Brown Box Worx Presents Startup Conference at NC a&T
by Jana Shaw
On a campus full of T-shirt companies, clothing brands and other “brick and mortar” businesses- a group of students decided to think outside the box. On Feb. 21, they are encouraging other students to do the same.
Brown Box Works, a tech company founded by students from NC A&T State University, will present Innovate 91 on Tuesday for aspiring student entrepreneurs. The business showcase will take place at N.C. A&T but is open to students from all Greensboro universities.
“Brown Box Works is trying to use our image to inspire student entrepreneurs,” said Keenan Smith, one of the company’s founders.
Innovate 91 is sponsored by Brown Box Works in collaboration with N.C. A&T’s Center of Entrepreneurship, School of Engineering and Department of University Advancement.
“N.C. A&T has been very receptive and supportive of Innovate 91,” said Smith.
Through the Innovate 91 event, Brown Box Works and their sponsors are hoping to highlight the importance of collaboration. Collaboration represents the essence of Brown Box Works, which is a business founded by students from majors such as Technology, Computer Science, Liberal Arts and Exercise Science Physiology.
“We’re hoping to have Marketing majors, Computer science Majors, Liberal Arts Majors, and Journalism Majors in one room and allow them to make connections to start or talk about businesses,” Smith said.
Keenan Smith and Barry Harris, the newest Brown Box Work’s team member, will host Innovate 91. Everette Slocum, one of the company’s co-founders, will provide the Keynote speech and a group of student entrepreneurs will hold a panel discussion.
Nuri Amira, founder of Eusi Twiga, Emani Harris founder of Pish Posh Apparel, and Noyah Nailah King CEO of QueenInYouOrg will be among the panelists. The panel also includes Keenan Smith and Barry Harris.
The main attraction for Innovate 91 is the showcase. Student entrepreneurs will have table space to present their business ideas.
Brown Box Works hopes, through the showcase, that students are able to “make partnerships with people of different skillsets,” said Smith.
The student business event will include “a great deal of free food,” said Smith.
Along with lots of food, Innovate 91 will feature door and cash prizes for showcase presenters. Judges will examine each presenter to choose prize business winners. There will also be an “audience choice award.”
“We’re expecting 250 people,” said Smith, “It’s already the biggest entrepreneurial event A&T has had on their campus.”
Innovate 91 is based on Brown Box Work’s Mission.
“We really just want to change the ecosystem of entrepreneurship on A&T’s campus as well as Greensboro,” said Smith.
“Facebook is the Harvard; Snapchat is the Stanford; Yik Yak is the Furman University; we want to be that for N.C. A&T,” said Smith, repeating a phrase that Slocum coined.
Brown Box Works hopes to inspire students at N.C. A&T to use the university’s resources to become entrepreneurs.
To push this inspiration, Brown Box Works is working towards making Innovate 91 an annual event.
“Entrepreneurship events are basically non-existent or promoted on our campus,” said Smith and Brown Box Works hopes to change that with Innovate 91.
Along with Innovate 91, Brown Box Works is opening an intern position to inspire student entrepreneurs.
“A tech entrepreneurial intern will come with us to pitches and be exposed to angel investors, serial investors and entrepreneurs,” Smith said. ” They will get an idea of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.”
As a tech company focused on mobile app development, Brown Box Works continues to grow. Brown Box Works launched the Shorti app in July 2016.
Shorti is a free mobile app for writers. It allows writers to express themselves in 500 words with short stories, poems and other short pieces of work to accommodate the attention spans of the new age.
Through Shorti, Brown Box Works is allowing “more creative control to writers by embedding pictures, gifs and videos into the words of their stories,” said Smith.
Shorti is the “21st century picture book” as described by Smith.
Brown Box Works has delegated responsibility in a new way. Keenan has been working on and promoting Shorti. Everette and Barry are focused on a new division of the company- Brown Box Studios.
In Brown Box Studios, Everette does graphic design. Barry focuses on social media management and content creation. Keenan works in video production and video animation. Brown Box Works also has in house developers working with mobile app development.
“Now Everette, Barry and myself are web developers and e-commerce developers,” adds Smith. “Now Brown Box Studios is created to take on clients who need websites, mobile apps, social media management and content creation.”
“Brown Box Works is still here. We are trying to do more for Greensboro. We’re growing and we’re trying to inspire more student entrepreneurs,” said Smith.
To register to participate in the business showcase or attend visit http://innovateninetyone.wixsite.com/innovate91 for more information.