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Ebony Miller—Entrepreneur Essentials

Truth Collective Truth CollectiveSeason Episode 5Nov 10, 2020

Podcast 5: Ebony Miller—Entrepreneur Essentials

Introduction: Welcome to Higher Order. We talk to creative people with ambitious ideas that are out to change the world. We’re going from learning about what an entrepreneur is to how to become one. Join us as Ebony Miller-Wesley, Director of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship at RIT leads us through what it takes to get a business off the ground, and more importantly, to keep it going, especially if you’re in Rochester. Oftentimes the backbone of the community, these small businesses are driving the economy and are so important, maybe more now than ever.

Josh: Today on the show with us is Ebony Miller-Wesley. Ebony, thank you so much for joining us.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: Thank you for having me.

Josh: So, Ebony, we want to talk a lot about the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and the incredible program that you’ve been working on with RIT. But first we want to go back a little bit and just hear a little bit about your origin story. Tell us a little bit about how you got into this and why entrepreneurship has been important to you.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: Well, first off, my degree is not in business, however I am working on my MBA currently. I’m in Rochester Institute of Technology Founders College of Business Executive MBA program. It’s a 15-month program. I started in entrepreneurship with the Urban League of Rochester. My undergrad and grad degrees are not in business. My undergrad is in communication and my graduate degree is informatics. For those that may not be familiar with informatics, it’s a combination of both information technology and communication. That’s what my current master’s is in. However, most of my courses were not in business, hence the reason that I’m going to complete my MBA now, so that I’d be able to not only develop curriculum in business geared toward entrepreneurship but also teach in Saunders College of Business. Being that RIT isn’t a research institution, it’s important that when you teach in a course that the majority of your education falls within that discipline.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: Started at MLK, which is now Skillsoft, in 2006, and I didn’t like it. I realized that I’m a people person. When I was working at that job, everything that I did was pretty much online. I did speak to customers but it was over the phone. I did enjoy the part where it was a relaxed environment, you can come to work wearing shorts if you like. So that part of it was good, but the part of not being able to have that face-to-face interaction, that was a struggle for me. So in February of 2008 I got the opportunity to work at the Urban League of Rochester in their minority and women business development division. I was running a program called Jefferson Avenue Revitalization. It was funded through the United States Small Business Administration.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: I would say that’s when I got my start with entrepreneurship. I absolutely loved my role. I loved what I was doing. I loved the interaction that I had with the entrepreneurs that were receiving services from us. However, as I mentioned, it was a SBA-funded program. If you’re not familiar with the funding strings work when it’s grant funded, it eventually reaches the end of a string. I got in at RIT, I want to say in July of 2011. I just came up upon nine years at RIT in July of this year. But I started in the College of Engineering. I started in an entry level role. That particular role gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about RIT as an organization. It taught me a lot about the system that are used to run the organization. In addition, I also learned a lot about the students.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: At that time, for my first two years at RIT, I had a student-facing role. The opportunity came about for me to apply to be the program manager at the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship. That role pretty much mirrored what I was doing when I was at the Urban League of Rochester, so I got the role as program manager. When I initially got the role, my supervisor and the founding director at the time took a role with Mayor Warren’s administration, so we didn’t have a director for some months. Then they hired an interim director, and so he was taped to take on the role until we could find a permanent director. We did a search, the search came back, and I was then asked to take the role on an interim basis. So in November of 2015 I became an interim director of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship. I was in that role until July of 2018 when I was named the permanent director.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: That’s a little bit about my background. I know it’s a lot, but that’s me, that’s who I am, and that’s how I got to where I am today.

Devon: No flies on you. It’s always so interesting to hear how people got to where they are because no one takes the same path. What about a little bit further back? Am I understanding correctly that you are Rochester native? Is that correct?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: I am. I was born and raised in Rochester. I’m a graduate of Brighton High School by way of the Urban-Suburban Program. So yeah, I’m a Rochester native.

Devon: That’s great. Who were some of your early influencers and what are the values that they taught you or gleaned from them that you still live by and bring to your role now?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: I would say my mother, first and foremost. The decision that she made to apply for me to be a part of the Urban-Suburban Program and send me to Brighton was one of the best decisions she could have ever made for me. I would say that it honestly molded me into the individual that I am today. At the time when I graduated, I’ll be honest and say that the neighborhood that I grew up in, my peers were not graduating high school and going to college. But the fact that then Brighton, regardless of the fact that I was bused in by RCS each day, those Brighton High School students became my peers. They were going to college, so in mind that’s what I was supposed to do, it wasn’t a choice for me.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: The environment that I was a part of at Brighton really helped mold me into the individual that I am today. So my mother, I would say, was one of the most influential people in my life that got me to where I am and made sure that I would be successful. Regardless of what she had to do, she made sure that I had the resources available to me to be successful.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: Next I would say the person that really was instrumental in me getting the role that I have now, Carlos Carballada. As I mentioned, he was the person that was taped to be the director of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship when we were looking for a permanent director. He helped me see something in me that I didn’t necessarily see in myself at the time. He taught me that, and I always knew this but I can’t say that I always followed it, that you learn a lot more from listening than you do speaking. So he really taught to sit back and watch and be more observant, take it all in, and then react. Don’t be so quick to react. So he was very instrumental in me getting the role that I have today.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: I did not at the time, but he was having conversations behind the scenes that we often do these national searches looking for the best possible candidate and oftentimes that person is sitting at the table with us. He communicated to administration that that’s what he felt was the case, and that he thought I’d be best fit for the role. And so obviously he was very instrumental in me getting the role that I have now.

Josh: I mean, it’s always wonderful when you can have people like that. I’ve had mentors along the way also that they see something in you, they can help bring that forward. It sounds like it’s been really important in not only getting but flourishing in the role at the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship that you’ve had at RIT, RITM and RITM alumnis, I’m a big fan. I wanted just to start and ask a little bit more. So tell us about the Center for urban Entrepreneurship. We’ve talked about it a little bit but let’s get our listeners in the loop as to what it is and why it’s important for the community.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: The RIT Center for Urban Entrepreneurship is, first and foremost, community focused, meaning that regardless of your relationship with RIT, you can benefit from our program and service offerings, meaning you do not have to be a faculty staff or student to receive services from us. Our service offerings include, but aren’t limited to, we do mentoring and one-on-one consulting. We have shared workspace, which is like co-working space where businesses can pay a monthly fee and utilize space there. That space will come along with broadband access, coffee, printing, and copying capabilities, as well as entering and exiting the building at your leisure. However, due to the current situation that we’re facing worldwide with COVID we’ve had to adjust some things. However, Lord willing, this all clears up soon, we’ll be back to normal and the entrepreneurs will be back to accessing the building at their leisure.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: In addition to that, we have meeting rooms. We have meeting rooms that are available to not only those entrepreneurs that are in that shared work space that might need a quiet space to have a conversation or meeting with someone, it’s also available to entrepreneurs that can’t necessarily afford renting space right now and they’re operating out of their home but they need meeting space. So as long as they’re a client, they can come in and utilize that space at no cost. We have classroom space that holds up to 71 individuals, however, due to COVID restrictions you know that is down to maybe 25% capacity. And then our offices are onsite. We’re located in the heart of the innovation zone, which is the old Rochester Savings Bank. We’re situated in between the Sibley Building and the Temple Building at Liberty Pole and Franklin Street.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: We also have workshops, which is the most important part of our services. We have customized training workshops, which our capacity building program is an example of that. Our capacity building program is a program that’s geared towards entrepreneurs that are seeking growth stimulation, so whether that means that they want to pivot, they want to change their product offerings, they want to increase the square footage that they occupy. They can come through this program. That program does carry a cost of $250, and it’s a six-month program meeting bi-monthly. They go through several different modules that are deemed necessary for growth stimulation, including but not limited to human resources for a small business, the business model canvas, sales, marketing, branding, balance sheets, and accounting. You name it, they go through it. If it’s deemed necessary for growth stimulation, they will go through that module throughout that program.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: We also have general education programs, which are workshops that are regardless of where you are within your business, you could be in the idea phase or you can be in the phase where you’re looking to merge, you can come to these workshops. Those essentially don’t carry a cost, but if there’s a cost to us to bring in top-notch speakers, they might be a cost to the entrepreneurs. But for the most part, those programs and workshops do not carry a cost. We formulate those based on what’s not only trending locally by accessing the needs of the entrepreneurial ecosystem through our partnering organizations, but also what’s trending nationally, what we’re seeing as business situations that are popping up nationally that we feel may need to be addressed here locally. That’s what we do in a nutshell.

Josh: It’s interesting because a lot of times people, I think they almost underestimate the importance of infrastructure. When you’re trying to launch a business, you can’t have every meeting at your kitchen table. It’s really great that you guys are able to provide a lot of the basics as well as some of the things that people may not even realize right off the top of their head when they’re going to try to start something like a new business, a new brand, a new product. Why is it important for a community like Rochester to have something like the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: For one, I will say that when you look at organizations that have entrepreneur centers attached to them in their academic organizations like RIT, typically you see that they’re student, faculty, and staff focused, meaning that you have to have a relationship with the organization in order to utilize their program and service offerings. RIT is unique in that we’re community focused. Our target is the underserved business population, people that essentially are left out when there are government funds that are made available or private funds that are made available to businesses that will be scalable. A lot of the people that we see run businesses that won’t necessarily scale to a million dollars in the next five years.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: So, our target is the underserved business population. As I mentioned, they’ve been essentially historically left out when it comes to opportunities that could help them grow. That’s why it’s important because we have a lot of service businesses in our area that they entered entrepreneurship out of necessity as opposed to opportunity. So we’re seeing a lot of necessity entrepreneurs, meaning that they’re entering the market out of need, whether it be their employer downsized and they were dislocated or they need to feed their family. A lot of the entrepreneurs that we see, they start out of necessity so by the time we see them, they’ve reached a hurdle that they need help with. So that’s why it’s necessary for us to exist. Because in the past they’ve sent on a wild goose chase for services, because you have a lot of organizations like when I mentioned that I worked at the Urban League, I was working under funding received from the SBA and there were certain things that we were allowed to do operating under the particular funding.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: So it’s not like we were a one-stop shop. They might be able to come to us and get assistance with business plans, but there might be other things that they need that we couldn’t necessarily help with because it didn’t fall within the constraints of that grant. The beauty about what we’re doing at the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship is that it’s a collective approach. We’re not saying that we’re the end-all be-all, but what we’re saying is that if you come to us, we’re going to triage your needs, and whether the next steps will be with us, with the Urban League, with SCORE, with the SBDC, we’re not going to let you walk away from there without knowing the next steps and without pointing you in the right direction. That’s why I feel it’s important for us to exist.

Devon: And it’s such a gem, right, so innovative to have a program like this, a center like this that looks holistically at the person, at the business, at the situation. And no doubt COVID has created a whole lot more need out there, and I’m sure we could have an entire podcast just on the influence of something like a pandemic on employment rates and people’s needs. But I’m curios, I want to stick with how a city like Rochester can support entrepreneurs. Working with the underserved population, what moves can a city like Rochester make to open opportunities and support entrepreneurs better?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: Well, one of the moves that we’ve already made is to track the entrepreneurs. When I say track, what I mean is that… I mentioned earlier about them being sent on a wild goose chase for services. It’s important that if they meet with me at the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship or they go over to the Mayor’s Office of Community Wealth Building to receive other services there’s a method in place towards the conversation that they’ve had with me. They don’t have to repeat themselves with things possibly getting lost in translation or becoming redundant. That person at the Mayor’s Office of Community Wealth Building would be able to log into a system, pull up that particular entrepreneur that has been onboarded into the system, and look at the conversations that they’ve already had and which organizations they’ve had them with.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: So, in order to be able to have a system like that, it took partnering, it took approaching this ecosystem collectively and realizing that there was not one organization in our area that had these services that entrepreneurs need and it would become a one-stop shop. There was nothing like that that existed. So what we needed was a tracking system. We needed to be able to better track our entrepreneurs so that we can serve them better. That’s something that we’ve already done. We launched Nexus i90 on August 13th. What Nexus i90 is, which I hope it’s okay for me to make a segue into this, what it is it’s a platform. It’s platform that is ideally an on-ramp to that digital highway. This digital highway encompasses the Finger Lakes nine county region. It’s collaboration, it’s community building, it’s inclusive, it builds equity, and it provides evidence that what we’re doing is working.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: The organizations will be able to pull reports from this system. The entrepreneurs can access a comprehensive calendar. There’s a hotline that we’re in the process of putting in place, as well as the organizations that have access acting as a triage center. We’ll have tips, events, and stories by entrepreneur type available within this platform. What it really is is a resource navigator. It puts our entrepreneurs in action and put us to work to help them with their actions.

Josh: I mean, the Nexus i90 platform sounds really innovative and extremely helpful. Is it something that people can start to access through the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship or is it also a standalone thing that they can access outside of that infrastructure or with the city? How do people get involved with the platform?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: They can get involved with the platform on their own, or they can get involved in the platform through meeting with one of the organizations that have access to it. When I meet with entrepreneurs, in the past, we would do paper intake forms and then put them in our spreadsheet. Now they’ll be in this system. They’ll access the system through us when they meet with us or they’ll access the system on their own when they’re looking for particular resources but they don’t know where to begin.

Josh: That’s fantastic. In terms of supporting entrepreneurs from a city level, from a community level, is this something that you’ve seen happening in other markets or is this is something that Rochester is really innovating and creating here that doesn’t necessarily exist if you go to Buffalo or Syracuse or in other surrounding area?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: I think we’re the first one to utilize… SourceLink is the vendor that we worked with to build this system. I want to say we’re the first in New York State to utilize it. I mean the VA has a system that they utilize for veteran services but theirs is through an organization called Unite Us. So when you look at it from an entrepreneurship perspective, yes, we will be the first in New York State to utilize a system of this type.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: Empire State Development has something similar, but it’s only for organizations that are receiving funds from Empire State Development Corporation. They’ve been awarded funds to utilize that system. But it’s not like other organizations that aren’t receiving those particular funds would be able to access it. Did that answer your question?

Josh: Yeah, absolutely. Part of what I love about it and it makes me really excited for the city is it’s another reason to innovate and become an entrepreneur in Rochester. It’s another reason to keep your business here and not necessarily try to go someone else to a surrounding community. Not to say that all entrepreneurs are ready to just jump ship and leave, but the more we make it easier for homegrown businesses to find success, the more the city is going to grow. So this seems like a really exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs in the city. We definitely want to, at the end of the episode and through all the social promotion, let people know how to get involved.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: Absolutely. One of the things that was important to us, and I know I’ve mentioned it on more than one occasion during this podcast is that we stop sending them on a wild goose chase for services. That’s very discouraging. When you have to go here to get one answer and then go somewhere else to get another answer only to realize that the first answer you got there was additional information that you needed to go back and get from that particular organization, it can be discouraging. We wanted to alleviate that. I think that accessing this system and working together collectively by partnering with other organizations that provide entrepreneurial services to our ecosystem is key to enhancing our ecosystem.

Josh: If you had, thinking here like a wild goose chase, some of the other things, what are pieces of advice you might give a new entrepreneur who wants to get started either than definitely come to the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and the Nexus i90 platform? But what other pitfalls or common things do you see people struggle with as they’re trying to start a new business?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: Well, for one, you don’t know what you don’t know. So seek out services from those that do know to ensure that you’re connecting the dots initially. Don’t spend money if you haven’t laid out your plan. If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. I can’t stress that enough to entrepreneurs that are looking to go into business. You have a lot of people that can do things from home and they start off right away securing a brick and mortar. For example, if you’re making t-shirts, if you have an extra room in your house or extra space in your house, you don’t necessarily need to pay a lease to anyone to make those t-shirts, especially right now. I think COVID has taught us a lot. It taught us that a lot of things that we thought we needed a building for, we can essentially do from home and do online. If somebody’s placing a t-shirt order from you, you can ship that. You don’t need to have a brick and mortar to ship that. If you have a space at home, your t-shirt press can be there, your printer can be there. Everything that you need can be available to you in your house, and you’re not paying a lease to anyone, investing in their business while trying to develop yours.

Devon: I think one of, hopefully, I say hopefully, one of the lessons learned by all of us and the silver lining of the virus and everybody having to work from home and reinvent themselves, is that we, the general public, those of us who might not be entrepreneurs get a better understanding for how broad the definition of an entrepreneur is. I think there’s usually a misconception of what an entrepreneur does and what kinds of businesses “fall” into that. So along those lines, what do you see as some of the biggest misconceptions about the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship or about entrepreneurs in general that we all need to get educated on and get over?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: Well, one of the biggest misconceptions about the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship itself is that it’s not open to anyone. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions that I’ve heard from many people. They think because it’s attached to RIT and it’s part of RIT that they can’t receive services, and that is not the case at all. As I mentioned in the beginning, we will sit down and meet with anyone regardless of their relationship with RIT. We are community focused. So if you have a vision, passion, and a mission to start a business, we’re going to assist you. All you have to do is reach out. Again, that’s regardless of your relationship with RIT. You do not have to have a prior relationship with RIT to benefit from our program and service offerings. That I cannot stress enough. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions that I’ve heard about the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship. You had part two of your question, do you might repeating that?

Devon: Sure. Just what are some the general public misconceptions about entrepreneurs, either what they are, who they are, and what they do?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: Okay. A lot of people probably don’t agree with me on this, but there’s so many people that come to us that have been selling things, never went and got a DBA, don’t have a business plan. I tell them, “If you haven’t done those things yet, if you haven’t even done the work to go and get a DBA, you don’t have a business, you have a hobby. You’re not paying Uncle Sam, you don’t have a business, you have a hobby.” So thinking just because you sold someone a cupcake or a t-shirt that you have a business is you haven’t done the thing that you’re supposed to do to legitimize your business and have it on record as a business legally, then you don’t have a business. That’s probably one of the biggest misconceptions about entrepreneurship that people really need clarity on.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: The other thing is that a lot of entrepreneurs, they come to me and people have told them no, that you shouldn’t do that or you can’t do that. I have one of most successful entrepreneurs that came to us who… She had an idea two years ago that people told her, “Oh, you shouldn’t do that. You’re not going to be able to do that.” Believe it or not, she did it. She’s been growing. She won a business pitch competition with a prize of $10,000. She has grown even larger and have secured additional space because she’s outgrown the space that she had, and this was all during COVID.

Devon: Wow, she showed them, huh?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: Yes.

Devon: I also think, personally, that one of the misconceptions is that entrepreneurs are these little small storefront side businesses that don’t really drive community or economy. It’s just not true at all. I think there’s been this national dialogue, obviously with the social shifts that have been going on and the social consciousness that’s been parallel with the pandemic here in all of our lives. A lot of that dialogue has been about black-owned businesses and how important they are for the community and the economy. From your perspective and your role, could you walk us through a little bit why it’s important to support entrepreneurs of color and what it is about those businesses that makes them drives in our community?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: Well, first and foremost, a lot of our businesses of color, as I mentioned, are necessity entrepreneurs. A lot of them went into entrepreneurship because they were either dislocated or they needed that extra income to provide for their family. Not only that, by them entering entrepreneurship, they’re stimulating our local economic development. So it’s always important for me to… Why do I want to send money outside of the state or outside of our city if I can get what I need right here from a small business who’s going to pour that money that they earn back into the community?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: That’s the main reason why you should support any small business. But particularly businesses of color have historically been underserved. They haven’t been provided the same resources or have had access to the same resources that their counterparts have. In my opinion, that’s why it’s important. If you haven’t seen what’s going on across our nation, more importantly in our community with regards to race relation, then you’ve been living under a rock. It’s systematic. When you look at the level of access and access to resources, it’s no secret and it has been proven over and over again that people of color have not had those same opportunities as those that are not of color.

Devon: I’m so glad that we’re all waking up to this. In some cases, people are being forced to wake up to it and they need to, and they need to. This is why something like CUE is even more important right now, because I feel like with this social consciousness it’s an awareness that’s being raised. Hopefully, people have a little bit more confidence in finding services and support and making their business dreams a reality. With businesses of color and the more they succeed and the more that they pour back into the economy and their communities, is there a positive resonance of that for future generations? Is there tangible evidences to how it’s inspiring or changing the future of those communities when it comes to younger generations?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: Well, for one, I think we are finally realizing how much power there is in numbers. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the Black Young Professionals. This year, they did their first restaurant week. The businesses that were highlighted, they did one business per day and then on the last day they opened it up to patroniZe any business of color. The businesses that were featured did more sales that week than they’ve ever done in any week that they’ve been in operation. Now, if that’s not power in numbers and showing you that when you spend your dollar and support businesses of color what you can do to penetrate that business… I mean, it was impressive but I mean it was priceless and it taught us a lot. It taught us a lot about the power of our dollar when patronizing businesses of color and the difference that we can make.

Josh: That’s a really powerful example. I know we’re coming to the end of the hour, so I’m going to ask you two final questions in two parts. The first question, you’ve been devoted to entrepreneurship, to the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship, for the portal that you’re working on, even what you talk to us about with your future degree that you’re working on and your hopes for education, what has your time working with all these entrepreneurs and helping these business come to life, what’s the most surprising thing that you’ve personally learned from it?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: The most surprising thing is that when I left the Urban League of Rochester, I felt a void because I was no longer working with those businesses anymore. But surprisingly they had been a couple of years that had passed between me leaving the Urban League of Rochester and me working for the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship, because remember, when I started at RIT, I started in a position that was student focused, so I didn’t work with those entrepreneurs anymore. And then when I stopped with working with them while at the Urban League it was abrupt, so I didn’t even really have much of a chance to give them warning because when we found out, I want to say, it was December 21st, if my memory serves me right, that we found out that the funding string was ending, and It was December 30th that was my last day.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: So I didn’t have time to even let them know to provide a segue for anyone else that would be working with them. It was abrupt. So when I got involved with the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship as program manager, I came across some of those same entrepreneurs needing assistance. It was almost like we were family and we were able to pick up where we left off. One of the things that is very apparent is that people will always remember how you made them feel. By me working with them in my role at the Urban League and then picking up where we left off, even though it was a couple of years later, they remembered how I made them feel. They remembered that it wasn’t nothing that they could ask me to do that I wouldn’t be able to… If I couldn’t do it, I would have an answer for them as to who would be able to do it, and never left my entrepreneurs feeling like they were left hanging.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: So people will always remember how you made them feel. And entrepreneurship, people end up becoming like family. One of the things I noticed in our shared workspace is that the culture that’s created in there is natural. It’s not like I had to develop any programs to create culture, it happened naturally. The entrepreneurs ended up collectively working together on different projects on their own to help one another. Entrepreneurship it becomes like… When it’s ingrained in you, those entrepreneurs become like family.

Josh: The community that must form around everybody trying to help each other lift up has got to be really inspiring. My final question is, for you looking out, say, five years, 10 years from now, what do you hope the legacy of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship is? I mean, you’re a Rochesterian, you’re obviously very passionate about our community, what do you hope that people take from it 10 years from now and what the impact it would have?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: Five years from now, I see that we will not only continue to be community focused but we’ll also have credit-bearing courses for students, students that would collectively work with the entrepreneurs to provide them with some services that they would otherwise have to pay a substantial amount of money for, whether it be assisting them with business plans as a project or helping them develop, let’s say, a platform to sell their products or services. I’d like to see more of a relationship between our RIT students and the entrepreneurs as part of our curriculum.

Josh: It’s awesome. I lied, I said two parts but now it’s going to be three. What has it meant personally for you to give back to the city in this way?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: Well, you can’t say that you’re passionate about where you live and were you come from if you’re not willing to stay there and put in the work to make a difference. I could have went anywhere, I didn’t have to still be in Rochester. But this is home for me. This is a community that made me who I am, so it’s important for me to pay it forward. And not only that, RIT is a fantastic institution. And so me pursuing my MBA is me becoming part of that brand. I’m already part of the Rochester brand, a city that I was born and raised in and I absolutely love. RIT, I can honestly say is the best employer that I’ve ever worked for, and it’s important for me to be a part of that brand. As I stated, my undergrad and graduate degree is from the University at Buffalo. I work for a fine institution, it’s important for me when I’m selling it to be a part of the brand.

Josh: That’s fantastic. As a Rochesterian myself, I thank you so much for all the work that you’re doing. It’s been really great and really inspiring to talk with you. Tell everybody where they can find the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship online.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: You can find the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship online by going to And there you’ll be able to find our contact information and be able to contact us either by email or by phone.

Josh: Can they find the Nexus i90 platform through there as well or does that live in another spot?

Ebony Miller-Wesley: That lives in another spot. I can send that to you so that you can post it with the podcast.

Josh: Absolutely. All right, thank you so much for joining us Ebony, it’s been great to talk with you. We’re going to share everything we talked about in the show notes and all the links. We look forward to seeing the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship grow and the results that it’s going to have on our community.

Ebony Miller-Wesley: Thank you very much for the opportunity.

Outro: Well, that’s our show. We hope you’re inspired to pursue your noble ambition. Let’s chase it together. This has been a Truth Collective production.