Learn to play ‘the game of corporate America’
Schools are failing our children because they don’t see them as entrepreneurs and don’t encourage such skills as a result, said Detroit-based Black businesswoman Ida Byrd-Hill. She is the president and CEO of Weyn, LLC, which is based in Detroit. “Detroit is the hotbed of invention right now,” she said proudly, “and it had been for most of its history.”
Byrd-Hill is now test marketing her first gaming app, “My Jewel Empire,” for Blacks and other people of color to “immerse them in the world of intellectual property, stocks, startups and research.” She recently competed in a June 26 startup pitch competition in Chicago.
Admittedly discouraged after she discovered several years ago that too many students of color in the Motor City area don’t like math, science, engineering and technology, Ida Byrd-Hill, a former wealth manager for 15 years, piloted a “blended learning school for adjudicated youth and high school dropouts.” She said in an MSR phone interview that urban students often aren’t getting the full educational experience.
“The first thing we discovered is because [students] don’t do hands-on classes, what they learn is very theoretical and none of it is hands-on. It’s boring to the kids because they play video games all day,” said Byrd-Hill, who as a result looked into using games “to improve student engagement and the learning process.”
She explained that she “sat and sat” on her idea — the challenge was designing a game that was both stimulating and relevant for the children. In 2011 she introduced a board game and demo with students in a Detroit high school’s dean of students office.
The school is located in a poor neighborhood “where the kids are very entrepreneurial because they hustle all day. We found the kids loved the game and they could totally relate to the game. For them it was an ‘ah-ha’ moment.
“When you go to school, nobody is talking to you about inventions. No one is allowing you to invent, or allowing you to do research on inventions. People don’t realize that most inventions happen by accident in the middle of doing research for something else. We need people who can…create more products.”
Entrepreneurism should be encouraged in schools, Byrd-Hill pointed out. “A lot of students have the entrepreneurial spirit.” Some students are “natural entrepreneurs, but no one sees them that way.
“[Schools] kick them out when they see them as a problem. Schools don’t want them to come in and think differently, therefore they punish them. So you learn very early in urban schools to challenge status quo. You can’t be entrepreneurial without challenging status quo.”
“There are four career paths in America,” she noted. “The number-one career path is entrepreneurship. We preach that college and a professional degree is the number-one career path, but that is not the case. Entrepreneurship brings jobs; professional degreed people manage entrepreneurs’ businesses.
“[However], kids, when they walk into schools, see only two career paths — unskilled and professional degree.”
All children should know how to play “the game of corporate America,” contends Byrd-Hill. “We are living in the Wild, Wild West when it comes to intellectual property. Intellectual property is never discussed in urban schools. I don’t know how you can be in an urban school and not talk about the game of America. The game of America is not a theme park. It’s about patents, trademarks and copyrights. Those who own those, own all the money.
“The issues that we are having is getting people to understand what is the game of America and how do you benefit in your own personal life. America right now struggles with financial literacy,” continued Byrd-Hill.
“We are living better than we ever lived in our history in America… The average person of color’s [net worth], particularly African Americans’…is at zero. We spend every dollar that we receive. We are receiving more dollars, but we are not doing better… The only way you get out of poverty and real racism, you have to move upward economically.”
Although she wasn’t successful in Chicago, Byrd-Hill said she intends to keep entering more competitions. “The next one is going to be in Kansas City, then New York, then L.A. We entered the competition because we are trying to get exposure for our game… We are still in the development phase. We are going to compete until someone picks us up and gives us some funding.”
Finally, Byrd-Hill said she would love to see Blacks get to that point “to build our own pools, shopping malls, skyscrapers, schools, and build our own neighborhoods…and building our own empires. We are not there yet.”
Participate in My Jewel Empire’s beta test at www.weyn.biz.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.