How The Legacy Of Black Entrepreneurship And Innovation Continues At Benedict College
... we are meeting our students (and their talents) where they are.
The history of Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, captures the story of a woman, Bathsheba Benedict, who dedicated her inheritance to the founding of Benedict College almost 150 years ago. The history of the college’s founding by a woman, now led by a woman, is a story of vision, entrepreneurship and innovation.
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Bathsheba Benedict clearly had a plan for the future in mind (vision) and she demonstrated that she was willing to risk her financial investment during those turbulent times, when many who tried to create educational opportunities for the descendants of the former enslaved were met with violence. However, she forged ahead with the plan to provide a quality education for the newly emancipated men and women (entrepreneurial). Although education in general, and higher education specifically, was not a new idea or concept, providing a college education to Black men and women was indeed a disruption to the post-civil war education model (innovation).
That spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation continues today at Benedict College, where we have forged a path towards capturing and cultivating innovation and entrepreneurship amongst our majority first-generation college students.
First and foremost, we are meeting our students (and their talents) where they are. Tiger Cutz, is one such example. We noticed that students are starting college with established small businesses – they are licensed barbers, cosmetologists and nail technicians. This “side hustle economy” provides much needed resources for college students struggling to purchase food, clothing and, in some instances, help pay for tuition and books. Having such an outlet can also serve (and service) the needs of students, as well as faculty and staff, right on campus. In addition, the proximity of Tiger Cutz on campus can also service the greater community in which the college resides.
But we did not stop there! Tiger Cutz is not only a salon, but it is a Cosmetology Makers Space! Our Tiger-stylists will be challenged by faculty and industry mentors to collaborate on innovations in this industry sector and bring them to market! Thus, positioning Tiger Cutz as a credible marketplace for local, entrepreneurial-based hair-skin product lines.
Benedict College is also realigning the Tyrone A. Burroughs Small Business Incubator to focus on developing and supporting the entrepreneurial needs of women and people of color. Thus far, in conjunction with the Small Business Administration (SBA), Benedict College has hosted two standing-room-only small business and innovation conferences, designed to educate and empower African American entrepreneurs and small business owners. Recently, Benedict was the launch location for HER+IDEA, the economic development initiative of the national NAACP that specifically targets female collegiate innovators at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Finally, the evidence of the strength of entrepreneurism and innovation that is embedded in the soil of Benedict College is the history-making and comic-world-disruptor Bitter Root! Conceived in-between classes, dates and eating in the café, Sanford Greene and Chuck Brown were young college students at Benedict when they developed the concept for Bitter Root, a captivating comic narrative set in the Harlem Renaissance. The popular comic book series, set to be a legendary film production directed by Ryan Coogler, has captured the attention of Harvard scholars and hip-hop artists alike. Greene, whose illustrative genius brought Black Panther to life, also serves as artist-in-residence, creator and instructor for Benedict College’s master class in sequential art.
Blavity readers and followers, I hope this sheds some light on Benedict College and our message to you, entrepreneurs and innovators — the future has always been right here!
Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis is the President and CEO of Benedict College #BESTOFBC