YEP! (Young Entrepreneurs of Providence) is a Nelson Center- and EP-sponsored initiative at Brown University that seeks to introduce the entrepreneurial and design-thinking mindset to high school students in the local Providence area. Through expert guest lectures, interactive workshops, individual office hours, and team projects, students learn about the process of entrepreneurship and gain valuable problem-solving skills. YEP! strives to strengthen Brown University’s relationship with the local community.
YEP! was founded upon the principle that you have to think differently to be an entrepreneur. Whether it be age, nationality, race, or gender identity, we are confident that the best entrepreneurs are those among us with a unique perspective on the problems that face our world. While developing our third incubator, we knew we had to think differently as well. As the COVID-19 crisis and the racial unrest in our country illuminated deep systemic issues, we realized how necessary it was to nurture the next generation of changemakers. This semester, we looked beyond just entrepreneurship and into other modes of social change, such as nonprofit organizations and government advocacy, to give students the full set of tools to enact the change they want to see in the world.
On November 23, 2020, we hosted YEP! Pitch Night where twelve students presented groundbreaking new ideas to solve problems that impact our local and global communities. Our students presented their ventures to over fifty members of the Brown community. The panel of judges included Brown University educators, students, and entrepreneurs: Hamzah Ansari ‘09, Alan Harlam, Robbie Felton ‘21, and Elvia Perez ‘22. Click here to watch the recording.
Our students developed a diverse range of initiatives to tackle both small and large-scale issues. One of our students, Rebecca Xu, created a nonprofit organization called Politics for People of Color (PPOC) to provide educational resources and build community among historically underrepresented groups in order to increase the number of BIPOC in government. Rebecca recently hosted her first PPOC event, featuring Rhode Island House of Representative member Anastasia Williams, Providence Councilwoman Sabina Matos, and Central Falls City Councilwoman Jessica Vega. On the other hand, some students pursued for-profit ventures. For example, Sasha Kagan, who cares deeply about the environmental impact of the fashion industry, realized that there were barriers preventing consumers from making informed shopping decisions. Therefore, Sasha created Sustain, a web browser extension that generates a sustainability score so online shoppers know how their products are made and where to find more ethical alternatives. By empowering customers with important information, Sasha hopes to inspire more sustainable fashion production and consumerism.
We are so incredibly proud of our students and we cannot wait to see what they will continue to accomplish in the future!
Article written by Audrey Shapiro ‘21, Leah Lam ‘21, and Lucia Winton ‘21