“The City I Thought I Knew: Staying Home for College” was the topic of the TEDx talk I gave at New York University in 2019. As I reflected on how the city I was born and raised in was developing, I too was experiencing changes in my life. At 21 years old, I founded Future Change Makers Academy (F.C.M.A.) with the long-term mission of creating a platform for youth to be seen and heard.
I grew up in a Caribbean household in New York City, where I watched my mom and dad pursue their passions in two different ways. They are from the island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and have been married for 30 years. My mom is an educator and believes that the early developmental stage of a child’s life is crucial. She teaches Pre-Kindergarten through Kindergarten level students. My dad is an Army Veteran, cook, and contractor. His genuine compassion for helping others drives him to assist in any way that he can. My mom and dad’s altruism and humbleness are why I will continue building F.C.M.A. despite the challenges I will encounter. They are my role models.
At the age of five, my mother’s right lung collapsed twice. From that day, my dad said, “something triggered in me”. I wanted to be as instrumental in other people’s lives as the medical team was in my mom’s recovery. I thought this meant becoming a doctor. It was not until my senior year of high school that my life shifted in a direction I did not know I was ready for but was prepared to embrace. I no longer was going to college to become a biomedical engineer that went to medical school. I learned that entrepreneurship was my true calling.
In March 2020, my in-person undergraduate college experience came to an abrupt end due to the global pandemic (COVID-19). According to the United Nations August 2020 COVID-19 brief, “the COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and all continents. Closures of schools and other learning spaces have impacted 94 per cent of the world’s student population, up to 99 per cent in low and lower-middle-income countries.” During this time, I was taking a social entrepreneurship course and had a group project to complete by the end of the semester. Once we shifted to online learning, the Professor gave us the option to work on a project individually. I chose this option, and thus Future Change Makers Academy (F.C.M.A.) was created.
My experience with building a global technology media company can be summarised into three main takeaways that are also call to actions for anyone looking to invest in young tech entrepreneurs (ages 18-25).
1. Young Tech entrepreneurs can benefit greatly from sponsors and mentors in their industry/field that they can identify with, especially in the early development stage of their business idea.
a. Future Change Makers Academy (F.C.M.A.) was originally created to be a platform that teaches topics that are not typically taught in the classroom. It then changed to a non-profit whose mission was to educate youth across the globe about taking control of their future by leveraging opportunities and resources. As I began to write my business plan for these original ideas, I noticed that my exact vision was not being effectively executed. So, I decided to pivot again. I had a few other young people on my team to talk through ideas with, but it was still not enough to help me determine how I was going to be successful. I learned that the original idea for your company is going to change. It is inevitable. I had to find the best way to channel that change into action. I did this by trying to find mentors/other entrepreneurs in my industry who can help guide me, but I have not been able to connect with anyone as yet.
2. Grants, sponsorships and fellowship opportunities for young tech entrepreneurs are hard to find.
a. After five months of trying to define what success would look like for F.C.M.A., with each new idea I came up with, I began to look for grants, scholarships and fellowship opportunities to apply for and participate in. My company is currently not generating any profit, which seems to be a huge factor in getting grants and participating in fellowships. I want to gain experience and exposure since I am creating a platform as a service and am still in college. Apart from getting involved with the programs my school had to offer, I looked for company-specific grants and scholarships. Once I knew I wanted to have a for-profit model, there are quite a bit of expenses to build a technology media company. This includes but is not limited to: the website + hosting, equipment to produce the service (in my case videos and other content), L.L.C. License, original seed money and the Trademark. These costs started to add up at such an early stage, and I could benefit from a grant or scholarship to help pay for a lot of these necessities long-term. For my business model, having a website is essential, and I have not been able to build it out to the best of my abilities yet.
3. Young tech entrepreneurs can benefit from pitching their emerging technology/ innovation/service to tech employees and companies in hopes of being able to form a partnership
a. As I continue to work on F.C.M.A., I would appreciate getting the chance to showcase my ideas and how my company will contribute to the technology media, educational technology and eLearning industries. Having the opportunity for someone in my field/industry to listen to me explain my business and provide constructive criticism can be a tremendous help. The major players in these industries thus far are dominated primarily by white males who cannot relate to my experience as a young black woman in technology. Getting to partner with other organisations or companies early can give my company the credibility it needs to establish its presence in these industries.
I still have a lot of work to do.
It has been one year since I first envisioned Future Change Makers Academy (F.C.M.A.), and I am grateful for the journey thus far. I hope that sharing my personal story can encourage other young tech entrepreneurs not to be afraid to take risks and embrace the changes that businesses go through. To anyone looking to invest in us, I hope that my call to action can be a start to a long term goal of giving young tech entrepreneurs a chance.
Future Change Makers Academy (F.C.M.A.) is a global technology media company that aims to impact the eLearning industry by creating high quality, interactive conversation-based video series in various topic areas utilising Artificial Intelligence technologies. F.C.M.A wants to help youth find their own unique voice through sharing their personal stories by providing a platform for them to be seen and heard.