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It’s Homecoming week at Delaware State University, so Influencers Lab Media took the opportunity to gather some of the HBCU’s alum for a “How I Made It” panel at the Wilmington Library.
“Making it” goes beyond money, said keynote speaker Meeshach Stennett Sr., founder of The MINDS Group and brand ambassador for the DSU College of Business.
“Success is relative,” he said. “For one person, waking up, going to work every day, coming home and providing for his family is a success. To somebody else, being a CEO of a Fortune 500 company and being super rich is a success. Neither of those people are wrong, because they’re both successful.”
Stennett was raised by a single mother in a Jamaican household in the Bronx in the ‘80s and ‘90s, a time when, he said, riding the bus home could turn into a scene from the movie “The Warriors.” He chose to follow his Catholic school education with DSU after learning that his first choice, Hillman College from “A Different World,” was fictional.
Despite the popularity of the show, HBCUs were not seen as quality schools by the mainstream at the time.
“Back then, they looked at us like we was JV,” Stennett said. “If you went to a Black college or HBCU, even when I went to corporate America, it was like, ‘Hey, you’re doing a great job. [Incredulously] ‘You went to an HBCU?’ That’s a false narrative, because once they saw how we went in and produced, now you see how they look at HBCUs. We always knew we would make it.”
How 5 DSU alum ‘made it’
The panel was made up of five alumni, some now living across the country and some based here in Delaware. The youngest, Kaylynn Pride, graduated in 2021 with a degree in communications and is now a producer and reporter for DETV.
“I made sure that everything that I involved myself in, on and off campus, helped me get to where I want to be,” Pride said. “I just wanted to be a person who was well known. And I think I’ve really made my mark when it comes to that.”
Shynieka Taylor is nationally well known: Now living in Los Angeles, she is a guest host for E! News and former TMZ News correspondent. At DSU, she majored not in communications, but political science.
“I wanted to be the president of the United States of America,” Taylor said. “I was wearing nothing but suits around campus, and I was like, ‘I’m going to be the youngest Black mayor.’ And then I was knocking on doors. It was just tiring and I was like, ‘This ain’t where I’m supposed to be. … How the heck are you going to make a change in the world and still use your voice?’ Oh, I know: I’m pretty entertaining.”
Zoetic Couture founder Nicky went to DSU for nursing. She is both a nurse and an entrepreneur today.
“My credit load was 18 or 19 credits. It was really heavy for an 18-year-old, and I was really immature,” she said. “And I was in class with a lot of grown women who were LPNs already, So I had to really toughen up and get it together. That forced me to have a lot of discipline.”
Financial advisor Regional Harris majored in sports management at DSU, with a goal of being a sports agent. After earning a master’s degree and deciding not to pursue a law degree, he got a job at a global financial services firm.
“They fired me,” he said. “I was miserable there — I had a master’s degree, I was making like $34,000. Long story short, I jumped into New York life, in finance. So I’m trying to figure out, how can I connect that with sports? I started going after athletes and entertainers as clients. Then I’m like, ‘I gotta fulfill my purpose. I’m starting my own sports management company.’ So that’s what I did.”
Ondre Gipson, serial entrepreneur and CEO of True Hustler Entertainment in Wilmington, spent a lot of time partying at DSU. (Taylor was his RA at one point and said he was the only student she ever wrote up.) After an instructor sat him down and asked what he wanted to do with his life, he signed up for a fitness management class, and fell into entrepreneurship.
“One of our big projects was we had to make a business plan,” he said. “Nobody else had ideas, so I pretty much gave ideas to everybody because of all the different things that I was thinking I wanted to do. I actually got a couple of loans off the business plans from the bank while I was there, so it worked out.”
What else happened in Delaware this week?
- Small Business Association’s Delaware District Office is accepting nominations (including self-nominations and third-party nominations) for the 2023 National and District Small Business Week Awards, including the annual Small Business Person of the Year. The Delaware District Office award categories and guidelines can be found on the district’s website.
- Delaware-based global water technologies leader Solenis has chosen Wilmington as the site for a $40 million research and development expansion. The new facility will provide Solenis with another 20,000 square feet of lab space and will allow Solenis to add up to 46 new Delaware STEM jobs within the next three years.
- Uvax Bio LLC, an early-stage biopharmaceutical company with a vaccine platform technology that has produced both COVID-19 and HIV-1 vaccine candidates, is expanding in Newark, including adding 63 employees to its current five-member team.