Black Business Innovation | Your South Florida
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.