(Photo by Albert Hong)
“Hustle” — that was the most prevalent ethos celebrated at the graduation celebration of the Institute of Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship’s (IHHE) first-ever cohort.
Sure, the fact that the word was emblazoned on the shirts of some of the 24 students who took part in the nine-month, tuition-free program helped solidify that idea. But as Tayyib Smith, one of the two cofounders of IHHE, said during his opening remarks at Union Transfer this past Sunday, hustle is what really brought the group together up to this point.
“I think you’re brilliant people with crafted hustle now,” Smith said. “I feel like you are future colleagues and partners.”
Each of the 24 graduates was given their own diploma, but three of them were chosen to each receive $10,000 in seed funding based on pitch presentations they gave to a panel of judges a few hours prior to the celebration.
Here are the three winners and their business ideas:
- Ke Stevenson, Good Hood Girls: A social nail salon that aims to be a lifestyle brand for Black women who can get together with friends to take ownership of their own experiences, with the goal being to open one in every ZIP code in Philly.
- Kyree Holmes, Onyx Valley: A recruiting agency that specializes in hiring diverse talent for the tech industry, while also starting a program meant to foster talent in high- and low-skill tech jobs.
- Tony Chennault, Mike J Films: A film production company, named after his brother who was killed as an innocent bystander, that aims to create authentic stories.
Stevenson said IHHE allowed her to foster her creative talents and take the time to think about what it would take to start her own business.
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“It gave me the tools and the information that I needed in order to really make this $10,000 a business,” said the hip-hop artist.
Chennault, who is using the $10,000 to start his first web series focused on highlighting “compelling stories of leadership” in the Philly community, sees hip-hop as being something not relegated to your race or ethnicity but as an “attitude” of believing that whatever you’re going to do is going to work out.
It was also about the “Tribe” mentality — what the IHHE cohort calls themselves — that drove Holmes to push herself as an entrepreneur. That unity could be seen when each of these three winners were cheered on and embraced by their fellow entrepreneurs as they were announced.
“Even if you have friends and family who believe in you, it’s not going to be the same unless you’re around people who are actually trying to get something off the ground too — they know the struggle,” Holmes said.
Patrick Morgan, Philadelphia program director for the Knight Foundation, which funded the IHHE as a winner of the 2016 Knight Cities Challenge, sees that camaraderie as another important lesson that can be applied to the other cities and programs Knight has a vested interest in.
“I think one of the great things we really learned about this is that this wasn’t about setting up individual silos, it was really about a cohort,” Morgan said.
— Patrick Morgan (@PMorganPHL) July 9, 2017
And you may have realized that each of the three winners’ business ideas implement some sort of social impact, which is something Meegan Denenberg, cofounder of IHHE, sees as a result of the times and as a sign of there needing to be more inclusive ecosystems for entrepreneurship opportunities.
“Providing a framework and access to resources and allowing those ideas to actually flourish and have a chance to exist, that’s invaluable because I think that access is so exclusionary to so many people,” Denenberg said. “It has nothing to do with intelligence — it literally has to do with how the chips are set. We wanted to break through some of that.”