Inclusivity For The Greater Good
In my last two years at VCU, I really made an effort to figure out what it was that I wanted to do. I had (somehow) landed in the entrepreneurship program in the Snead Hall of Business and felt at home. When I first heard the academic definition of entrepreneurship, it really resonated with me. “Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regards to the resources one currently controls.” That really hit home. Admittedly, I didn’t have the best grades coming through college and sometimes felt inferior to my peers who were excelling in the classroom. Entrepreneurship was an avenue where that didn’t matter- nor would my lack-of credentials hold me back at all. One day, my buddy came to me and told me that he was starting the Consulting Club at VCU back-up. We were going to go out and get real clients around Richmond and provide pro-bono consultation on real problems they were facing. We were somehow connected to UnBoundRVA, a nascent nonprofit in town with a mission to empower individuals from low income communities through business ownership. It seemed like the perfect fit for us and we were just happy to be given a chance.
When we first started working with UnBound, I didn’t understand the implications or impact of poverty, and I won’t claim to now. However, Unbound started my journey of trying to understand what it means to live in poverty and how seemingly hard it is to escape the systemic effects of poverty. We sat down and had an initial scope meeting with Richard and Sarah, UnBoundRVA co-founders, and they outlined why they had created UnBound and how they thought we could be helpful. We left the office giddy, and ready to start plugging away at this new project. About two weeks later, in between classes, I ran over to the UnBound office to give Richard a progress report. I presented what we had done, asked a few questions about next steps, and pledged to deliver at the same time next week. When I was getting my gear together, Richard asked me if I had time to hop in the car and take a ride through the East End with him. With no idea of what to expect, I jumped in the car to go see the neighborhoods our work would be impacting, and I’m so glad that I decided to go.
As I continued to further emerge myself into Richmond’s entrepreneurial scene, I quickly realized that the playing field wasn’t even, particularly for those living in lower-income communities, who, more often than not, tend to be minorities. As I made my way through different affluent social circles in Richmond, it didn’t take long to realize that almost none of the folks I was encountering looked like me. It seemed like almost every event I attended, I would be one of very few people of color. Which made me think, in a city where over half of the population is African-American, why wasn’t there any representation in these circles? Why weren’t people of color being included in Richmond’s emerging entrepreneurial scene? Why were people that looked like me being left out?
This realization reiterated to me the importance of the mission UnBound was setting out to accomplish- To empower those from low-income communities to pursue opportunity without regards to resources they currently control or, simply put, become entrepreneurs. I’m proud to be a part of Richmond’s growing entrepreneurial scene, but I also recognize the huge responsibility we have to make sure this scene is inclusive and open to everybody. We’d truly be doing Richmond an economic and social injustice by not acknowledging this lack of representation and not taking earnest strides to correct it.
So, how do we do this?
I believe that UnBound is leading the efforts to answer this question through empowering individuals who feel the effects of Richmond’s unrelenting systemic discrimination to start businesses. As Richmond’s entrepreneurial ecosystem continues to grow, the opportunity for minority owned businesses is enormous and the impact that these businesses will have on the greater good is even bigger. I truly believe that Richmond is positioned to distinguish itself on the national-stage as being a city of consciousness and inclusiveness and UnBound is spearheading these efforts. I encourage you to get involved in these efforts; volunteer your expertise, make financial contributions to their cause, refer someone you think would benefit from the program, or even just tell a friend about what they have going on.
— Aaron Ware
Aaron is a Richmond-city transplant who’s interested in making economy, technology, and policy more inclusive. When he’s not in-front of his laptop, he’s most likely riding his bike or snowboard.