Entrepreneurship is one of the best vehicles for Black communities and families to generate wealth. Even so, the opportunities for us to learn to become entrepreneurs are often very limited. Unless your city is resource rich, you’ve gone to a college or university with a strong business program, or you’re lucky enough to find a mentor to help you navigate through the process, it’s generally a trial and error experience for members of the Black community.
The Gray Matter Experience, a non profit based in Chicago, is looking to change that narrative. Gray Matter works to expose Black teens to entrepreneurship much earlier than they normally would get access to such resources and connections. The program takes cohorts of 30 students through a 12-week program where students learn business concepts directly from Black entrepreneurs and work in teams to build businesses that impact their communities. The program culminates in their Shark Tank-style pitch competition, Pitch Black, where students receive feedback from a panel of judges on the feasibility of their business.
Gray Matter successfully hosted their 3rd Annual Pitch Black competition on Saturday, June 1. Six student groups pitched their business ideas in front of judges representative of the City of Chicagos Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, The Chicago Urban League, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs 100 Small Businesses and World Business Chicago. Prizes were awarded to the top three businesses and included pro-bono legal and accounting services for their first year of operations, Facebook ad credits, brand strategy consulting sessions and cash to fund their businesses.
Third place, a prize valued at $11,000 was awarded to Kangaroo, a on-demand hair delivery service for stylists. Second place went to C3 Ventures, an innovation center for teen entrepreneurs. Their prize package was valued at over $12,000. First place was awarded to Strength Together, an app using machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence) to support teens suffering from mental illness and depression. Their prize package totaled over $13,000.
Each of these companies and three more will be participating in Gray Matter’s summer business incubator where they’ll be paired with a mentor, work to solidify their business plan and work with a lawyer to incorporate their businesses. These six businesses will join five other companies that currently exist in Gray Matter’s portfolio.
Programs like Gray Matter are vital in rebuilding Black Wall Street and creating more successful and impactful businesses within our communities.
If you’re interested in supporting The Gray Matter Experience financially or through mentorship, please email [email protected] or visit their website www.graymatterexperience.com for more information.