Pilot to Launch – CSL Entrepreneurs Academy

The City Startup Labs mission is to stimulate entrepreneurial activity and innovation within inner-city America. We’re kicking this effort off with a pilot Entrepreneurs Academy in mid-January 2014, in collaboration with the Urban League of the Central Carolinas, in Charlotte, NC. The academy’s primary focus is to teach entrepreneurship to young men of color, including ex-offenders, former gang members and other marginalized young men, who have the latent potential to be productive small business owners. As Dr. Patrick Graham, President & CEO of the ULCC put it, “Our goal is to help ensure that entrepreneurial opportunities don’t escape this creative class of people, who have the potential to benefit our community economically and socially.”

The Entrepreneurs Academy will conduct an accelerated, 15-week, boot-camp style instruction in planning, starting and running a new venture. Students will be paced through a progressive series of modules, which include two Kauffman Foundation entrepreneurship programs. Upon completion of the coursework, students will have an opportunity to have their businesses incubated. Micro-lending counseling and kick-start loans will also be made available to graduates as well.

[box] It’s especially important to focus on this demographic (M18-24 yrs.)* because, according to a College Board Advocacy & Policy Center study, approximately 45% of African-American and 51% of Latinos males, 15-24 yrs. who graduate high school, will end up unemployed, incarcerated or dead. * We’re accepting students up to 34 years old.

Further, according to Sequencing Disadvantage: Barriers to Employment Facing Young Black and White Men with Criminal Records, The Annals of the American Academy (2009), a criminal record reduces the likelihood of a job callback or offer by nearly 50 %, an effect even more pronounced for African American men than for white men.

The implications for the social and economic costs of this are simply too great to ignore. City Startup Labs can be determinative in counteracting this looming issue, by stimulating enterprise activity amongst the best and the brightest of this group. In championing new business development we move away from merely routing many of these young men into unlikely job prospects, towards the possibilities of self-employment, hiring others and unleashing a potent economic multiplier in their communities.[/box]

In addition to the Urban League, Queen City Forward and Packard Place have committed to provide incubation for the new ventures. The former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx endorsed the effort as well.

Currently City Startup Labs is in the process of sourcing candidates, mentors and sponsors: