandon Lloyd's Beanstack Went From Receiving A $250K Investment From Mark Cuban To Generating $5M In Annual Revenue

Reading is one of the fundamental skills required for youth to excel academically. However, there has been a rising number of children who struggle with literacy skills. According to The Nation’s Report Card, only 33% of fourth-grade students could read at or above the basic reading level as of 2022. To be a part of keeping students motivated to read, Beanstack, formerly known as Zoobean, stepped in. Founded by husband-and-wife team Felix Brandon Lloyd and Jordan Lloyd Bookey, the edtech startup was created to not only support children’s reading growth but also grow their overall love for reading. The drive to launch the company stems from the founders’ background in education. In addition to Bookey serving as Google’s head of K-12 education outreach, Lloyd had worked in the public school system. He started out as dean of students at the SEED Public Charter School, where he was named Washington, D.C.’s “Teacher of the Year.” Then, in 2007, Lloyd was selected for Echoing Green’s...

May 2, 2024

How A Designer Who Disrupted The Fashion World Thanks To A Virtual 3D Show Secured A Partnership With A Premium Bourbon Brand

You can’t place Anifa Mvuemba’s creativity in a box. Back in 2020, the Hanifa founder and fashion designer shook up the fashion world with a virtual 3D show on Instagram for her collection, Pink Label Congo, inspired by her home country of the Congo. From then on, Mvuemba continued to implement her self-taught tech skills into her work, as previously reported by AFROTECH™. Now, Mvuemba has taken her fashion expertise into new territory — the spirits industry. In February 2024, it was announced that she and Sergio Hudson are partnering with premium bourbon brand Woodford Reserve. During a New York Fashion Week (NYFW) dinner, Mvuemba spoke about previously feeling like she was approached by brands for their own gain and image, per WWD. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Anifa M (@anifam) In an email interview with AFROTECH™, Mvuemba shared , “As a Black designer, navigating the barriers that come with being shortlisted for collaborations merely to fulfill a diversity...

Apr 25, 2024

When And How To Follow Up After An Interview

Job interviewing is a process that consists of much more than submitting an application, doing an interview and getting hired or not. Another aspect of the process that should be gone about strategically is the follow-up process. It is natural to want to contact an interviewer or recruiter after an interview to know whether the position has been secured or if it is time to look elsewhere. However, it is important to avoid being too pushy, too casual or too informal when conducting a follow-up. Here is some general guidance on how to follow up after an interview. Send A Thank-You Email Before a follow-up email is of any concern, consider sending a thank you email after the initial interview. A thoughtful gesture is to send a personalized thank-you email to each person you interviewed within 24 hours of the interview. Express gratitude for their time, reiterate your interest in the position and highlight a specific aspect of the interview or conversation that resonated with you. This...

Jan 12, 2024

New Rory & Mal: Who Would've Thought Podcasting Would Make It This Far?

In less than a year, Rory Farrell and Jamil ‘MAL’ Clay have gone from being supporting acts on the popular Joe Budden Podcast to carving out their own lane in the digital space and securing a $10 million bag. If there’s ever been a better example of the saying “what’s for you is for you,” the success of the New Rory & Mal podcast would be it. On November 2, the New Rory & Mal podcast made its debut on Stitcher’s More Sauce label just months after a public, yet messy, split from their previous platform. AfroTech got the chance to speak with the duo about their new Stitcher deal, life post-JBP, and how other aspiring podcasters can get turn a hobby into a lucrative business. When Rory & Mal began their podcast journey roughly six years ago, they had no idea it could transform into a career. It wasn’t until they sat with the late Combat Jack, who is credited for spearheading the hip hop podcast industry, that they realized its potential. “[At first, podcasting] was just some fun thing...

Nov 22, 2021

Are You A Black Entrepreneur? Here's Some Financial Resources Designed For Your Success

Black Americans own 2.2 percent of the nation’s 5.7 million employer businesses, according to U.S. Census data. Yet, many lack the proper financial tools, guidance, and resources to succeed. States like Georgia saw a big jump in business growth last year with a 57 percent increase in new business formations. While this may seem exciting, Black businesses historically bring in less revenue because they face challenges related to funding, business models, financial understanding, and leadership. McKinsey & Company reported that while approximately 15 percent of white Americans hold some business equity, only five percent of Black Americans do. Octavia Conner, a virtual CFO and founder of Say Yes to Profits, told AfroTech that for Black business owners to succeed, they’ll also need more support from corporate America. She said corporate America needs to stop limiting opportunities for entrepreneurs based on the color of their skin, offer more programs and financial resources, and grant...

Oct 1, 2021

7 Bossed Up Lessons We Learned From Rick Ross (And How They'll Improve Your Hustle)

Being a boss is no easy task, so who better to get tips from than rapper and multi-hyphenate businessman, Rick Ross ? On September 7, Rick Ross answers all of your entrepreneurial questions in his new book, The Perfect Day To Boss Up: A Hustler’s Guide To Building Your Empire . With writer and former XXL Magazine editor Neil Martinez-Belkin on the assist, Rozay discusses how he was forced to pivot his business strategies during the pandemic, the importance of having a solid team, and drops nothing but gems for those who have their own business, are thinking about starting a business, or just need a little motivation to get them going. AfroTech not only got the opportunity to preview the book early, but we also got the chance to speak to the Biggest Boss himself. Check out just a few of the many major keys we walked away with.  

Sep 1, 2021

Founders Of The Relief App Look To Usher In A New Era Of Debt 'Relief'

When the Relief app announced that it had received $2 million in seed funding via a press release, people beleaguered with the burden of credit card debt breathed a sigh of relief. Led by Collaborative Ventures with participation from such prestigious investors as Brand Foundry Ventures, Interplay Ventures, Necessary Ventures, and The Fund, as well as backing from notable angel investors including Twitch founder Justin Kan, Elliot Tebele, and Ben Kaplan of Jerry Media, the Relief app is poised to usher in a new era of debt, well, relief . For co-founder Jason Saltzman, however, the focus is not necessarily on the debt relief itself, but on creating a holistic environment that benefits all users. “I consider myself a social impact entrepreneur who is deeply motivated to help as many people as I can,” he told AfroTech. “I am an adjunct professor at FIU in Miami where I also sit on the foundational board of directors as the Vice-Chair of Enterprise Growth. My latest venture, Relief, is...

How Raniyah Copeland of The Black AIDS Institute Aims To Dispel Myths About The Disease

Raniyah Copeland of the Black AIDS Institute can remember a time when HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — was the scourge of the 1980s. She remembers when the virus wiped out a whole sub-population of Black and Latinx men — she remembers what they faced while they were alive — and she knows that while HIV isn’t the scourge it once was, it’s still a disease that disproportionately affects the Black community…and she knows why. “In the United States, health is driven by inequity,” she told AfroTech. “HIV, as a disease, has a unique stigma in that it’s associated specifically with certain sexuality, a certain race, and a certain socio-economic class. While society isn’t as overt with its racism about AIDS as it once was — there was a time when the CDC would say that being Haitian, for example, made you more susceptible to AIDS — we still have progress that needs to be made.” Progress is, ultimately, the goal of the Black AIDS Institute. Dedicated exclusively to eradicating the disease...

How The Founders Of This Cannabis Speakeasy Snagged An Investment From Jay-Z

When Whitney Beatty & Ebony McGee Andersen first came up with the idea of Josephine and Billie’s cannabis speakeasy, they knew they’d be up against some challenges. As working mothers and Black women in the cannabis space, Beatty & Andersen also knew what they had to do to overcome those challenges. “Women, in general, have issues with access, but Black women in the cannabis space? Oh, the stories,” Beatty tells AfroTech. “And we knew we’d be facing the same thing — which is why we are so lucky that we got Jay-Z and The Parent Company to invest in our concept.” Josephine and Billie’s aims to create an inclusive and equitable society and a legal cannabis industry in which Black and minority entrepreneurs have the opportunity, access, and financial and logistical support to build peak levels of success and value for their communities. “In my former role as an urban planner, I can certainly attest how important investment is to the success of a business,” said Andersen. “But, more than...

Former MoviePass CEO Stacy Spikes Says PreShow Is Another Idea 'Whose Time Has Come'

Starting a business in the middle of a pandemic is a scary proposition, but PreShow founder and CEO Stacy Spikes was completely unfazed. “Where others may have seen problems, I saw opportunities,” he told AfroTech. “I’m not going to lie and say it was easy — but I will certainly say that I knew that what I had was an idea whose time had come. But, I will also say that I had to pivot, slightly, from my original plan for PreShow.” Getting his start as a film marketing executive and producer, Spikes first made headlines when he became the co-founder and CEO of MoviePass. In theory, MoviePass’s idea was a simple, and welcome, one: pay a monthly subscription fee, see as many movies in the theaters as you’d like. In 2012, MoviePass upped the ante by activating proprietary location-based payment technology, which allowed users to pay for their tickets in a safe and secure way — another idea that was, in fact, before its time. So it’s no surprise that PreShow, too, has the same visionary...

Women Seeking Wealth: A Chat With Italee Lucas

Italee Lucas is a former North Carolina Tarheel Women’s Basketball player, and she was also the 21st pick by the Tulsa Shock in the 2011 WNBA draft. She now plays overseas for the Angolan Women’s National Basketball team. Lucas has quite a few accolades under her belt, but now she can also add successful investor to that list. I was fortunate enough to spend some time talking with her to understand how she began investing and what she has learned about the process by working with the experts. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. AfroTech: When you were drafted into the WNBA, did they have anything in place to teach rookies about personal finance? Italee Lucas: They didn’t, and that’s one of the things I’m even talking to my agent about now. I did end up changing agents three times, and I think it’s important for the agents, especially for the women, coming out to be partnered with either a financial advisor or some type of additional capitalist. When I first came...

Dec 9, 2019