Monday, March 21, 2011

The Insiders: Magnus Greaves and Lucas Riggins, Founders of 100 Urban Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneur and co-founder of 100 Urban Entrepreneurs Magnus Greaves (2nd from left) with BET executive Stephen Hill, BET CEO Debra Lee, and SESAC Senior VP Writer/Publisher Trevor Gale at the 7th Annual Bryan-Michael Cox SESAC & 100 Urban Entrepreneurs Brunch Honoring Sean "Diddy" Combs at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on February 13, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California.

Our latest Insiders both have had success in the corporate and financial worlds, and are now using their expertise and insight to help our nation’s next generation of urban business owners as the founders of 100 Urban Entrepreneurs. The nonprofit foundation provides funding, mentorship, and professional connections to urban entrepreneurs from economically disadvantaged communities across the country. Their goal is to provide 100 urban entrepreneurs with $10,000 in 12 months.

Magnus Greaves, a self-taught financial guru, founded an electronic futures trading firm in London that later expanded operations to Paris, Chicago and Montreal. After selling the company to an industry giant for millions, he founded Doubledown Media, a New York–based publisher of luxury-lifestyle magazines. Lucas Riggins, a native of Harlem who was adopted at 9 months of age, went from working in promotions at Universal Records to co-founding Teri Woods Publishing, a leader in urban fiction that later secured a distribution deal with Simon & Schuster. Lucas read about Magnus in Black Enterprise magazine and reached out to him with an idea to help young people in urban communities start on the path to become business owners. That idea came to fruition with a one million dollar donation from Dan Carriere and his wife, Pauli-Ann, also entrepreneurs and founders of the Carriere Foundation.

To date, the organization has held events in cities such as Atlanta and Birmingham to allow budding entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas for an opportunity to receive $10,000 in start up costs. The nonprofit has already helped many businesses, including UTicketIt, a Chicago based event-registration and management system for open-seating school and community events; Real Spice, an Ethiopian seasonings company in San Francisco; and the GoodieBox Bake Shop, a “sweet oasis of baked goodness” in the New York City area.

The work and mission of 100 Urban Entrepreneurs is greatly needed. Although the number of black owned businesses has increased substantially in the past decade, research has shown that they are more likely to have trouble staying afloat. In addition to a cash grant, entrepreneurs are provided with mentorship, and access to first-class knowledge and professional networks.

Last year, the organization announced that Grammy award winning music producer Bryan-Michael Cox was appointed to their advisory board, and just last month, hip hop superstar and entrepreneur Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs donated $100,000 to help support the organization’s efforts.

Magnus and Lucas talked with BlackGivesBack recently about their foundation and how it got started. Read on to learn more and how you can get involved to support the organization.

What led you to add social entrepreneur to your resumes?

Magnus:
My background is in the Wall Street area and media, and there comes a point when you are really inspired to do something that’s a bit more meaningful than just trying to make money… I realized through media, through magazines, through creating content, you can direct it to any audience that you want and why not put that towards an audience that you feel really passionate about. The young community of urban entrepreneurs was clearly lacking the type of business information in the format that they wanted. It wasn’t enough to just create information about how to start a company and how to be better at it, we actually needed to go that extra mile and provide the opportunities. The way we decided to do that was through providing the funding and mentoring through 100 Urban Entrepreneurs. But, I really wouldn’t have gotten on this journey if I hadn’t met with Luke (Lucas). Luke really provided the spark for all of this and made it real and made it happen.

Lucas: In my community there are just so many people who I see that are losing their lives and not having opportunity….I didn’t really see it until I stepped outside of the community and then came back…and it still looked the same when I was 10 years old, no programs or anything available. When you listen to these kids, you realize that these kids are really smart, they really don’t have anyone who they can go to, or any programs or resources that can help bring that knowledge to the forefront…I felt like I had to do something about this and that’s what made me really research and reach out to Magnus.

100 Urban Entrepreneurs co-founders Lucas Riggins (left) and Magnus Greaves at a pitch event in Birmingham, Alabama last year.

How is 100 Urban Entrepreneurs funded?

Magnus: Each entrepreneur gets $10,000, plus mentorship, plus other great things. The initial one million in capital came from our extremely generous partners, Dan and Pauli-Ann Carriere, very successful in the mining business and as financiers, and very generous to put up the initial million dollars to ensure that we will be able to fund the first 100 people, and fortunately now we’re getting a lot of individuals and companies that are really interested in what we’re doing and want to add to what Dan and Pauli-Ann contributed, so that we’ll be able to do more than 100 urban entrepreneurs next year and going forward.

What has been one of the proudest moments since you started the program?

Magnus: Most of the people that come into the program that we serve; we get to watch them grow and develop into businesspeople. For me, the greatest thing has been once the initial 8 week program is over, instead of going off and doing their own thing; everybody comes back and says how can we give more? How can we give back to 100 Urban Entrepreneurs? That to me is the proudest moment, watching how much people appreciate it, how much they want to contribute to it.

Share more about the partnership you have with Grammy award winning music producer Bryan-Michael Cox and how he supports your organization.

Lucas: Bryan came on board because a friend of mine who does our events made the introduction, and she told Bryan what we were involved in. We did a pitch competition in Atlanta and I asked Bryan to be a part of it. Bryan came out; he witnessed it and was actually a judge there. At that point, he got touched emotionally…he said, I want to be involved in any way possible, I want to get my celebrity friends involved, there’s so much that I want to do because I feel that there’s a lot that I can do. He really gets it, understands it…so we were like the perfect match for him, for what we do and our mission.

Magnus: Bryan gets it. Bryan is a businessman himself. He would not be as successful in the world of entertainment if he wasn’t such a great businessman. And when he was on his way up, he had a mentor. He had to learn business by doing things right, doing things wrong. He really understands what it means to be an entrepreneur. He really understands how important it is to have great business skills and best practices. Plus he understands the other challenges that these young kids face. So what we love about Bryan is not the entertainment celebrity status, as much as his appreciation for what young kids are going through because he went through them himself and he really wants to get involved.

100 Urban Entrepreneurs founders Dan Carriere, Magnus Greaves and Lucas Riggins, look on as advisory board member Bryan-Michael Cox speaks at the 7th Annual Bryan-Michael Cox SESAC & 100 Urban Entrepreneurs Brunch Honoring Sean "Diddy" Combs.

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs recently donated $100,000 to your organization at an event hosted by Cox. Did you know you would be receiving a donation from him?

Lucas: That was a huge surprise - that was a big one. One thing I must say is I really commend him for doing that because when you talk about donations and giving back, I think a lot of people try to less reach in their own personal pocket, and more try to leverage sponsors, etc. So for him to personally reach into his own pocket and give that donation, I just have a huge amount of respect and I think that this entire industry should definitely stand up and salute that man for doing that.

Magnus: It meant so much to us because he’s somebody that Luke and I have always looked up to as a businessman and entrepreneur. We know that everybody who comes through our program has been inspired by him. One of the things we try to do differently is we want to make sure that we are talking about business to our audience in a context that is appealing to them. We’re not going to use the same reference points as the Wall Street Journal, we’re not covering Warren Buffett, we’re talking about guys like Diddy, and to then have him acknowledge the program that we’re doing and the effect on the people in the program, it was a pretty huge moment for us.

How can someone get involved with 100 Urban Entrepreneurs?

Magnus: One of the things that we’re really trying to do is work with bigger companies so that we can take these young entrepreneurs on field trips to corporate offices, because sometimes you have to visualize what success looks like. So there’s a field trip program that we’re trying to implement into what we’re doing, so if there are any companies that would like to participate in that, that’s a good look for us.

One can also become involved by serving as a mentor with the program. Magnus also shares, “There’s a lot of different ways that people can get involved - a lot of people have more knowledge than they realize and sometimes it’s the smallest bit of advice that can help the kind of young entrepreneurs that we’re starting with.”

As we concluded our conversation, Lucas summed up his experiences working with youth and the importance of community involvement:

“We should create a call to action to all the powers that be in these communities…I sit and talk to the kids in my community at least three times a week, and if they can just hear from people they look up to offer some words of encouragement, little do they know that would really mean so much to these kids ….we’re talking about kids from dysfunctional backgrounds, that don’t have any people to look up to that inspire them or people they can emulate growing up. I tell people all the time if LeBron James and Jay-Z show up in the community tomorrow, these kids physically and mentally believe that they can actually take LeBron in a game of basketball and they honestly believe they can take Jay-Z on a one on one rap off - but what they don’t believe is that they can be big businessmen like these gentlemen. And that’s the problem.”

An upcoming pitch event will be held at Howard University in Washington, DC. To learn more about 100 Urban Entrepreneurs and their goal of strategically placing young businesses on a path towards professional and financial success, visit the website at www.100urbanentrepreneurs.org and the partner site, TheCASH Flow at http://www.thecashflow.com/.

Photos: Axiom Blue and Wireimage

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Inspiring post. I've been wanting to start my own business and their story of helping young people successfully start their own businesses gives me added incentive to strike out on my own.