History of Black entrepreneurship inspires GROW program

For Black people living in the Mississippi Delta in the late 1950s, the prospects of work were limited, so many worked long, hot days in the cotton fields. One man, Cleve Mormon, had another idea – selling ice to those toiling under the hot sun. In solving this simple problem, Mormon became an unlikely – and successful – entrepreneur.

As the director of Inclusive Entrepreneurship at Bounce Innovation Hub, Ace Epps helps aspiring business owners learn to think like an entrepreneur, just as Mormon did.

“We help them develop the mindset of an entrepreneur by identifying a problem and then creating a viable business solution,” he said.

Epps supports entrepreneurs at all stages through Bounce’s GROW (Generating Real Opportunity & Wealth) program, with a focus on minorities and females. That first level of support is the Aspiring Entrepreneur (AE) Program, which Epps created to foster the entrepreneurial way of thinking and counsel participants in exploring their business ideas to determine their potential.

“AE is a toe-in-the-water approach for those just starting out with an idea or the desire to build their own business,” Epps said. “It’s also intended to be a place where minorities can feel supported and welcomed to explore their ideas with others who share the same dream of business ownership and entrepreneurial success.”

The program is 10-weeks long and costs $75. Many of the lessons in the AE curriculum come from examples set by early entrepreneurs like Mormon.

Mentorship, community and knowledge are three important lessons Epps incorporates in the AE program using a wide network of community business leaders who serve as subject matter experts and mentors for program participants.

“By applying many of the examples set by Uncle Cleve, our program demonstrates that the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur can be learned, as we challenge participants in a new way of thinking and approaching entrepreneurship,” he said.

While AE is intended for those who are just starting out on the path to business ownership, the GROW program also offers two additional levels of support through MORTAR at Bounce and Next Level Business Incubator.

“If AE is a toe-in-the-water approach to entrepreneurship, MORTAR at Bounce is a 15-week deep dive that supports emerging entrepreneurs in exploring all facets of running a business,” said Epps. “The Next Level Business Incubator is for those who are swimming in the water, but who still want one-on-one counseling and individualized support to help them achieve their goals.”

To learn more about GROW and its programs, visit bouncehub.org/grow.