You may have heard about the President's initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by young men of color called My Brother's Keeper, but what you may not know is that entrepreneurship is a key remedy.
Speaking in New York City at last week's 2015 National Small Business Week, Mike Muse a former industrial engineer and co-founder of the record label Muse Recordings took to the stage with a handful of notable millennails, including: Aliya LeeKong, a chef and cookbook author; Idyl and Ayaan Mohallim of fashion brand Mataano, Matthew Burnett of Maker's Row; Navin Thukkaram, a serial entrepreneur and investor and Miguel McKelvey of WeWork.
The conversation provided an opportunity for attendees to hear from successful millennial entrepreneurs within various industries across NYC, ranging from fashion and food to manufacturing and venture capital.
For his part, Muse was recently named Small Business Administration’s My Brother’s Keeper Millennial Entrepreneur Champion. In other words, he's a mentor in the program and chief evangelist. In this capacity, Muse says he wishes to expose young men of color to how they can look at their hobbies as entrepreneurial opportunities. "Focusing on fashion, music, and sports, will allow us to show them that things they enjoy can become viable business ventures," he told Inc.
Much of the country's recent unrest in Baltimore has been rooted in lack of job opportunities for today's young people. And despite many strides, minorities in America are still faced with discrimination. Indeed, notes SBA chief Maria Contreras-Sweet, "it is important of late to say to the young millennials, if you can't get a job, the beauty of America is that you can start your own. You can grow your own wage instead of waiting for a nickel raise."
To accommodate for a fresh wave of young entrepreneurs, the SBA has partnered with credit unions to make loans under $50,000 available.
Besides captial access, the SBA boasts counseling support to help bring real-life success stories and role models to inspire the incoming working ages. In this vein, the SBA administrator and Muse advocate the notion of a hybrid culture--"You could be an engineer, for example, and combine it with fashion. LeeKong is an MBA from Columbia [University] and is now a chef," he says.
But presenting success stories is just part of the solution. Muse adds that the goal of My Brother's Keeper's millennial effort is to show young people how to succeed. "You're never going to know everything you need to know... Everyone thinks that everyone else knows how to find money but me. How do I expand? How do I get more clients?" He adds: "I want to drive home the notion that you're not alone."
This was the point of highlighting minority entrepreneurship among young people during National Small Business Week. Serial entrepreneurs with success stories will undoubtedly have failures in their past, and that's instructive. Serving as a champion for the program, Muse will pursue a year-long community initiative across many countries, trying to connect young men of color in the country and showing them what they can achieve.