A world of abundance, with limitless and equal opportunities. The power to change your circumstances and self‐determine your future. A level playing field where the best ideas win. These ideals attracted me to entrepreneurship and converted me into an enthusiastic entrepreneurship education evangelist.
For the last ten years, whenever I’ve spoken to prospective students about the value of acquiring an entrepreneurial mindset and skillset, gathered the Horn team to align around a shared sense of purpose, or asked an accomplished entrepreneur to consider making a gift to support the next generation of world changers, these ideals have featured prominently in my song and verse. And I’ve led Horn Entrepreneurship with the clear intention of living up to them.
Regrettably, I’ve failed. Despite aiming to create a welcoming and inclusive entrepreneurship community, students of color have not always received a warm reception.
Despite desiring to have the Venture Development Center (VDC) serve as a “home away from home” and a safe space for all creative, innovative and entrepreneurial students to change their circumstances, Black and Brown students have experienced exhibitions of ignorance and micro‐aggressions within the VDC’s walls. And despite wanting everyone who is pursuing new ideas for a better world to feel included and supported, underrepresented innovators and entrepreneurs have found too few people who look like them available to provide inspiration and guidance.
My heartbreaking lesson learned from these failures: even the best intentions are insufficient; purposeful, committed action is needed to achieve equitable outcomes, which necessarily include diversity and inclusion. I’m eternally grateful to those who shared their experiences and helped me to learn this important lesson ‐ thank you for your gifts. I understand and appreciate how much they cost you to give.
Now, as a means of both sharing this valuable lesson and ensuring that Horn more fully succeeds in living up to the ideals of entrepreneurship, I’ve amended Horn’s strategic goals to include: “be a catalyst for the propagation of a vibrant, equitable culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.” I’ve also chosen the theme of “Equity thru Entrepreneurship” for the 2020‐21 academic year.
“Equity thru Entrepreneurship” was chosen to serve as a reminder that…
… everyone deserves equal opportunity.
… everyone can change their own circumstances if they have an entrepreneurial mindset and skillset.
… everyone can utilize entrepreneurship as a tool to creatively destroy the status quo and replace it with new ideas for a better world.
“Equity thru Entrepreneurship” was also chosen as a call to purposeful action that includes:
- Actively monitoring representation and engagement across all levels of Horn programming – from youth to alumni, and from Horn faculty and staff to advisory council and board members.
- Identifying and eliminating structural and perceived barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion in Horn programming and UD’s innovation & entrepreneurship community.
- Investing resources to address inequities and create new offerings to help members of underrepresented groups to realize the full potential benefits of entrepreneurship education (especially Black, Brown and women innovators & entrepreneurs who are known to face added
This work has already begun. The Horn team has emphasized increased representation among Summer Founders mentors and philanthropic investors as well as founding members of a new Alumni Advisory Council.
We’ve raised resources to support a new “Equity thru Entrepreneurship Student Action Council” and invested resources to reproduce the Diamond Challenge video series with a representative
We’ve partnered with Princeton, Delaware State and five other universities to propose a new National Science Foundation Hub focused on increasing participation of underrepresented founders in university‐based technology commercialization programming.
We’ve worked with the Delaware Prosperity Partnership to pivot plans for the new Startup302 early stage funding competition to support underrepresented founders. And we’ve developed a soon to launch
initiative to empower women in innovation and entrepreneurship.
These efforts are just the beginning, as we work with renewed purpose to build a diverse, fully inclusive entrepreneurship community, thereby establishing the necessary conditions for achieving equity thru entrepreneurship.
I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on what you can do through your own purposeful action to help to advance equity thru entrepreneurship. The art pictured with this article was designed by Horn Entrepreneurship’s diverse marketing team (with special credit to Stephanie Richardson) and produced by a local, Black‐owned business (T&T Custom Embroidery – thank you to Terrence Wiggins).
About Horn Entrepreneurship
Horn Entrepreneurship serves as the University of Delaware’s creative engine for entrepreneurship education and advancement. Built and actively supported by successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders, Horn Entrepreneurship empowers aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs as they pursue new ideas for a better world.