By Raven Wright, CEO and Founder of Urbannature4kids
My Founder Story put out a call to BIPOC women business founders with an invitation to amplify their voices as content contributors on our platform. Raven Wright, founder of Urbannature4kids, is one of many talented founders who answered the call. We look forward to sharing articles from women entrepreneurs like Raven on an ongoing basis. For information about becoming a contributor, visit the Join Our Team page.
When I first started graduate school, I had no plans of becoming an entrepreneur, especially a full-time one. My plan was to work in either the city or state government. After a challenging six years of undergraduate and graduate studies, I was ready to exhale and have some stability in my life. My plan was simple—get a job in city government or corporate America. After several failed interviews with various companies, I became depressed.
I began to question my choices and wondered if I should have attended trade school. While studying STEM during undergrad, there weren’t a lot of Black women in the classrooms, and very few minorities taking environmental science or geology courses. When I told friends and family I was majoring in geology, they said, “What is that?” “What are you going to do with that?” “Are you Black?” “Black people don’t major in that stuff.”
I’d taken a business class in graduate school and had an idea for a business dedicated to serving children in grades K-4. I taught elementary school part-time and learned some of the flaws in the public education system—one of those flaws is that children in elementary school aren’t exposed to STEM career fields. I realized if I had received early exposure to environmental science in elementary school instead of high school I would’ve been further along in my education and career.
After presenting my plan to the business class, my professor asked if I’d actually execute the plan in real life. I reluctantly said yes. I thought entrepreneurship was too much of a risk, especially with student loans and debt. After graduating, I reflected on the question and decided to keep my word. I started my business in 2018 and officially registered as a nonprofit organization in 2019. I fund the organization with my own money through contract work. The mission of my organization is to expose elementary school-aged children who reside in low income communities in the state of Michigan to environmental STEM career fields like geology, environmental science, environmental engineering and geographic information systems. This mission is achieved by providing tools and resources for students, parents and teachers. My work has already been recognized by well-known companies and organizations.
I don’t regret the decision to pursue full-time entrepreneurship. I’ve had to sacrifice a few things such as delaying buying a new car, buying a house, and starting a family right out of college. I realized my business is something I created on my own. I’m my own boss and independent. It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding to give back to your community.
If you are a young woman of color and interested in becoming an entrepreneur, take advantage of the resources available to you. Research your industry as much as possible and look into multiple channels for funding. I advise young women entrepreneurs to ask experienced and established women entrepreneurs about their journey and what resources they used to help them become successful. Being an entrepreneur might cause some people who are close to you to criticize and discourage you from living out your dreams. Don’t let that criticism stop you—keep moving forward with your goals and dreams.
I advise college students to take an entrepreneurship course if they can. Take advantage of free online courses from accredited institutions. Also, don’t be scared to take risks while you’re young—like traveling to attend business conferences in different states. While COVID-19 prevents gathering and traveling to certain states right now, sign up for free virtual business webinars by well-known and established companies. I’ve made mistakes and wonderful gains, but the road to full-time entrepreneurship was definitely worth it.
About the author: Raven Wright is the founder and CEO of Urbannature4kids, an organization dedicated to educating and exposing kids in elementary school to STEM careers within the environmental sciences.