What we’re up to is Creating a New Class of Entrepreneurs and Innovators”
City Startup Labs (CSL) grew out of an idea to do something thoughtful and of real value to address the issue of the employability of young men of color. African American men, in particular, have a difficult time getting and keeping jobs. They consistently lag behind their white and Hispanic counterparts. According to a Princeton University study, “Discrimination in Low Wage Labor Markets,” Even without criminal records, black applicants had low rates of positive responses, about the same as the response rate for white applicants with criminal records. Hispanics also faced discrimination by employers but were preferred relative to blacks.
In the late Summer of 2011, New York City’s then Mayor Bloomberg announced the Young Men’s Initiative to address the harsh present and future facing many young men of color from the ages of 14-24 years. The intention of the initiative isnry to focus on education, the criminal justice system, employment and health care. What was missing from this puzzle, in my estimation was attention on self-employment and entrepreneurship.
As an answer to this gap, CSL was created to provide an academy of instruction, training, mentoring and coaching to prepare these young men to become viable entrepreneurs, thereby contributing to not only themselves but their families, communities and the country in a fundamentally positive way. Rather than rely on others to define and write their future, it’s time that these young men to be empowered to write or rewrite their own script, by becoming a new class of entrepreneurs.
The CSL program (a hybrid accelerator/incubator) is unique, in its focus on this population and the process of building three classes of assets — human capital, social capital and economic capital. All areas where Charlotte needs to strengthen its position of 50th among the TOP 50 markets for socio-economic mobility.
Since the launch of a 2-year pilot with the Urban League of the Central Carolinas in 2014, the 2016 establishment of a Center of Excellence for Entrepreneurial Competency, Innovation and Leadership (CoE) at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, along with a move to include African American millennial women in 2017 and the formerly incarcerated in 2018, City Startup Labs has been able to develop talent and competency for over 100 aspiring entrepreneurs and incubate 48 ventures.
Our ReEntry Entrepreneurship Program (REEP) was piloted in the summer of 2018 and ran for a year. The lessons from that pilot have informed a new model that we call LEARN/EARN/BUILD, where we focus on marrying leading-edge skills and entrepreneurial training that can create new options for enterprise and work and real pathways to wealth creation.
City Startup Labs is also in the midst of developing programming around acquisition entrepreneurship, for those interested in buying businesses, as an alternative to startups.
Rock has extensive experience in sales, marketing, advertising, media management and small business strategic planning and development, with particular emphasis on black businesses and the black consumer market. It’s this background, coupled with not wanting to be a bystander, that has him focused on the development of a “new class of entrepreneurs & innovators.”
Henry Rock ~ Founder & Executive Director