Fewer than 1% of venture-backed companies are co-founded by Black and Latinx entrepreneurs, a missed economic opportunity that leaves too many of our best ideas on the table.
In community centers and schools across the country, WeThrive Education is working to dismantle this reality, helping to build confidence and unlock economic opportunity - one youth entrepreneur at a time.
Based in Brooklyn, New York, WeThrive pairs an online app with in-person hubs where young entrepreneurs are encouraged to create and launch businesses. With support from trained advisors, each student identifies a need in their community, develops a business plan, creates their product and launches at a community marketplace.
Critically, WeThrive provides seed funding and ongoing support to every participant as they develop and hone real-world skills in financial literacy, problem-solving, leadership and building social capital.
WeThrive’s culturally relevant programming is geared primarily towards students of color in low-income communities, helping entrepreneurs achieve career success on their own terms and grow to see the overlooked value in themselves and their community.
WeThrive is a winner of the Catalyze Challenge, which the Walton Family Foundation supports as part of our strategy to increase economic mobility through high-quality, career-connected education pathways.
The results are exciting. In 2020-2021, nearly 2,500 young people created a new company – and real revenue -- through WeThrive. In that cohort, 84% have continued running their companies or founded a new one within a year, and 96% have grown to view themselves as changemakers in their community.
We talked to the program’s founder and young entrepreneurs about how WeThrive is helping a new generation of students unleash their economic potential.
Daquan Oliver, Founder and CEO, WeThrive Education
I started my first business at age 7. Even at that age, my community showed up to support my ambition. WeThrive could not exist today without the role of community.
I’ve seen with my own eyes how the system underestimates certain students, because I’ve been that student. The result is that there's a ton of potential being overlooked.
We start by establishing with our youth that we believe in their idea and ability to succeed. Then, we show up with support that is authentic to that particular community.
Entrepreneurs don't just wake up confident. It’s a skill. Most of our youth founders fail at some point through their journey. And such is life. What we provide is a safe space to fail, so that they can learn and eventually create something that reaches their wildest dreams.
Kevin Mora, WeThrive Youth Entrepreneur, Owner and Co-Founder, AKA
I've always had a love for crystals. When I'd try and shop for them, they were always $20, $30, $40 even. I felt like I could sell them for way less. Now, my business offers affordable crystals that help people feel good.
One of my friends had mentioned the Hawthorne Teen Center to me (located in Los Angeles County’s South Bay), and when I walked in, I learned about WeThrive. It was an amazing opportunity.
Through the program, we learned together as a group how to start a business from the ground up. We would meet weekly and then bounce ideas off of each other.
Now when I go to school, I see people wearing my necklaces. With all the orders, I've been able to save up and put money back into my business.
Chelsea Vasquez and Cisa Salazer, WeThrive Youth Entrepreneurs, Hawthorne Teen Center
Food insecurity is a problem in our community and not many low-income families have kitchens. For our business, we want to make meals for people and recruit volunteers to help, because food is a necessity and everybody is deserving of a meal.
We’re excited, because we have so many things bottled up, so many things we want to say, but we haven't been really given the opportunity. Low-income schools don't really have that type of budget to let us step out and advocate for these things.
The WeThrive program is giving us the opportunity and a budget to get us one step closer to solving these problems in our community. It feels so exciting knowing that a program really cares about children like us and will help us be advocates in our communities, to speak out and use our voice.