Update Sept. 9, 11:37 a.m.: The BEI block party has been postponed due to inclement weather and will be rescheduled.
The Black Entrepreneur Initiative serves to cultivate Black entrepreneurs at UNC, while providing a space for Black entrepreneurs to profit and promote their businesses. The organization has three main goals — to promote, inform and connect.
“I think all three of the goals themselves have one central mission — and it’s just to uplift the Black community at hand,” Eliam Mussie, co-president of the BEI, said.
The organization was co-founded by students Kene Uwajeh and Sherrod Crum, and began as a community for Black business owners, students with ventures and those interested in the entrepreneurship field.
“Historically, Black people have been excluded from some of those spaces. Black businesses don't get as much promotion marking as some other types of businesses," Richard Okoro, co-president of the BEI, said. "I feel like that also has a greater effect on the Black community as a whole and not seeing other business owners that look like you."
He said that the initiative educates members of the Carolina community to be entrepreneurial in any field, from business to medicine to marketing, and helps them grow professionally.
“Thinking like an entrepreneur is a great skill to have,” John Obiefuna, event coordinator for the BEI, said. “In whatever career you’ll be doing, thinking like an entrepreneur will get you far, for sure.”
The organization hosts multiple events, such as pop-up shops and a block party every semester. They also conduct application workshops for the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship and 1789 Student Venture Funding. They aim to connect aspiring entrepreneurs with professionals by having speaker series.
Additionally, this year, Mussie said that BEI is planning for other events, such as a Black formal that doubles as a fundraiser event, and a startup-pitching competition similar to Shark Tank that will provide mentorship and counseling to participants.