2016 was all about loss, if we listen to the narrative being told. Everybody lost someone or something. I too am transitioning through a few losses that can be attributed to 2016. To be honest, on May 14, 2003, my grandfather transitioned and I hope I never stop feeling the effects of that loss! In fact, that date is tattooed on my left forearm under a quote by Frantz Fanon that reads, “Make of me always a man who questions…”
I began writing this, what is supposed to be our last blog of 2016, a couple weeks ago as I returned from our trips to Toronto, Canada, Brussels, Belgium and Kigali, Rwanda. This blog was to detail the exhilarating ride of 2016 we’ve been on through this vehicle of hope and help we call iNvictus Forward Outreach. Since 2010, we have dedicated energies and efforts to providing aid, technical support and mentorship to minorities and densely populated communities of color. The cornerstone of our efforts, since our inception, have revolved around entrepreneurship and education as a means to lifting these often ignored markets of people. Our once proprietary minority entrepreneurship curriculum has evolved into the iNvictus EMERGE (Entrepreneurship, Mentoring, Economic Development, Research, Growth in business(es) and Education) program. In our infancy, we touted the success we were experiencing and bragged about our growth; over 300 companies in such a small time frame and a success rate as high as the nation’s attrition rate for entrepreneurial ventures. However, as with any successful endeavor, growth was a two-edged sword for us.
Our iNvictus EMERGE program added various components that stretched its capacity, including but not limited to establishing a physical location inside the newly founded (by our for-profit brand mate, iNvictus Group Holdings, LLC.) coworking space, iNvictus Office Center in Durham, North Carolina. Our growth required we add more business mentors, staff, interns, and volunteers. iNvictus EMERGE added other programs as well. We launched our first ever Masters of Fate Fellowship, an 18-month concentrated effort focusing on the growth of 8 venture leaders selected from a national pool of applicants. These ventures are rooted in 4 categories: STEM, Food, Health/Healthcare & Education.
We cannot attribute our growth and success only to our internal efforts. We have been extremely fortunate to serve with great entrepreneurs, mentors and have received aid, technical support and funding through relationships from a myriad of institutions and resources across the globe. We would be neglectful not to give direct mention to Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation (Winston-Salem, NC), Idea Village (New Orleans, LA), American Underground (Durham, NC), Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (New Haven, CT), Propellor (New Orleans, LA), Springboard Lab (Rocky Mount, NC), The Aspen Institute’s Resnick Aspen Action Forum (Aspen, CO), the Forward Cities Initiative (Cleveland, OH, Durham, NC, New Orleans, LA & Detroit, MI), Seedstars & Seedstars
Africa (Switzerland), University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC), Duke University and North Carolina Central University (Durham, NC), Jumpstart (Cleveland, OH), Salesforce (Toronto, Canada), Goodwork Network (New Orleans, LA) and several institutions throughout the country of Rwanda including but not limited to the KLab, the Ministry of Youth & ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) and Ambassador Bill Kayonga, CEO of the National Agricultural Export Development Board! There are several entities that I did not mention, but it should not reflect a lack of importance to us. Instead, attribute it to a word count limit placed on us by our communications team!
Not only did we experience unprecedented growth with our iNvictus EMERGE program, iNvictus Forward Outreach expanded its tentacles of aid as well. WINNING!, our newest program, which is represented by the hope-filled name given to it by our newly hired co-program directors, Dwight Bagley and Eric Taborn of Durham, NC. WINNING! is a community-driven approach to challenging inner-city social inequities through a collaborative effort grounded in quantitative research and first-hand practical expertise to produce tangible economic and socially mobile results. Our Board is thrilled with the direction and efforts already laid out by Mr. Bagley and Taborn and look forward to continuing detailing their service.
Entrepreneurs 4 Education (E4E) has spent the better part of 2016 doing research; collecting data, forming strategic partnerships with entrepreneurs and laying the foundation for its launch scheduled for the first quarter of 2017. Its core mission is to bring together entrepreneurs and venture leaders in conjunction with elementary and secondary schools to promote entrepreneurship. E4E does this with the help of school leaders, teachers, and staff by locating, training and mentoring youth and adolescents on the primary principles of entrepreneurship. Research tells us that between 1993 and 2013, sixty-three percent of the net new jobs created were done so by entrepreneurs. Small business makes up 90 percent of all new employment. E4E uses as its point of departure: tomorrow’s entrepreneurs cannot be stumbled upon. We have to find them and aid their development by giving them the necessary tools to succeed at such an important role in society. E4E sets its table via the 5 components of the program:
School Entrepreneurship Fund
Future Venture Leader Mentorship
Improving Education Through Entrepreneurship
Student Pitch Competitions
Look for details on the official launch of Entrepreneurs 4 Education January 11th, 2017!
As Board Chair, I am too thrilled to announce that a non-profit organization I helped co-found almost twenty-five years ago, the Durham H.A.W.K.S. (Helping All Willing Kids Succeed) merged under the iNvictus Forward Outreach umbrella in April of 2016. It’s former executive director, Courtney Dawes, and board chair, Mia LoRenn Davis is now co-directors of the Durham H.A.W.K.S. program. Since 1993, it has literally served thousands of youth/adolescents and affecting tens of thousands of families of participation, staff, volunteers, Board members and community stakeholders through one-on-one and group mentorship, college tours, basketball, football, tutoring, tee-ball, baseball, cheerleading, lacrosse, soccer, “Lil Tykes” and other programs. The Durham H.A.W.K.S. will continue its focus on mentoring youth and adolescents through sports and education. It's newly formed advisory council is currently working on an expanded strategic plan that addresses similar needs throughout North Carolina. I’ve had a peek in on some of their planning sessions and am super excited about the expanded vision and its potential impact.
In 2016, we launched iNviTECH, our entrepreneurial edutech program. After sixteen months of research and a streamlined director search, we launched iNviTECH in the summer of 2016 with a Wearable Devices Summer Camp. Wearable devices are one of the fastest growing categories in consumer electronics and the wearable technology market is predicted to be worth almost $20 BILLION by 2018. We engaged twenty middle and high school students through our inaugural camp. It culminated in a pitch competition with industry, city and community stakeholders as the judges. They rewarded our only all-girl team with first place! iNviTECH carries the weight of its own mandate; to directly increase the underrepresentation of minorities in STEM fields. Based on our proven launch model, we will reach our goal.
The thought that 2016 continues to be highlighted by a narrative of loss doesn’t bother me. What bothers me more is how we negatively define loss. In most cultures, loss brings along the synergy of grief. As far back as you can research the etymology of the word, loss has been synonymous with concepts like destruction, detriment, failure… However, as all true entrepreneurs know, WE create reality. And the reality of 2016 for us at iNvictus is that on December 22, 2016, a close friend and partner of the iNvictus family,Mr. Hezekiah Griggs, IIIdeparted this life. I still hear my wife’s words when she learned of his transitioning, “NO! Hezekiah CANNOT BE DEAD! Ed, he’s too young. He STILL has too much work to do here!” At 28 years of age, that’s an expectation of most. Hezekiah and I talked enough about the future of this work and our efforts and held each other accountable. We often chided each other, in jest. We often shared our mutually agreed upon sentiments that there aren’t enough of us fighting. So, those of us fighting have to do more. One of us would say, “You’re not doing enough!”. The other would follow by a list of what we were currently working on as if to lay out this work as a scorecard or resume. But, in fact, it was a constant and mutual challenge to do more! During our most recent trip to Rwanda, I remember telling Hezekiah how much more inspired I have become to do even more and find ways to maximize our impact globally. Since Hezekiah’s passing, we have contemplated a lot, and this “loss,” although extremely difficult to understand, we accept the challenge to move forth with the vision we always held at the forefront of our efforts. Only now we do so knowing that there is one less soldier on the battlefield. Yet, we fight, help, grind hearing the forever mantra in our ear, “You’re not doing enough!” #LetsWORK!
Edward R. Boyd, Jr.
iNvictus Group Holdings, LLC.
Chief Strategy Officer
iNvictus Forward Outreach,