The Morehouse Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center was established in 2004 to provide an economic boost to Black and minority owned businesses.
Since it was establishment, the MIEC has been instrumental in empowering close to 400 businesses, facilitating $81.6 million in revenue growth, granting access to $34 million in capital, creating over 800 new jobs, and securing nearly 400 new contracts.
Dr. Tiffany Bussey, founding Director of the Morehouse Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center, spoke with ADW to share the organization’s mission.
Can you provide some insight on how MIEC began?
We started in 2004, and I’m the founding director. My background is actually in federal procurement. I’m one of those what you might call an accidental entrepreneur, because I see this as my entrepreneurial venture. Whether you’re starting a for-profit or traditional business, I see it all as entrepreneurship. I ended up forming a consulting company to advise companies in getting federal contracts. I happen to be working at a company that was doing environmental engineering and the owner of the company happened to be on the board of Morris Brown College. We were working on federal contracts. I also ended up doing some work at Spelman College. One day in a workshop, a few Morehouse faculty inquired about starting an entrepreneurship center. And so, here we are nearly 20 years later.
MIEC has helped over 400 businesses. How has this come about?
Our mission is twofold. We will focus on the community business side, but the institution center itself, we like to say we start scaling growth businesses. Whether it is with our students, or with businesses in the community. We’ve also touched over 2500 students with our core curricular activities of really helping students understand what it means to have an entrepreneurial mindset and to think entrepreneurially. With the work in the community. I would first step back and say the mission of Morehouse here is to really create and work with Black men to understand and create them as leaders. We understand it is about building a community. Our most famous alum, Dr. Martin Luther King, talked about social justice, but an equal part of that was economic justice, which he really laid out a blueprint and it has to do with owning businesses. It is one of the pathways to that economic justice and economic empowerment. We can have political power, but without economic power, it doesn’t really move the needle.
Are there particular businesses that you focus on at MIEC?
We have been intentionally focusing on what we call scalable businesses. Less than 3% of Black businesses in this country are creating scalable businesses. Those are businesses that can serve anywhere from a million dollars in revenue, who can then hire, create jobs, because that’s what really creates the economic impact. So we’re looking to really work and double down and increase and move the needle. Our kind of programming is structured around the research that we find that there are three major barriers in really scaling minority businesses and number one is access to capital. No surprise there. There’s lots that have been kind of being sad about that. But the other one is access to contracts and procurement. These businesses as we know them are those that do businesses with other business. These businesses that we’ve worked with are really winning wonderful contracts. Our most recent just won a $33 million contract in the federal space, the federal sector. So that’s to us is what success looks like.
We’ve witness a political attack when it comes to affirmative action and Black businesses receiving funding. Will there be any political pushback to MIEC in the near future?
Morehouse itself has always said that we’re here focused solely on serving Black men. We’ve been here for155 years, we ain’t going nowhere. So I think a lot of this rhetoric comes at a time that we need to just double down and keep the focus, not be distracted by it and keep doing what we do. This is all going to blow over. We’ve seen this before. We just need to keep doing what we do. The minute we take our eyes off and get caught up in the rhetoric, that’s not a win for us. So for us, we stay focused, we double down, we keep doing what we’re doing. We still have partners that are out there that are willing to still do work with us. Our cohorts are based around creating opportunities. There are still companies out there that know that inclusion works. It’s the best thing for the country, for the economy for the global economy, and they’re willing to work with us to continue this work.
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