While many tech organizations have made commitments to improving diversity and supporting Black professionals since the racial justice movement following George Floyd’s murder by police in 2020, one local nonprofit is very focused on results.
Camden, New Jersey-based Hopeworks uses tech education to train and get folks interested in tech in life-sustaining jobs. With a new initiative that the org announced Monday, it aims to give a local Black entrepreneur a website to improve the way they do business.
With its Black Enterprise Initiative, Hopeworks will provide a brand-new website as gift to a Black-owned business in New Jersey, Delaware or the Greater Philadelphia area. It’s valued at around $20,000, Hopeworks said.
The new website will by made from Hopeworks’ web services, including WordPress website design and development, website support and maintenance, technical training, UX and accessibility audits, business services portals and SEO. It will be built by a group of Hopeworks’ young trained professionals.
Don't forget! Hopeworks is launching the Black Enterprise Initiative to provide a professional, functional website (valued at $20,000) to one eligible business. Please share this with a friend or colleague who may be eligible!
Apply here: https://t.co/zlqfcZr3fO
Good luck! pic.twitter.com/NezRp2GkzF
— Hopeworks Camden (@hopeworkscamden) November 15, 2021
Through the initiative, and Hopeworks’ general programing, the org aims to provide young professionals in the area with the tech resources to build businesses that can succeed locally and beyond their communities.
Hopeworks business manager Lindajoy Jackson believes the initiative extends the work Hopeworks is known for by supporting entrepreneurs of color by providing digital resources.
“We know people need these things and this is the perfect time,” she told Technical.ly. “This could be the key to grow your business and making something that lasts in your family.”
Hopeworks executive director Dan Rhoton agreed, adding that preparing young professionals for entrepreneurship is equally as important as gaining jobs when it comes to alleviating local poverty.
“What people sometimes think Hopeworks does is teach folks about tech,” he said. “We’re different from a lot of organizations that are awesome like Per Scholas and LaunchCode. We work to end poverty through tech, but if we teach people to do jobs and there’s not a viable ecosystem [and] the only way is to leave the community, we’re preparing people for tech but we’re not building communities.”
Jackson’s father was an entrepreneur for decades, but he succeeded as an entrepreneur without mentorship. She said hopes that this initiative can provide young entrepreneurs with the access to information and resources that has evaded them in the past.
“A lot of times it’s pull yourself up by your own bootstraps,” she said. “The connectivity or access is not readily available. You need your website optimized and a better understanding of your brand, [but] everything you have to learn you have to figure out [alone].”
Rhoton and his colleagues frequently mentor program participants about imposter syndrome and dealing with corporate technical environments. He believes that this initiative can give young professionals the opportunity to watch businesses grow and eventually create local companies that can support their communities.
Black-owned business owners based in the area are now eligible to apply, though there’s currently no application close date. A winner will be announced on February 1, 2022.
Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.