Breaking into the business world can be daunting, especially for students balancing coursework and college life. Recognising this challenge, Illinois State University’s Multicultural Centre has launched a new programme aimed at equipping students with the resources and confidence to become successful college entrepreneurs.
Named the “Tomorrow’s Entrepreneur Institute,” this initiative comprises a series of entrepreneurial classes designed to educate students on the fundamentals of running a business. Promoted through a series of events last fall, the programme will accommodate 25 students, offering 90-minute class sessions every Friday from February 16 to mid-April. Applications are currently open until February 12.
Conceived by Lola Tomorrow ’08, a former aide to Michelle Obama, and Dr. Christa Platt ’09, ’17, director of the Multicultural Center, the institute collaborates with the Multicultural Leadership Program, the African American Circle of Entrepreneurship, and the George R. and Martha Means Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. Together, they aim to create a supportive network of alumni and teachers to guide students through the programme.
Covering topics such as business types, funding, branding, marketing, and entrepreneurial mindset development, each student will be paired with an entrepreneur mentor to provide personalised guidance.
According to Platt, the programme offers “entrepreneurship from a culturally relevant perspective,” leveraging entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds to support students with ambitious dreams and visions.
One of the driving forces behind the programme is the desire to address the underrepresentation of minorities in entrepreneurship. In 2020, businesses majority-owned by Black or African American individuals accounted for only 3% of all U.S. firms.
“We want to create a space where our students can crack the code to entrepreneurship by learning from diverse multi-millionaire entrepreneurs and investors who’ve cracked the code themselves,” Platt emphasised.
For students like Kennedi Jackson, a sports psychology graduate student, and James Austin Jr., a freshman business administration major, the programme represents an invaluable opportunity to gain knowledge, network, and financial support for their entrepreneurial endeavours.
Platt hopes that students participating in the programme will feel supported and inspired by the Multicultural Centre community, fostering confidence and excitement about their entrepreneurial potential.
“My hope is for them to walk away having learned information that centres on who they are as people and aids their confidence and excitement about their ability to bring their ideas to life,” Platt expressed. “And they have a community that surrounds them, holistically supports them, and helps them accelerate in their entrepreneurial mindset and ventures.”