Do You See HOPE

Edward Boyd - Wednesday, May 17, 2017

“The land was barren. It didn't produce anything. It was just dirt and rocks.” Cuban farmer, entrepreneur, and scholar, Fernando told us. “My mentor and I dug the (40 foot) well by hand. It took us 7 months. (Pointing at the top of the barn) The electricity is provided by the solar panel...soon we will install a wind turbine because that breeze you feel is constant for us year round.” His voice projected the physical juxtaposition of confidence, expertise, and HOPE. We have been fortunate to witness this paradox many times the world over. Through iNvictus Forward Outreach’s ( EMERGE (Entrepreneurship, Mentoring, Economic Development, Research, Growth in Business(es), and Education) program, we focus our efforts on minority entrepreneurs. Many times these venture leaders have their beginnings in low resource communities. These communities are often viewed by many as economically barren, but not just the land; unfortunately, the indictment is castigated on the people as well. Yet time and time again, through relationships with the entrepreneurs and communities, we find this similar mixture of sentiment: part confidence, part expertise, and a whole lotta HOPE.

We witnessed it while serving on the Durham Innovation Council as a part of the Forward Cities Initiative ( in Durham, Cleveland, Detroit and New Orleans. We see it through our service on the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation’s Community Leadership Council ( in small and medium size cities across the state of North Carolina. It's prevalent in often overlooked neighborhoods in Durham, NC like East Durham, the West End, MacDougald Terrace, the Cornwallis Community and countries across the globe, many labeled “emerging markets,” where we serve or are laying the foundation to serve, like Rwanda. It’s an interesting dynamic of paradigm change to see, hear, feel and experience.

We were recently invited to participate in a delegation to serve in Cuba. The delegation brought together by Mickey Bergman, Director of The Aspen Institute Global Alliances Program ( and the Founder of Fringe Diplomacy ( combined twenty persons from varying (and we would soon learn, impressive) backgrounds. We met in Miami and together boarded a flight to Cuba with a very broad charge: to serve in whatever capacity our knowledge and expertise would allow. I soon realized there wasn't any gift more suitable to have on this trip than a strong desire to listen, learn and experience.

Cuba offered us so much. Let's begin with the obvious of a Caribbean island. The sites were breathtaking. The culture permeated our every inhale. And, the pride was pervasive. The people we met continuously discussed how fast things were changing and how excited they were, filled with the anticipation of these continual changes. They were relatively aware and insistent that these changes should still come riddled with patience. Their love for Cuba was relayed in their every word. Owners of cooperatives (business owners) explained to us how exciting it was to be a business owner in a country that didn't always present that option as a profession. Like all entrepreneurs, they shared their successes and pain points with equal vigor. Those successes and pain points were not foreign to us, nor were they innate to Cuba. Textile (clothing) manufacturers, construction companies, farmers, restaurateurs, you name it, not only did the people of Cuba have it, they were good at it! We witnessed the results firsthand of the inclusive (competitiveness) innovation that Johnathan Holifield of Scale Up Partners ( has detailed with me over the past couple years.

College professors, who work with student entrepreneurs at the University of Havana, shared their expertise with us. Personally, I found this meeting very impressive and forward leaning. They weren't thinking in small terms at all. They saw Cuba and its future economy in a very macro way. Admittedly, the path ahead of them was a difficult one. However, very similar to what we hear from entrepreneurs in low resource communities all over the world, the future, from their perspective, is remarkably brighter than was the past. Did the sixty plus year embargo (or blockade as the Cubans refer to it) the United States initiated with Cuba adversely affect the Cubans and the Cuban economy? Sure, in a myriad of ways. Many of which aren't much different from the unofficial, but just as intentional, embargo most majority dominant culture financial institutions within the United States have enacted on minority communities for centuries. In fact, much of the poverty, limited networks and access to technical support and funding for entrepreneurs was eerily reminiscent of what the majority of communities of color experience globally. Yet, HOPE was there at every stop of our eight-day journey.

Fernando went on to inform our group that they currently employ dozens of farmers and are farming 5 different farms now. They also have a bee farm that produces honey ten months of the year. His business sells its produce to many of the best restaurants in the country. In fact, to inject a personal testimony, before our arrival at Fernando’s farm we unknowingly had lunch at a restaurant that carries his produce and I had already told those at my table during lunch that it was by far the best salad I had eaten in my entire life. At a loss for words to adequately describe the efforts we witnessed and experienced in Cuba, the word hopeful comes to mind. In so many cases, I was inspired by the forward leaning perspectives of the Cubans. Given the hurdles they've faced, quitting was a very viable option. Some might say it was expected. They never met Fernando…

Edward R. Boyd, Jr.,
Serial Entrepreneur, Educator, and Executive
Ed co-founded the Durham H.A.W.K.S. (Helping All Willing Kids Succeed) and has served thousands of youth, adolescents and families through sports, education, mentoring and civic service since 1993. While remaining very active mentoring entrepreneurs and serving on for and non-profit boards and volunteering with organizations dedicated to lowering the prison recidivism rate, increasing minority representation in STEM fields, and addressing the generational wealth gap, he serves as Chief Strategy Officer of iNvictus Group Holdings, LLC. iGH is an investment group he co-founded in 2010 to address the inequities that adversely affect low resource communities and minority populations, using entrepreneurship and education as vehicles of change. Ed also serves as board chair of iNvictus Forward Outreach, the 501(c)3 federally tax-exempt non-profit arm of the iNvictus brand. He is a member of the second cohort of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation’s Community Leadership Council, a group of 20 diverse leaders selected from across NC. 

Everybody lost someone or something, #LetWork 2017

Edward Boyd - Wednesday, January 04, 2017

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
Social Entrepreneurship
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,
Board Chair 

Harnessing Earth’s Food Systems (Watch me shoot the cap off this bottle)

iNvictus Office Center - Monday, October 24, 2016

I grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia on South Cherokee Cluster. We had a huge backyard, almost a quarter of an acre. There were some pretty cool features in our backyard. We had a shed where my mom and dad kept all their tools, the lawn mower, and our bikes. We also had a peach tree that would bloom every season. Though the peach tree would fruit, very rarely would we each the peaches. The squirrels got to them first. Towards the back of the yard, we had honeysuckles covering the fence. I'd go back there, pinch the little green caps off the bottom of the flowers, pull out the stem, and lick the little bubble of nectar that came out. It would take a couple bubbles of honeysuckle nectar before I was satisfied. One year, we also had a vegetable garden. 

We grew eggplant, zucchini, watermelon. I can't remember what else we grew, but I remember our little tiny watermelons being super sweet and one of our zucchini's being HUGE. I think we even gave away one to our neighbor. I enjoyed watching the plants grow, however, it wasn't a huge part of my childhood. We did the backyard garden a couple seasons and never really came back to it. Perhaps it was because I didn't see the importance, or I lost interest or my family simply didn't have enough time. After all, my mom was a single parent working and going to school.

My Dad lived with us in my early childhood. He worked as a surveyor for a company called Landmark Design Group. Sometimes when my dad came home from survey jobs he would bring home box turtles. We’d name them and keep them as pets, and after a few days, we would release them into the wild. Occasionally he’d take my brother and I out in the woods on his survey jobs. He’d navigate the thickets like a champion, all the while warning us about chiggers, snakes, and poison ivy. My dad was a real nature buff.

My dad was also a hunter. He had tons of rifles and a bow and arrow. He taught my brother about guns and how to properly shoot the bow. He would teach me sometimes too. One time, he took my brother and I out into the woods and set some targets up in a tree. One of the targets was a plastic bottle. After my dad taught me the proper way to hold the rifle, how to look down the scope, where the safety was and all that, I kneeled behind a fallen tree and looked down the scope of the rifle to my target, the plastic bottle.

“Watch me shoot the cap off this bottle,” I announced to my dad and brother, and POW! I did it. My dad started laughing out loud and I think my brother was kind of jealous. I must have been about ten years old.

When my dad would come home from his hunting trips, he’d go over to my uncle's house to clean his game. He would bring home the deer meat, season it really well and make deer jerky. It tasted really nice. He always talked about how much he loved to hunt. His dad taught him, and in turn, my dad taught my brother. Whenever I'd make arguments against hunting, he'd always explain the cycle of life and talk to me about the importance of survival. He'd talk about the importance of having the skills to feed yourself, whether that be hunting, fishing, or growing fruits and vegetables. I understand his argument better now then I did when I was a little girl.

As industrial agriculture poisons our environment and our bodies, now, more than ever, I realize the importance of my father’s words. There’s a movement happening. There’s a consciousness being reborn. Humans across the globe are harnessing the practical knowledge of the land and the earth’s food systems. My parents did what they could with what little time they had to teach me and my brother small lessons about growing food, fishing, hunting, and navigating the wild. I am by no means an expert on any of these things. In fact, as I've gotten older, I’ve grown further and further away from nature. These days, I’m always on the go— in class, or at work, or in the car. That means that being outside, growing food, catching animals, and fishing requires a lot of intentional effort to incorporate these things into my daily life. Making an effort to learn about growing eggplant, or eating honeysuckles, or catching box turtles is a silent reminder of my childhood. I don't live with my family now, and I don't talk to them everyday, but the memories of my childhood and the practical skills that my family taught me about the natural world are deeply engraved in my soul. When it all goes down, when the system crumbles and the stores close, I know where I’ll be— eating sweet watermelon and drinking honeysuckle nectar, shooting rifles in the woods with my father.



My Truth About Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation

Edward Boyd - Thursday, September 08, 2016

Three Dog Night, through their lyrics penned years ago, told us that, “one is the loneliest number.” However, programmers will tell you that isn’t true at all. In fact, the number one is actually plural. It is often used to symbolize a value more than zero. It is used to represent many. “How can one represent many?” is the obvious response. Originally, it was my response as well.

Since early 2016, when I was initially extended an offer from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation (ZSR) to serve as a member of the second cohort of their Community Leadership Council (CLC), I have been trying to make sense of the offer, fully understand what would be expected of me and what I should expect of the opportunity. To be informed that the Foundation’s process had selected me as one of only twenty persons from across the state of North Carolina to serve as a part of the CLC’s three-year commitment, felt like an honor. In complete honesty, it felt like more of an honor because others I shared the invite with told me it was. I will talk more about this later. For now, I sat at my office desk listening to Wharton Business Radio on XM and pondered the significance of turning this offer down.

With a daughter in college in Florida destined to do great things as a marine scientist, another daughter a high school junior readying our family for the college selection process for the second time and an eleven year old sixth grade son who was entering that stage I am very much familiar with, having mentored youth and adolescents of the past twenty plus years. He will soon require an absorbent amount of my focused energies. The juxtaposition of my fatherly duties and my efforts working with minority entrepreneurs through the iNvictus brand, my service on multiple for-profit and non-profit boards, my own entrepreneurial interests that also require a decent amount of traveling and although I’m pointing it out last, it is very much the point of departure in my life; that being the constant work it takes attempting to be ever present, thoughtful, loving and a very active husband in a now two-decade young marriage to my best friend. In essence, I already led a fairly busy life. Anything I chose to infuse into my life’s itinerary had to be well worth it and by well worth it, I meant it had to be an opportunity I simply could not in good conscious say no to.

I shared the extended invitation with two people. One, a friend and mentor of mine of more than twenty years and the other, a peer I am proud to have considered a friend over the same period of time. My friend said, “Ed, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation is HUGE! Especially within the confines of the state of North Carolina. I know you have a lot going on, but I would definitely say, if you can do it, you should.” My mentor, within our respective conversation, basically said these words, “ really can’t say no to this opportunity. Congratulations! And keep me posted.” There it was. After a call with the Foundation regarding what would be expected of me, I agreed to serve.

Months later, my orientation had passed. I had the opportunity to meet the nineteen other CLC members in my cohort, ZSR staff and a few past CLC cohort members. I was excited to have the opportunity to serve with such an intelligent, driven and service oriented group. I could now better gauge the expectations of me. However, I still had not become fully aware of how my role in this position could be of service to others, more specifically the underserved populations. I learned long ago that we all should have select people whose opinion really mattered to us. And we should be able to forge an appropriate trajectory of service and success for our lives with the help of their directives. Now, I am far from a blind follower of anyone. However, it has been said that the essence of true leadership is found in how one serves others. I would contend that in addition to the service of others, the calibration of leadership is found in one’s ability to follow.

I spent time allowing my purpose to manifest itself to me. And it did. I found it in the actual press release from Z. Smith Reynolds announcing the 2016-19 CLC.

“...The appointment of this exceptional group of leaders could not have come at a better time,” said Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation’s Executive Director Maurice “Mo” Green. “...The Community Leadership Council, in so far as it represents a microcosm of North Carolina, is the ideal group to assist us…”

As opposed to simply being a representation of those that would benefit from the Foundation’s efforts, I decided my purpose was to become a liaison, a catalyst even. In the true essence of the history of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, I will use my position and relationship with the Foundation to ensure the needs of the people of North Carolina are heard. Individually and in my role as Chief Strategy Officer of iNvictus Group Holdings, LLC and Board Chair of iNvictus Forward Outreach, I have worked diligently for years to adequately address the inequities that adversely affect minority communities and populations through entrepreneurship and education. As director of the EMERGE (Entrepreneurship, Mentoring, Economic Development, Research, Growth in Business(es) and Education) program, my focus is largely in addressing the generational wealth gap that exists between minorities and the majority dominant culture with a laser-like focus on making impactful, systemic economic and educational changes. Along with our dearth of years of research, collaborations and networks, I want my position with the CLC to be a dually collaborative one. I want to work with and listen to others in need to ensure we continue to initiate adequate methods to address those needs. I also intend to collaborate with as many current, past and future CLC members across North Carolina to bring collaboration and innovation in our efforts to being a part of the solution(s.)

Understandably, this is work. But, it’s part of my life’s work and although sometimes it’s labor intensive, I don’t want it to sound laboring. I’m excited, to say the least. It’s through this collaborative effort that one again is proven to be plural; it represents many and math makes more sense.

Community Leadership Council

iNvictus Office Center - Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Shaheen Syal, 336-705-3207

Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation Announces Newest Cohort of Community Leadership Council

Twenty NC leaders appointed to serve in an advisory capacity to the Foundation

Winston-Salem, NC (August 30, 2016) – The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation is pleased to announce its newest cohort of Community Leadership Council members.

Established in 2012, the Community Leadership Council is a group of 20 diverse leaders from across North Carolina who represent various sectors, professions and backgrounds. Each cohort spends three years working alongside the Foundation to better understand the opportunities and challenges facing our communities and State. This new group is the Foundation’s second cohort of Council members.

“The appointment of this exceptional group of leaders could not have come at a better time,” said Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation’s Executive Director Maurice “Mo” Green. “In May, the Foundation announced plans to launch a yearlong strategic assessment to determine how we can best serve North Carolina communities in light of changes to the State’s landscape as well as to examine and evaluate our current approach to grantmaking and broader work. The Community Leadership Council, in so far as it represents a microcosm of North Carolina, is the ideal group to assist us throughout this process. We are excited to have them on board during this important time in the Foundation’s history.”

The predecessor to the Community Leadership Council is what was known as the Advisory Panel. The Advisory Panel was established in 1977 and later took on responsibility for selecting the recipients of the Foundation’s Nancy Susan Reynolds Awards, which were presented annually to three individuals in one of three categories – race relations, advocacy and personal service. Award winners were considered North Carolina’s unsung heroes.


The Board and staff of the Foundation have appointed the following individuals to serve on the 2016-2019 Community Leadership Council.

  • Adam Klein, Chief Strategist, American Underground (Durham)
  • Adam Tarleton, Partner, Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, LLP (Greensboro)
  • Anna Warburton Munroe, Shareholder, Allman Spry Davis Leggett & Crumpler, PA (Winston-Salem)
  • Charles Thomas, Program Director, Knight Foundation (Charlotte)
  • Dawn Chavez, Executive Director, Asheville Greenworks (Asheville)
  • Edward Boyd, Chief Strategy Officer, iNvictus Group Holdings, LLC (Durham)
  • James Moore, Police Chief, City of Rocky Mount (Rocky Mount)
  • Jamilla Hawkins, Extension Agent, Community & Rural Development, Edgecombe County Center, NC Cooperative Extension (Tarboro)
  • Jill Swain, Executive Director, Huntersville Chamber of Commerce (Huntersville)
  • Juanita Wilson, Director of Snowbird/Cherokee County Services, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (Cherokee)
  • Kate Pett, Executive Director, Asheville City Schools Foundation (Asheville)
  • Lorelei Costa, Executive Director, Outer Banks Community Foundation (Southern Shores)
  • Marcus Hill, Lead Coordinator, Forsyth Community Food Consortium (Winston-Salem)
  • Mary Joan Pugh, Deputy Director, N.C. Zoo (Asheboro)
  • Matt Calabria, Wake County Commissioner, Wake County (Raleigh)
  • Misty Chase, Director of Greene County Transportation, Greene County (Snow Hill)
  • Peter St. Onge, Associate Editor, Editorial Board, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte)
  • Ricky Hurtado, Executive Director, NC Scholar's Latino Initiative (Chapel Hill)
  • Shorlette Ammons, Community Foods Systems Outreach Coordinator, NC A&T State University, Center for Environmental Farming Systems (Greensboro)
  • Sonja Gantt, Executive Director, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Foundation (Charlotte)

The Foundation held orientation for the group in late August. The next meeting is scheduled for October.



The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation (ZSR) is committed to improving the quality of life of all North Carolinians. ZSR invests in statewide, regional and community-based organizations that are dedicated to building an inclusive, sustainable and vibrant state. The groups that ZSR supports both work to build healthy, robust communities at the local and regional level and engage in education, civic dialogue and advocacy around issues of importance to communities and to North Carolina. ZSR currently focuses on the areas of community economic development, environment, public education, social justice and equity and strengthening democracy. The Foundation is an 80-year-old private foundation based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. For more information or to learn more about ZSR, visit

Increasing Minorities Representation in STEM Field

iNvictus Office Center - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Overview of iNviTECH

iNviTECH is an educational curriculum program with a focus on STEM and entrepreneurship. We are committed to increasing the number of minorities represented in STEM fields and STEM-based entrepreneurship. Our summer camps, after school programs and Explorer Posts, have been uniquely designed to engage, educate and encourage students to accomplish this goal. According to the US Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration, STEM occupations are projected to grow by 17.0 percent from 2008 to 2018, compared to 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations.

This summer our iNviTECH STEMgineers were engaged in the process of developing wearable devices to monitor health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. The students also focused on 21st-century skills such as writing, public speaking, collaboration and critical thinking skills.

Collaboration Skills

Each morning students met with their teams and discussed what they could improve from the previous day. Students were allowed to choose their teams to encourage teamwork and less confrontation. This encouraged students to identify problems with their teams and develop solutions to solve their problems. Collaboration/teamwork is a huge concept for students to master. Students must learn how to be flexible, share ideas and include the voices of everyone their group for the final presentation. This will help to be the most productive when collaborating with teams in the future. At the conclusion of the team debriefing, the students were asked to report out their findings. Practice makes perfect!

Public Speaking

In addition to sharing their team goals each morning, students were charged with the task of preparing pitches for their potential investors. They were given several opportunities to pitch their business plan to the camp counselors and other teams before their presentation. We were able to help students think through some of their ideas to strengthen their business plans. This was excellent for our STEMgineers. Feedback is always a gift! Our goal at iNviTECH is to provide students with various activities to speak in front of the peers. Here at iNviTECH, we know that the more opportunities you're given to practice, the faster you will perfect you skill. We want our students to be confident, knowledge and speak with clarity when public speaking.

Critical Thinking

After completing research about their specific health conditions, students began to implement the engineering design process (W.E.A.R.). Students were asked to work with the teams to sketch out their designs for the wearable device. Students were asked to consider placement of the wearable device, sensors being used how the wearable device would function. The sensors and microcontroller are sewed on the fabric with using conductive threading. The students had to plan and use their critical thinking skills to ensure that the connections did not cross. The students learned that we never want a positive and negative charge to touch. Here students were provided with an opportunity to learn the basics of electrical engineering.

After sketching their ideas, students used Google Sketch-Up to make 3D models of their wearable devices. They printed models of their wearable devices at the Fab Lab at NCCU.

Students learned how to program their wearable device according to the function of their sensors. They were challenged in this endeavor because everything must be defined and written properly in their programming. I was truly impressed with the programs created by our iNviTECH STEMgineers. They were focused and dedicated to writing the perfect code for their wearable devices.

Critical thinking and problem solving are essential skills needed in order to pursue a STEM career. We have provided our iNviTECH STEMgineers with the tools to begin their growth in these two areas. We hope that they continue to develop these skills as they continue their educational journey.

Each day, I was able to see the students’ wearable devices and teamwork improve tremendously. The students were elated as they completed the design of their wearable devices. It was my privilege to see the light bulbs, student excitement and student engagement throughout each day of the camp.

Fab Lab at NCCU

Students rode public transportation to their field trip at the Fab Lab. The Fab Lab is located on the campus of NCCU. The students were encouraged to use public transportation for the three reasons: (1) to reduce their carbon footprint, (2) to be well-versed in public transportation and (3) to ensure they are never stranded. While at the Fab Lab, students made key chains to market their wearable devices as well as printed the 3D models of their wearables. They also learned about how 3D printers are being used to make things from car parts to food!

Today is The DAY!

On the final day of the camp, I was so excited to see the STEMgineers in action! I knew they were prepared and I couldn’t wait for them to show off their wearables, posters, and business plans. We spent the morning finishing up wearable devices and putting the final touches on their pitches. As parents, judges and community members entered the building; the intensity and competition increased in the room! STEMgineers were selling their ideas, showing off their wearable and answering questions! It was a proud moment for me and the STEMgineers! The Swag Hat team won. They developed a hat that would alert users with a vibration when their temperature reached a certain level. The students also received a novelty check for $10,000 from investors and $20.00 each.

Please enjoy the camp video:


Ursela Jones
iNviTECH Director


She is a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University with a BS in Business Education: Information Technology and a M.A.T. in Business Education. She holds a NC teaching license in business education (6-12), computer education (K-5) and a licensure in educational administration (K-12) from High Point University 2011. 

She was named Top Five Finalist for Durham Public Schools Teacher of the Year 2015-16. In addition, she was awarded a Kenan Fellowship in Wearable Devices at NC State University for the 2015-16 school year. She was inspired to begin this summer camp after her fellowship at ASSIST Center at NC State as a result of the Kenan Fellowship. She is currently a middle school Automation & Robotics teacher, magnet coordinator and STEM Scholars Coordinator for the Howard N. Lee institute. In addition, she has presented at the Scaling STEM Conference and SAS Math Summit.

I MUST DO MORE: Reflections From A Denver Airport

Edward Boyd - Tuesday, July 26, 2016

During an exercise in a session on Exponential Fundraising being led by Harvard professor Jen McCrae, a lady tells me about her work in Uganda educating girls/women. The education is holistically based. They teach the whole child/woman. It is even sometimes necessary to impress upon them the initial spark of desire that leads to education process. As she is detailing her service, I ask, “Is this a REAL need?” She appears puzzled by my question, but can tell it comes from true ignorance of the Ugandan culture and out of a sincere desire to know. She informs me that in Uganda it is an anomaly when you find a girl or woman who already has the goal of working outside of the home, going to college, or owning a business. I learned that they firmly believe their position is to support the family.

In a dialogue around social entrepreneurship, I learned from a Tawainese woman who works with various social entrepreneurs there, of the many difficulties and great successes she has witnessed and experienced throughout the island,

There was the gentleman from Lagos, Nigeria who exclaimed, during a discussion about generational advancements, “...the future is bright. I can already see it!”

An hour-long conversation about hope between twenty-five people from over ten countries and the room was filled with tears, smiles, contemplating eyebrows and not one trite statement about some generally vague concept of hope. It was real!

We debated about how to teach this generation of children to push back and remain alive in the process.

I learned of great work being done in Connecticut around educating the underrepresented minorities in the STEM fields. I learned of the innovative approaches to education being done in China, the Middle East, Seattle and all over the continent of Africa. 

I learned of the strides being made around racial equity and proximity in South Carolina. Yes, South Carolina!

A gentleman from Panama advised us, “if being personally financially secure helps alleviate some of the fear of uncertainty, as it pertains to committing your life to what you know you are here on earth to do although it doesn't come with a hefty salary, then BY ALL MEANS, become financially secure!” Those of you who know me personally know that really resonated well with me.

As I wait on my flight itinerary to become a little more clear, sitting in this Denver airport I feel like I want to get up and run! See, I just spent the last five days at The Aspen Institute in Aspen, Colorado. Upon invitation from their Global Leadership Network, I participated in the Resnick Aspen Action Forum. “One of the greatest platforms for effecting real and measurable change in the world, ...that encourages entrepreneurial leaders from around the world to commit to putting their ideas for impact into action.” This year’s theme: Leading Toward Justice. My internal compass has always been my driving force in life. While still a relatively young man, I have committed my life to driving change and addressing the inequities that adversely affect minority communities and populations in the United States through sports, education, entrepreneurship, mentoring and philanthropy. I can honestly say I truly love helping others grow their capacity. Yet, leaving this convening and for the first time in my life, I feel moved to action! So much so, it was either blog or literally sprint through this airport. While my physical body could definitely use the cardio, mentally I need to get this out!

For far too many nights to count, I’ve pondered at my desk, “Where else is the help?!” While far from making any direct correlation between my life and that of Dr. King’s, since undergrad learning of and reading his sermon “A Knock at Midnight,” I have on many nights experienced that midnight hour weakness and faltering of courage that he talks about. However, I never heard that inner voice he spoke of that told him to stand up for righteousness. Time and time again, I heard my grandfather’s voice say, “Buddy, just do what's right cause in the end right wins.” That always gave me the strength to not see the problem as being bigger than the solution. Yet, the loneliness of leadership is more than a platitude.

Spending a week at the ACTION Forum with 350 of the world's thought leaders, who are also doers, my question has finally been answered. “Where else is the help?!” It's spread out all over the globe. There are highly intelligent attorneys in Alabama committed to juvenile justice. There are teachers in South Texas waist deep in the struggle to create equally accessible quality education for ethnic minorities. In Egypt, oh my God, they're doing a myriad of things! Israel, El Salvador, Minnesota, New Orleans, Hong Kong, San Francisco, you name the place and help is there. Now, with a new paradigm established, armed with a network that has multiplied a hundred-fold, I’m sprinting through this airport, not literally, but sprinting nonetheless because I found the help. As is the case in so many circumstances; finding your help gives you strength to DO more. I WILL DO MORE!


Edward R. Boyd, Jr.

iNvictus Group Holdings, LLC, Founder/Chief Strategy Officer

iNvictus Forward Outreach, Board Chair



Life Happened

Edward Boyd - Wednesday, July 06, 2016



Life Happened

Life happened. See, I was contacted by a publication in early January 2016 and asked if I would be interested in writing a blog for them using a conversation between the current me and the twenty-year-old me as the theme. Basically, I was to mentor myself. I thought it was a great idea and subsequently, I began writing the blog. Well, I sit now just a couple days after we have all celebrated Independence Day. Yep, seven months later, I had not managed to finish the blog, yet the publication contacted me once again to pen a blog for them (different subject matter, of course) and I reeked of guilt. The guilt we all experience when we know we simply did not perform up to our standard. And with all sincerity of heart, I simply offered to them, “Life happened.”

That has also been a familiar refrain from many I have had conversations with about entrepreneurship. It is often the case that someone is working a full-time job and participating in their career yet they are experiencing their passion on the side. It’s the accountant that plays upright bass in a jazz band and performs weekly in front of hundreds of people. It’s the United States Postal Service mail carrier who designs, creates and markets her own clothing line. The school teacher who codes and creates and sells apps to others because “it’s just something that has always interested (him.)” During these very separate conversations, a few relatively similar concepts manage to weave their way in. Repeatedly, these part-time entrepreneurs explained to me that they found the fulfillment of their passion for life while working for themselves. Over and over the sentiment was relayed to me that, “this is what (they) feel (they) were put on earth to do.” Rarely did I hear mention of their disdain for their full-time jobs. But, overwhelmingly I heard the tale of their dream to live out their passions as a full-time career. And when pressed about their hesitancy to take that leap, “life happened” was often the reply.

So many times the foundational reasoning for why an extremely talented person was not currently enjoying the trials and bliss that come from the day-to-day inhaling and exhaling of being in your purpose was that simple; life happened. Yet, at the same time, that complex; life happened. The waiter who meticulously details automobiles has a wife with ongoing health issues that prevents him from working a job he cannot easily adjust his schedule to ensure he is available for his wife’s aid. The government official who makes leather goods and successfully sells to a nationwide customer base without an Internet presence has seemingly unsurmountable student loans from a college degree she never completed. Life happened. Yet, life happens…

I’ll never forget my first major blunder as an entrepreneur. I took a risk. It failed. I doubled down. It failed again. My business and my credit suffered. I was twenty-four years old, just five years into my lifelong journey of using entrepreneurship to help solve the social problems I realized were adversely affecting minority communities and populations. The decision was simple yet, complex. After wading months without paying my mortgage and instead pouring that money back into my business, the bank had grown weary of the infrequent rate at which they were receiving my mortgage payments and had initiated the foreclosure process on my home. Wow. Lose my house? ...still relatively a newlywed with a newborn daughter, I weighed all options carefully. I sought help, direction, and mentorship. I was drowning. Life was in fact happening. I was trying daily to figure out how to continue as a full-time entrepreneur, husband, and father while opening foreclosure documents detailing my options under the law if I so choose to continue to live in my house until HUD found a new owner to acquire it. As I worked diligently through to the other side of those troubles and fought off depressive moments, I remember vividly a mentor of mine saying to me, “WHAT NOW?!” His language was little more colorful, but the message was clear, “YES, that happened. What did you learn from it and what are you going to do next?!” LIFE HAD HAPPENED...TO ME!

It was his tone more so than his words. He seemed upset, almost angry that I would dare pause this journey except to figure out what lesson I should learn from this. Thinking back, I wasn’t at all clear as to my next move. But, I was more than sure what my next move would not be. I had no intentions of quitting. Quitting served no purpose for me. So, I went on. I simply went on. Over the last quarter century of being a full-time entrepreneur, I have learned so many lessons. But, none more valuable than understanding that life happens and I must go on. Not quite as eloquently vulgar as my mentor once put it to me, but true nonetheless. 

Edward R. Boyd, Jr.

iNvictus Group Holdings, LLC, Founder/Chief Strategy Officer

iNvictus Forward Outreach, Board Chair

Edward R. Boyd, Jr., a lifelong serial entrepreneur, has taught in public and charter schools and served in the nonprofit sector working with urban adolescents and focusing on national and neighborhood gang prevention, intervention and sustaining. He served as Area Director of Urban YoungLife of Durham/Chapel Hill, and is the co-founder of the Durham H.A.W.K.S. (Helping All Willing Kids Succeed,) which is currently an iNvictus Forward Outreach program. While still very active serving on boards and volunteering with organizations dedicated to lowering the prison recidivism rate, he currently serves as Chief Strategy Officer of iNvictus Group Holdings, an investment group started to address the inequities that adversely affect minority communities and populations, using entrepreneurship and education as vehicles of change. Edward also serves as Director for the E.M.E.R.G.E. program (Entrepreneurship, Mentoring, Economic Development, Research, Growth in Business(es) and Education.) Its programming revolves around their mentor-based minority entrepreneurship curriculum and is headquartered at iNvictus Office Center - A CoWorking Community Space, highly regarded as the HUB of Minority Entrepreneurship and also houses iNvictus Forward Outreach, the 501(c)3 federally tax-exempt non-profit arm of the iNvictus brand.


Creating A Global Pipeline For Minority Entrepreneurs

Gerald Richardson - Friday, April 15, 2016

The notion of creating a pipeline for underrepresented groups to gain access to an equal playing field is a proven success model. Irrespective of the industry, creating access to minorities has increased opportunities that were not present before. These channels have paved the way for women and people of color in fields such as medicine, stem, and higher education.

Select minorities though have benefited from a national pipeline capable of producing new entrepreneurs. Often marginalized populations with access have a similar profile to the elite members of the industry. While these individuals comprise all minority descriptors, more often than not they are from privileged backgrounds. Many minority entrepreneurs with have some combination of a tier one education, strong relationships with power brokers or are presented with unique opportunities.

Rarely has the pipeline included the average poor, working class or middle class minorities. Even more obscure is the non-tech startup benefitting from access. Overwhelming funds and resources are targeted at businesses that are considered to have high growth potential. Venture capitalists and angel investors shy away from mom and pop operations, yet these types of businesses are the ones that revitalize communities.

On an international scale, the numbers are more obscure for the average minority. Many entrepreneurs lack the access to capital, lack the access to a larger network, or the knowledge needed to enter into the global marketplace. Access to an international entrepreneurial pipeline though, provides underserved populations with the opportunity to gain greater insight into various sectors and lessens the learning curve about developing their products and operating on a global scale.

The idea that people pull themselves up by their own bootstraps is largely false. In most cases, these entrepreneurs were given an opportunity and they made the most of if, but the opportunity was still granted. A global entrepreneurial pipeline provides marginalized entrepreneurs with an international platform to leverage their products, skills, and talents.

To combat the wealth inequality of the $250 trillion controlled among global households, an international pipeline is a must. Seventy one percent of the worlds population has a net worth of less than $10,000 US Dollars while 50% of the worlds wealth is owned by 1% of the population. As alarming, in the United States the top 10% of whites control 90% of the country’s wealth.

Underrepresented business owners are more than capable of impacting change globally. With $400 billion in annual revenues and home to over 2 million employees minority business owners contribute over $1 billion per day to the US economy. Moreover these entities have the ability to create even more jobs and greater economic contributions.

iNvictus Forward Outreach has a goal of increasing the number of companies owned by females and persons of color on a global scale. Through our iNvictus EMERGE (Entrepreneurship, Mentoring, Economic Development, Research, Growth in business(es) & Education) program, minorities are granted the opportunity to compete on an international scale. We ensure that start-ups and new ventures are provided with the access to capital and access to an international network to hone their skills and deliver their products. Our ecosystem fosters a community of inclusion and the businesses we work with are destined for success as a result. We understand that entrepreneurs are essential for a strong global economy and through our program, minority ventures can create a global impact.


Charles Iyon Mitchell is the Executive Director of Invictus Forward Outreach and Curriculum Manager for Invictus Office Center. With teaching being his passion, Charles has been an educator since 2005, currently serving as an instructor at North Carolina Central University. Additionally, Mr. Mitchell is actively connected to the community by coaching and mentoring with the Durham H.A.W.K.S. (Helping All Willing Kids Succeed) organization and serving at World Overcomers Christian Church. A native of Goldsboro, NC, Charles is married to his best friend, Rashaunte Hinnant. They are blessed with two children, Kyle and Khloe.




The Importance of Mentorship and the Role iNvictus Office Center Serves for Entrepreneurs

Gerald Richardson - Friday, March 04, 2016


The Importance of Mentorship and the Role iNvictus Office Center Serves for Entrepreneurs.

By Charles Iyon Mitchell

Entrepreneurship continues to light the path for professional fulfillment in the United States and throughout the globe. In minority communities, there is currently a shift in the growth of entrepreneurs of color. Forbes Magazine reported in their February edition that black females were the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the country. Female owned businesses grew by 74% from 1997 to 2015. Black female ventures grew an astonishingly 377% during the same period.

With the continued growth of entrepreneurship, it is essential for new ventures to lay a firm foundation during the inception phase. To meet the need, Invictus Office Center developed an entrepreneurship curriculum to assist all businesses. We at Invictus, strongly feel that our entrepreneurship curriculum can assist any entrepreneur, whether at the start-up phase or those entities that have been in existence for a while. Design to be completed in eight stages, the curriculum allows creators the opportunity to discover their passion, pitch to investors, and license and certify their business as minority owned as needed.

One of the key features of the curriculum is the mentorship provided throughout the journey. Upon enrollment in the curriculum, our clients are paired with an expert in their field. Participants are then guided through the process by an action-oriented individual that possesses the experience needed to be successful. Mentors comprise community and global leaders with extensive management experience.

Throughout history, mentorship has proven to assist and supplement new practioners with firm foundations in their craft. From the middle ages when young people participated in apprenticeships to the internship-based curriculums in higher education of the 21st, honing your craft under guidance has remained an important task. Thousands of years ago, the Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians all made references to the older generation teaching the younger one. Thus, history has produced numerous examples of mentorship. Socrates mentored Plato. Plato mentored Aristotle. Thomas Scott mentored Andrew Carnegie and Norman Rockerfeller. Benjamin Mayes mentored Martin Luther King, Jr. Andy Grove mentored Steve Jobs.

Despite the proven tactics of mentorships, many entrepreneurs continue to navigate their course individually. Various reasons exist why entrepreneurs go at it alone, but I feel there are four main reasons entrepreneurs shy away from seeking a mentor.

The I can do it myself spirit. Often entrepreneurs have a mindset that they can conquer the world. Unfortunately, many attempt to conquer it alone. Every man or woman that has attempted to take over the world had help. Whether the advice was good or bad, counsel was often available.

Fear. Many entrepreneurs are wrought with fear throughout their entire journey. As a result questions arise. Will my product be good enough? Will enough people support me? What if I share my idea with some and they use it for their gain?

Lack of Knowledge. Some entrepreneurs may not fully understand the benefits of having a mentor. It is essential that all business owners have someone they can share ideas with that will provide them with sound advice.

No one really wants to help me. After launching an idea, and exhausting one’s personal network, entrepreneurs may feel as if no one wants to help. Despite this misconception, many successful entrepreneurs are willing to help groom future entrepreneurs.

Our program is designed so that aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs learn from successful business owners and executives about how to refine their business ideas, how to raise money, how to pitch to investors and overall how to start or run a successful business.

Mentors assist entrepreneurs by supporting them in multiple facets. Often minorities work in underserved communities and mentors are needed that have crossed similar hurdles to success. In addition, minority entrepreneurs overwhelmingly face issues with access to capital and lack the extensive networks needed to showcase their products. As a result, mentor based entrepreneurship is beneficial to most startups.

Mentors open doors for entrepreneurs that many new ventures may not be aware of. The mentors of Invictus help their mentees troubleshoot some of the issues that stall entrepreneurship and eventually lead to business closure. Moreover, the mentors of Invictus provide startups with experience and savvy that many lack upon startup.

Secondly, our mentors and their mentees experience a reciprocal relationship. Throughout the curriculum entrepreneurs and their mentors form a unique bond. Entrepreneurs are able to learn from experienced experts, while mentors are able to lead and guide professionals at multiple stages of the learning curve.

Lastly, the mentors of Invictus coach the entrepreneurs through the process. Entrepreneurship is hard, and sometimes all that is needed encouragement, for the venture to succeed. Through accountability, our mentors help startups set and obtain their business goals.

Entrepreneurship continues to be a viable component of the global economy. As older sectors of enterprise fade away, starting a business remains an innovative avenue for answering many of the problems of the 21st Century. The mentor-based curriculum provides entrepreneurs with tools for upward mobility and the ability to redevelop their communities.


Charles Iyon Mitchell is the Executive Director of Invictus Forward Outreach and Curriculum Manager for Invictus Office Center. With teaching being his passion, Charles has been an educator since 2005, currently serving as an instructor at North Carolina Central University. Additionally, Mr. Mitchell is actively connected to the community by coaching and mentoring with the Durham H.A.W.K.S. (Helping All Willing Kids Succeed) organization and serving at World Overcomers Christian Church. A native of Goldsboro, NC, Charles is married to his best friend, Rashaunte Hinnant. They are blessed with two children, Kyle and Khloe.