2021 Research Conference: The Entrepreneurship You Don’t See: Bringing Visibility to New Majority Founders

Brown University’s Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship’s second research conference, The Entrepreneurship You Don’t See: Bringing Visibility to New Majority Founders, brought together over three hundred and fifty interdisciplinary scholars alongside policymakers and practitioners from around the world who research, practice, or engage in policymaking around entrepreneurship that brings to the forefront the intersections of anti-Black racism, women, refugees, immigrants, and allyship. A major part of the conference engaged in critical discussions on these issues, and in particular, anti-Black and structural racism. 

Two inaugural scholarly awards were presented at the conference. The Emerging Scholar in Entrepreneurship Award was conferred to Courtney McCluney, Ph.D. and The Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Juliet E.K. Walker, Ph.D.

For those who were unable to attend, the recorded proceedings are available to the public now on Brown University’s YouTube Channel.

Publications by Conference Participants 

Mehrsa Baradaran, JD

How the Other Half Banks, Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy (2015)

The Color of Money: Black Banking and the Racial Wealth Gap (2017)

Banu Ozkazanc-Pan, Ph.D.

Transnational Migration and the New Subjects of Work Transmigrants, Hybrids and Cosmopolitans (2021)

Zulema Valdez, Ph.D.

The New Entrepreneurs: How Race, Class, and Gender Shape American Enterprise (2011)

Entrepreneurs and the Search for the American Dream (2016)

Jody Aguis Vallejo, Ph.D.

Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican American Middle Class (2012)

Juliet E.K. Walker, Ph.D.

The History of Black Business in America: Capitalism, Race, Entrepreneurship: Volume 1, To 1865 (2009)

The Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship would like to extend our appreciation to the conference participants: 

The Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship would like to extend our appreciation to the conference participants: Mehrsa Baradaran, J.D., Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine Law; Natalie Madeira Cofield, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership, United States Small Business Administration; Ashley Gomez PH.D. (candidate), MPH, Doctoral Student in Sociology, Brown University; Courtney McCluney, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Organizational Behavior, Director, Center for Migration, Demography, and Population Studies, ILR School at Cornell University; Kristen McNeil, Ph.D. (candidate) in Sociology, Brown University; Jennifer Nazareno, Ph.D., Barrett Hazeltine Professor of Practice, Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Brown University; Banu Ozkazanc-Pan, Ph.D., Professor of Practice, School of Engineering, Brown University; Taura Taylor, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Oglethorpe University; Zulema Valdez, Ph.D., Associate Vice Provost for the Faculty, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Merced; Jody Aguis Vallejo,Ph.D., Professor of Sociology and Associate Vice Provost for the Faculty, University of Southern California, Merced; Juliet E.K. Walker, Ph.D., Professor of History, University of Texas, Austin; Ieva Zumbyte, Ph.D. (candidate), Ph.D. candidate, Sociology Graduate Program in Development Fellow Population Studies and Training Center Fellow, Hazeltine Fellow 2020-2021; Juliet E.K. Walker, Ph.D., Professor of History, University of Texas, Austin; Ieva Zumbyte, Ph.D. (candidate), Ph.D. candidate, Sociology Graduate Program in Development Fellow Population Studies and Training Center Fellow, Hazeltine Fellow 2020-2021

What’s Next

The journal Gender, Work and Organization (GWO) (Prof. Banu Ozkazanc-Pan, co-editor-in-chief), will sponsor a special issue based on the conference theme in order to create and support knowledge production on this domain to be published in 2022. Check back with us for details.

Prof. Banu Ozkazanc-Pan Testifies before U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

On June 26, 2019, Prof. Banu Ozkazanc-Pan was invited to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, chaired by Senator Marco Rubio. The hearing focused on the reauthorization of the Small Business Act, which includes the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program, where Prof. Ozkazanc-Pan contributed her expertise on women and minority investors and entrepreneurs. Her testimony focused on the ways the program can be restructured to provide on-ramps for more women and minority fund managers, as well as ways that such funds can support women- and minority-led ventures. Watch a recording of her testimony (See her present at 02:12). You can also read more about the hearing here.

In addition to this accomplishment, Prof. Ozkazanc-Pan and her colleague Prof. Susan Clark Muntean of the University of North Carolina, Asheville have recently signed a book contract with Cambridge University Press. Their new book will focus on entrepreneurial ecosystems through a gender perspective and examine the socio-cultural, organizational, and institutional structures that can potentially limit opportunities for women-led businesses. The book will provide policy makers ideas for building ecosystems that can foster inclusive economic development at a time when income inequality is on the rise in the United States. It will be available in 2020 but her recent book, Transnational Migration and the New Subjects of Work: Transmigrants, Hybrids and Cosmopolitans will be available September of this year from Bristol University Press.

Brown Grad Students Underscore the Broad Spectrum of Entrepreneurship Research: Tech Disruption in U.S. Healthcare, African Entrepreneurs in China, and The Paradox of Social Enterprise

Brown Grad Students Underscore the Broad Spectrum of Entrepreneurship Research: Tech Disruption in U.S. Healthcare, African Entrepreneurs in China, and The Paradox of Social Enterprise

This past April, three graduate students presented their entrepreneurial research projects to a packed room at the Brown Faculty Club from Brown faculty and their peers to visiting students from the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI). Their topics covered research on the disruption of electronic health record (EHR) technology, global racial norms for African traders in various Chinese cities, and systems supporting social entrepreneurs and the unintentional reproduction of racial inequalities.Their research is funded by the Hazeltine Fellowship for Graduate Student Research in  Entrepreneurship, administered by the Business, Entrepreneurship, and Organizations (BEO) Program since 2009. The Hazeltine Fellowship funds research projects of Ph.D. and master’s students who are working under the guidance of a Brown faculty member. Up to three fellowships are awarded each year. The 2018-2019 fellows included Liz Brennan, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology, Xiaoqian (Clare) Wan, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology and Emily Wanderer, Master’s Candidate in Integrative Studies. Continue reading to learn more about their presentations and next steps regarding their work.

Disruptive technology: the electronic health record
Liz Brennan examines the impact of a disruptive technology, the electronic health record (EHR), across the field of healthcare. Like the traditional paper medical record, the EHR contains the patient’s medical history, medications, vital signs, immunizations, laboratory data, and radiology reports. However, the EHR is more than a mere data repository.  In its electronic format, the patient’s record can be remotely accessed; information is updated in real-time and shared across care teams; and can incorporate evidence-based medicine with advances in predictive analytics and AI. The adoption of EHRs in the United States has increased dramatically in the last decade and presents an opportunity to examine entrepreneurship both in the expansion of the EHR market, as well as the interplay between entrepreneurial health information technologists and the clinical and administrative users of EHRs.  

Her dissertation primarily focuses on how the EHR impacts perceptions of autonomy both across and within three professions: physicians, administrators, and health information technologists. Considered a new profession, health information technologists work in healthcare systems and provide training and support to the clinical and administrative staff. They also include the technologists who design the EHR systems and play an important role in defining the EHR’s capabilities and limitations.

Research is ongoing through the summer of 2019. Brennan is conducting semi-structured interviews with physicians, administrators, and health information technologists across two healthcare systems. In addition, she is interviewing health information technologists from companies and startups across the EHR industry. Observations and secondary sources will complement the analysis. Liz Brennan is looking forward to sharing her results with the community in the next academic year.

Brennan’s dissertation committee include Mark Suchman, Mary Fennell and Daniel Hirschman.

Researching the experiences of African entrepreneurs in two major trading cities in China
Clare Wan’s research looks at the various and evolving lived experiences of African entrepreneurs in the export industries of mass-produced consumer goods in two major trading cities in China, specifically Guangzhou and Yiwu. Wan studied the conditions that cause racialization towards African entrepreneurs and their social consequences. She conducted around 50 interviews with African entrepreneurs in the trading and logistics business, Chinese migrant workers and the local government officials. They are all relevant stakeholders in the low-end global commodity chain that involves a small amount of capital, goods, and often informal transactions.

Wan’s research shows how racial norms has become institutionalized on the local level in a non-western context. In Yiwu, Wan observed that citizen/non-citizen boundaries remain stringent and African entrepreneurs are treated equally among other foreign businessmen in the city. In other words, the entrepreneurs’ nationality and racial identity do not work against their status and social conditions. African entrepreneurs are regarded as foreign investors and are viewed as equally crucial to local development. However, Guangzhou as a globalizing city shows a different picture. Once the city strives to impose global standards of desirable capital and human talent towards its development, it starts to implement a more selective immigration approach. Under this condition, the African entrepreneurial community in Guangzhou becomes quickly identified as potential over-stayers, racialized and criminalized due to their “third-world” background.

With the facilitation of the Hazeltine Fellowship, Wan was able to follow the traders across cities in China as well as traveling to West Africa. She also met other Chinese migrants in Africa who were in collaborative/competitive relations with African private sectors. Moving forward, she wants to analyze in a more ambitious way the operation of the complete global commodity chain that spans across continents which involve Chinese private sectors, local Chinese officials, African traders and distributors, and the street vendors in both the developing and the developed cities. She is interested in the developmental potential of the transnational market forged among the entrepreneurs across nationality and racial divide.

Wan’s faculty advisor is Nitsan Chorev and her thesis reader is Daniel Hirschman.


The unintentional reproduction of racial inequalities in social enterprise systems
Social enterprise is a paradox: It is defined by inspiring visions of equity and inclusion, yet success within the field tends to be highly exclusive. Emily Wanderer’s research takes a closer look at the systems supporting social entrepreneurs and the unintentional reproduction of the very problems social enterprise aims to address, foremost of which is racial inequalities. Guided by faculty advisorsBanu Ozkazanc-Pan and Michael D. Kennedy, the research is constituted by 29 interviews in four U.S. regions, and focuses on how people of color experience social enterprise accelerators. They aim to understand if there are ways that the accelerator organizations can change to improve equity outcomes, given that is the goal of the field.

She takes an intersectional approach so as to assess who is still missing from the narrative of social enterprise and aims to expose why this narrative persists. A holistic approach informs the work including organizational theory, critical race and gender, and social enterprise studies. Methods and techniques include interactive practice analysis (IPA) as used by Michael Kennedy and action-based research modeled by Davide Nicolini.  These approaches support the analysis and illumination of organizational structures, processes, and norms that affect interactions between accelerator actors and entrepreneurs. They can also inform new ways of organizing accelerator programs, as her interlocutors suggest in the interviews.

Existing research suggests that social enterprise accelerators have the power to either worsen or reverse economic inequities by facilitating the ways entrepreneurs solve problems with access to resources, based on which entrepreneurs we resource. Being this gatekeeper comes with responsibilities. In a time rife with overt, covert and even unconscious racism and sexism, we call on accelerator leaders to not only question power structures in their organizations but to reconstruct them. Certain elements seem to be critical to the success of different organizations in addressing issues of homogeneity and may actually reverse the disparate outcomes of the social enterprise field. Our findings revealed both strengths and weaknesses in pursuing DEI among social enterprise accelerators. Based on the experiences of entrepreneurs of color we interviewed, we establish three big ideas that accelerator leaders should consider: Democratize power, deepen entrepreneur relationships, and include social justice in accelerator service delivery. Armed with our findings from across the country, we call upon accelerator leaders to learn and adapt from one another’s discoveries in a range of areas including program execution to operations.