Black Business Innovation | Your South Florida

Black Business Innovation | Your South Florida

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While millions are being invested in  South Florida's growing startup scene,   not everyone has access to funding.  We discussed the racial wealth gap   and look at equitable and innovative  ways to help local entrepreneurs thrive   while elevating black communities. Stay  with us as we dive into your South Florida. Hi, I'm Felecia Hatcher, filling in for Pam  Giganti. Welcome to your South Florida. This   past year as South Florida businesses struggled  to keep the doors open amid the pandemic,   thousands were helped by the  paycheck protection program.  

Unfortunately, many minority businesses  missed out on that opportunity   because they did not have ties to traditional  lenders and accountants. Combine that with the   nation's historical racial wealth gap and these  entrepreneurs faced an uphill battle from day one.   As part of our recent virtual town hall,  I was joined by Nursing Innovation Hub's,   Aliyah Aaron, Venture Cafe Miami's Leigh-Ann  Buchanan and developer Derek Flemings to discuss   these disparities in ways black and minority  entrepreneurs can level the playing field.   Leigh-Ann, you talk about innovation works only  when it's accessible and inclusive. And so where   is innovation? Like where does it stand as it  relates to black businesses and black communities? That's a great question. Well, if you  look at the definition of innovation  

it literally means in to the new. So innovation in  and of itself is a process, it's neutral it should   be equally accessible to everybody and we all  have the capacity to innovate. But the way that   innovation shows up in our lives is not neutral.  There's a culture of innovation that's informed by  

whether or not we black businesses are seen  as innovative whether or not black founders   self identify as innovative and whether or  not the great innovations we're creating   are valued and validated by the community. So when  we talk about innovation, particularly in Miami,   what that means is those founders that are first  out of the gate, the first to take a chance on   an overlooked community that has been written off,  the first to serve a part of the population that's   not represented by the dominant culture. That's  innovation, innovation by necessity and we see   it all over Miami. There several businesses that  I know of that I'll just mention really quickly   that are actually doing really innovative things,  that are home grown. I think about Jamila Ross and   Akino West of Copper Door B&B. They are, rehabbed historical building and are creating a hospitality   hub in Overtown, James and Kristina Jones of Court  Buddy. They were among the top folks to raise a  

million dollars as black founders, which is always  been a challenge. And I also think about Denzel   Curry of high top sneakers, he's really innovating  that mobile sneaker cleaner industry, and the   fact that there's not a lot of black cobblers and  specifically cobblers that are addressing sneaker   issues. So if you look, Felecia, intervention  is really everywhere. It's everywhere in Miami. Aliyah, I'm going to bring you into the  conversation now. What was your motivation   for focusing on nursing led technology startups.  And what was your experience getting started? So I am a registered nurse and I've been  in healthcare for over 20 plus years.  

I've worked in many hospitals in and across  the nation, ICU, critical care and trauma.   And as we know, South Florida is bustling with  healthcare. South Florida is looking to become   one of healthcare technology hubs. And so as a  nurse, as a researcher and a healthcare technology   expert, I've looked to really hone in on those  healthcare professionals particularly now we're   in the middle of a pandemic, COVID-19 is here has  been here for a while, is not going anywhere. So   we need those healthcare professionals to step up  not only at the bedside, as our healthcare heroes   that we we so-call our nurses and our physicians  that accolade fits in well, but we also need them   to step up in the hem of innovation. And by that,  I mean, allowing ourselves to be able to lead this   revolution of digital healthcare. Healthcare is  a billion dollar industry, and the only way that  

we can continue to progress forward and improve  patient care, improve outcomes, helping to close   the healthcare disparity gap when it comes  to looking at the minority population is to   involve those that are at the frontline and  in the community and developing new and novel   innovative technologies that we can then use  at the bedside to improve patient care. So   I founded Nursing Innovation Hub as a digital  health technology company here in South Florida,   in Miami because I really want to focus in  on utilizing the resources, the ecosystem   that we have here to help us develop and home  in on some of those healthcare professionals   within that corridor, right? So we have  Jackson, we have UM, all of these hospitals   they're together, but also bring in the  community. The community helps drive the   focus of what we need to improve upon because when  we look at, particularly blacks and minorities   with COVID, we talk about comorbidities. And  so how do we develop novel technologies that   can help us focus in on preventive care  before we get to the level of acute care. There was something that you said, right? At  the onset as well, right? Innovation happens   everywhere. And so I think food and kind of  black innovation businesses are not oftentimes  

happening in the same sentence, right?  When we talk about food black communities,   but Derek you have literally been a black food  innovator for a really long time over the course   of your career but specifically around what you're  doing in Miami as one of the partners with Red   Rooster. Talk to us a little bit about, like what  is the black food innovation landscape look like? If you look at our culture, it is something  that is coveted. Our food, our art, our sits   at the center of culture in a lot of ways.  And so really what happens for us really it's  

about being disruptive within the  traditional paradigm. And so if you look at   food, how can we take a food for instance, to a  new taste profile, to a new level, but still being   clear and related to the base of what our culture  is about. What the base of what Southern food is,   the base of what Caribbean food is and how do we  take that and build upon it. We also really focus   on how Overtown specifically has been noted as a  food desert has been economically marginalized.   Place that people didn't necessarily think about  in terms of a food destination. I mean, ironically  

Overtown used to be an amazing destination  for all of Miami, we all know what happened   in terms of urban renewal and the plate that was  put upon Overtown. But for us, it's about taking   that approach, taking all of that history  and building on it. So our food sourcing   is local. We have a hydroponics farm where  every single bit of our herbs and our greens  

come from 50 feet from the kitchen.  It's all fresh it's picked that day.   So we focus on how to provide a holistic meal  pattern that in a food desert, isn't necessarily   the first thing that you would think about. So for  us, it's about taking the traditional perspective,   building on it, making it fresher,  cleaner, and accessible and sustainable. Where does the money reside, right? So when  we talk about innovation like our community   also has a... I know right? I had to throw that in  there, right? The video went viral. When we talk   about innovation, we also at certain points have  to have the luxury to be able to innovate, right?   And that cost using that money either from  a health standpoint to be able to test out   new approaches and new technology same thing  from a food standpoint. Same thing from inclusive  

innovation. So I'd love to start with you, Derek,  a lot of startups are struggling to find funding,   especially under what has happened in  the past year with COVID. What are some   traditional and non-traditional opportunities  where you guys think they should be exploring? There is a flow of capital, a flow of resources  that are still present, that are still available.   And for entrepreneurs that are looking to build,  to get funded, there's a lot of money, I guess,   that they dry powder out there that is looking for  distinct, unique and disruptive business plans to   fund. And so it really does become about how do  you traditionally not necessarily go into a bank  

but how do you source through your network,  individuals, VCs, private equity funds,   and just wealthy individuals or people who are  tapped into capital sources and really share your   unique plan, your distinct disruptive plan that  they can be interested in and then therefore fund.   For us, it's about being scrappy not  necessarily don't walk in into Wells   Fargo or chase bank and asking for a loan. It  really is about looking throughout your Rolodex   or a contact or a contact or an alumni that you  went to college with, a fellow alum that you went   to college with, and just really, building  your funding base non traditionally scrappy   but then again, sustainably. So that's  sort of the path that I've always taken is   finding individuals who were interested in  funding my specific endeavor and going from there,   just not going through the traditional  route but really looking for non-traditional   funding sources that were geared in and  interested in funding, my specific endeavor.

Great. And so tapping into relationships is one of  the things that I'm taking away from that but then   doing it strategically, right? And so ladies,  I'm going to come back to this money question   in just a bit but I want to tap into the Miami  tech manifesto that Leigh-Ann recently published   because that was also about relationships,  right? New relationships that are trying to   come to Miami the relationships that you tapped in  order to say kind of these are our immutable laws,   right? These are the lines that we're not willing  to cross. And these are the things that people   have to respect if they are coming to build in our  city, right? They need to add value before they   come in and extract. Right? And so, as we respond  to the influx of tech companies and startups that   are coming to South Florida and relocating, as we  encourage really big by our mayor, Mayor Francis   Suarez, tell the viewers a little bit about  the motivation for the Miami tech manifesto.

It really came back as a collective effort. The  last five years Venture Cafe has attracted over   50,000 and we've worked with a thousand  organizations locally. And many of those   builders, Center for Black Innovation included, came together and said there's a lot of energy   here. This is the perfect moment for us. Not only  to welcome people that are coming with open arms   but also to take a reflective moment to really  stop and say, what do we want to be? Where do   we struggle? And where can we adopt some guiding  principles to allow us to see a vision take shape?   And that moment was long overdue. And so I think  that the spotlight on Miami has really caused us   to think more about ourselves as an ecosystem and  less about ourselves as individual organizations.  

And so that manifesto has statements like we are  a community of builders. We believe that talent   is universal. We're a global launchpad, we're  driven by inclusive values but also importantly,   we're not Silicon anything. We are Miami Tech. And  that is a unique community, a unique flavor and a   unique set of assets that are to be leveraged.  Personally, I think that this manifesto is the   start of a larger movement around really creating  infrastructure in our local ecosystem. And I   would say more importantly, putting Miami on  a national stage has the mayor Francis Suarez   rightfully continues to support this idea that  Miami is the place where you can build anything.  

And Miami looks like what every major American  city will look like in the next five to 10 years. After the manifesto was published, right?  I made public, you plan a series of town   halls discuss the Miami Tech ecosystem. The  first one was on equity and inclusion. And   I was a part of that. And we really talked  about like what is the plan moving forward?   And so we reached out to Mayor Suarez  who was a part of the town hall as well   to get his take on the manifesto.  And here's what he had to say. This is an invitation moment. So this is a moment  where I feel that we have to be very careful with  

what we do and what we say. I think we want  to be inviting to tech. Having said that I   think what the manifesto demonstrates is an  apprehension which frankly comes from both   sides of the political spectrum. One side talks  about the possibility of gentrification and the   possibility that a tech coming to Miami  may not be as inclusive or as equitable   as, as it should be. And that's sort of the  reputation that tech has gotten rightfully or   wrongfully. I think the other set of political  spectrum worries that a tech coming here  

may be bringing politics from those places that  they don't necessarily agree with. So as a public   official who was a non-partisan elected official  who was blessed to be elected by 86% of the city,   it's hard. It's hard to reconcile both sides.  It's hard to keep everybody happy if you will.   But I think my job as mayor and listening to  the manifesto and taking the manifesto to heart   because it does express some concerns and some  frustrations, I have to make sure that what I do,   doesn't leave anybody out. Doesn't leave anybody  behind. And what I'm trying to do is first of all,   merge the people that are new that are coming with  the Miami Tech people which I consider myself to   be part of. And I think the second thing I'm  trying to do is make sure that as people come,   that there is a clear expectation of our  desire for them to be part of the social fabric   of this community, part of the philanthropic  community and part of the educational community,   so that we do create a city that continues to give  every child in this community an opportunity to   be successful. It's not that I want to gloss over  efficiencies or that I don't want to admit that we  

have issues that we have to deal with. It's just  that for me, it's easier to tackle those issues   when we bring energy and positivity to  them. And that's just my personality. And so   for me, I would have loved to have been  more involved with the creation process.   I think a lot of the things that were said  are spot on and I think it's something that   we can certainly build upon and potentially  work with as we go forward as a framework. Leigh-Ann like, what are your thoughts   on that? Are you hopeful for work in  collaboration with local government? Absolutely. And I think the fact that both  Mayor Francis Suarez and Mayor Daniella  

Levine Cava participated in the first of  the four-part town hall series is a clear   indication that everybody wants to  work together as the mayor articulated.   And let's be real. I think about the African  proverb, "until the lion learns to write,   every story will always glorify the Hunter".  And to me, that means until as a community,   sit down and make an aspirational declaration  of where we want to be and really kick off   this process of building, as we said in the  manifesto, we're building with intention,   not perfection, much like this really special day  where it's another step in that movement towards   this more perfect union of our ecosystem towards  the vision of inclusion and equitable access. Derek, I'm gonna turn to you next, right? And so I  think oftentimes the tech conversation can be in a   silo, right? It's only impacts the tech community.  It really impacts Miami overall and cross   industries. And so like, what do you think this  conversation and kind of this buzz around people  

relocating to Miami and tech people specifically out  of the mass exodus of San Francisco mean   for your restaurant, what you're building, the  community that you are now kind of calling home   with Red Rooster, What do you think that means  for you? And then I'm going to go to you Aliyah. Yeah. I mean, I think it's exciting, I think  what's happening for us in an Overtown really, the   that we view Rooster as not just a restaurant and  really more than a restaurant is a cultural hub,   but it's a space for economic  development. The way that we approach   our business is really it's driven by technology.  The way that we train, the platform, the modules,  

our staff go through an incredibly rigorous long  training program that is all on on their phones,   it's handheld, it goes home with them. It's with  them on public transportation to really sort of   take in the resources of the space in a  non-traditional way. So the way that the   restaurant is built, the technology that we've  got to focus on sustainability and the greenness   of our our water systems. It's all, you looking  at innovation as a by-product as a core element to   how we approach the business. And I think for us,  we're interested in supporting other businesses,   other systems, other community partners that are  also looking at taking the neighborhood, taking   economically marginalized community, taking  it forward, not an a 2.0, but in a 4.0 way.

Aliyah, as someone that's in  the medical and tech field,   kind of what are your concerns and hopes as  more startups look to relocate to South Florida? When we talk about eradicating health disparities  and we talk about leveraging technology to build   new products, services and solutions to  help the population at hand. We have to   be inclusive and look at the neighborhoods that  are surrounding a lot of these startups, right?   Because oftentimes those that live there  are excluded out of those conversations.   And you have to look at that population and  understand why there are certain comorbidities   within certain geographic regions, as opposed to  others and then build from an end-user standpoint,   build from a patient center standpoint, right?  Understand if we're building new technologies   for healthcare that are leveraging AI, machine  learning but then also thinking about those   unconscious biases that people that may move into  this area don't understand Miami is a melting pot.   We have a huge Caribbean population. We have many  people that in some regions of the country are not   in those areas. And so when you're developing  new technology specifically for healthcare,  

you have to understand the underlying  conditions and natures of the people that live   in that population. So what Nursing Innovation  Hub, and again the title Nurse Innovation Hub   is simply understanding that nurses  are helping to lead this revolution.   But what we intend to do is to work with the  Miami community at hand, specifically in the   areas of Overtown, some of those lists and  underserved communities to really understand   some of the conditions and understand that people  in the community. So then we can build solutions   and services and products for the community  that can enhance patient care, longevity and   help reduce readmissions or admissions to some of  the healthcare facilities here is very important. And then aside from the tech industry, Mayor  Suarez also spoke to us about the importance of   revitalizing areas like Overtown while preventing  gentrification as part of the conversation about   coming to Miami. Also, let's hear what he had to  say. And then Derek, I want to get your thoughts.

The importance of revitalizing Historic Overtown  and other black committees in Miami has been   essentially my life mission my public service  mission. We've done a great job in Overtown,   right? Overtown now has beautiful affordable  housing buildings that could have been built in   Brickell, but provide an affordable living for  people in the community with driven crime down   significantly. We brought in the first grocery  store into Overtown which was a food desert. We   have just done a tremendous amount. We spent tens  of millions of dollars on Gibson Park to make it   one of the premier parks in the city of Miami. So  we've done a lot. There's still a lot more to do.   I think anytime you're developing a neighborhood  that's been traditionally African-American,   you worry about gentrification pressures. I  think when you look at other African-American   neighborhoods like little Haiti and Liberty  City, which are beautiful neighborhoods.  

We have to make sure that they're safe. And  that's something that we've been focusing on   and we've got to continue to do better there.  And we have to make sure that our people who   live there feel like and do have the economic  opportunities to be successful and to provide   for themselves and for their families and do  not get... Do not ever feel the need to leave  

or to sell for any economic reason. If they  want to sell, listen, this is a free country.   Somebody wants to sell their house. There's  nothing we can do about it. But we want to make   sure that no one feels that they have to sell,  right? That they're pressured to sell. So we're   creating a climate gentrification plan to make  sure that as we deal with the climatic issues,   that doesn't put a gentrification pressures on  some of our historically black neighborhoods. And   we have created a tremendous amount  of culture by the way, and overtime,   which was a historic and cultural bashing. We  have the Red Rooster now, the little greenhouse,  

we have restaurants. I mean, it's just become  a... We have black tech week there which has been   extremely successful. A tremendous amount of  events during Art Basel. It's been the privilege   of my career to be able to help make that  happen. And we certainly have a long way to go. I want to start with you, Derek. You've worked  to revitalize neighborhoods in major cities  

like New York and San Francisco, and you're  now overseeing development in Miami store   Overtown neighborhood. Like, what is your response  to the mayor's comments on gentrification? I think that anytime you have a public  official who's acknowledging the withdrawal,   the economic marginalization just the desperate  amount of resources that have not only been not   poured into overtime but had been extracted from  communities like Overtown. And so for the mayor   to take sort of a responsibility and saying,  Hey, you know, it's on us to help rebuild and to   replenish resources into historic African-American  community is a good first step. I'm   always the one who says I want to see the  action also that comes from the words. And  

one of the things that I think neighborhoods  like Overtown can do or at least our approach,   my approach as a developer has always been  to recognize the richness of the culture that   exists. And so if you take that as a cultural  capital approach, knowing that people want to   celebrate the Cuban community or want to celebrate  other particular demographics within Miami,   why not celebrate and leverage the cultural  capital of Pan-African community. And so with   Overtown, I think we've got a great ecosystem  that's developing between what Chris Norwood is   doing at Ward Rooming House, what you all are doing over at Tribe, the innovation place,   what Keon is doing at The Urban and what we're  doing at Red Rooster Overtown, it really is about   celebrating the culture and inviting everyone in  who wants to be a part of that celebration, and   really more clearly black excellence. We think  that it's a differentiation point, it's a value   proposition and it's something that could be  leveraged. Important point of it is that we own  

it, that that sustainability of that ecosystem  is managed by us. And so to the extent that   government can come in and really opportunities  for black businesses to be owned and to grow,   to sustain themselves. I think that's really where  I think I look for the public sector to really put   its money where its mouth is, and to make sure  that the proper training, proper infrastructure,   all of the areas that allow businesses to thrive,  not just in the short-term and long-term have to   be implemented into these neighborhoods that were  economically devastated. So it's a public private   sort of endeavor, but I'm excited to see that  some of the public officials are leaning in   and wanting to create more of an equitable  economic situation throughout the city.

I think everything that we've been talking  about diversity in our startup communities,   and then recently seeing publications that  did not mention black businesses at all,   when they were telling people  to come to Miami. No authors,   no businesses, no food businesses. And  I was just like, that's such a missed   opportunity so quickly as we close out, Leigh-Ann  tell us a little bit about your thoughts on that,   and then how you're changing the landscape  with what you're doing and Overtown connect. In an year and a half, we've been able to support  55 founders, 78% of which are predominantly black.   Develop 36 partnerships in MOUs, including  with Center for Black Innovation, The Urban   Red Rooster Overtown and other stakeholders in  the area. Strategic collaboration with the SBA  

and a 50K loan fund. That is what it looks like  when you create an ecosystem of support that seeks   to represent and make accessible the resources  and the capital for everybody inclusively and   for the groups that have been overlooked. And  that's the work that we're doing in Overtown.   So when we talk about this concept of how do we  market Miami as an inclusive ecosystem, I think   there's a little bit of work to do because we  haven't done the assessment to really understand   whether or not everybody equally experiences that  same level of access to what they need to build,   to use entrepreneurship as a tool of economic  mobility and to take our ideas to the next level.   So, first off, we got to do a little bit  of listening and actually some studying to   understand is everybody's experience equal? I  would venture to say no. And then on the second  

part, what we also have an opportunity to do, is  change. We have an opportunity to make sure that   we are holding ourselves to a higher standard  that when we're marketing Miami we're marketing   a Miami that is truly representative of  everybody including the black businesses   that actually play a significant contributory  role in the economic impact here in our County. You can watch the full discussion  on our Facebook page @YourSouthFL,   I'm Felecia Hatcher. Thanks for watching.

2021-02-09 14:20

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