Bulls partnering with Bunker Labs to launch a Black Entrepreneurs Workshop Series

Learn more about the fifteen military-connected entrepreneurs who will participate in the program.
by Bulls.com
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The Chicago Bulls are partnering with Bunker Labs and Crown Royal this summer to launch a Black Entrepreneur Workshop Series.

Fifteen military-connected entrepreneurs have been chosen for an eight-week virtual program that will provide them with business resources, capital opportunities, mentorship, and a strong business network. The workshop series will tip off with a fireside conversation with Bulls forward Thaddeus Young, who is the owner of private investment fund Reform Ventures. The program begins on June 17, 2021.

Bunker Labs is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and a national network of veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs dedicated to helping the military-connected community start their own businesses. The Bunker Labs Black Entrepreneur Workshop Series first launched in the summer of 2020 as a means to address challenges that disproportionately affect Black entrepreneurs.

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Learn more about the entrepreneurs participating in the program below:

Name: Mike Anestor
Branch of Service: US Army
Years of Service: 3.25
Name of Business: Trip the Light Fantastic Productions
Tell us a little about your business: Trip the Light Fantastic Productions (TLFP) creates performing arts and visual art experiences centered on technology. Services offered to artists and producing entities will include curation, production management, production support, fundraising and consultation. TLFP will also engage in self-produced exhibits, public art, performances, and immersive experiences.
What or who inspired you to be a business-owner?: I reached a point in my life where work life balance and flexibility became higher priorities. As an entrepreneur I have more influence over how things get done and when they get done. When I was an undergraduate student, I also won a pitch competition. Considering everything that I learned from my university's entrepreneurship center, I felt it was time to dust off that body of knowledge, refresh, and try to start a new entertainment venture.
In knowing the difficulties that Black business owners tend to face, what does being a Black entrepreneur mean to you?: It means being a part of launching Black Wall Street 2.0, but this time in a distributed format (multiple geographic locations and in the cloud). It's not lost on me that this cohort is starting shortly after the anniversary of the events that took place in Greenwood, OK in the Summer of 1921. Yes we must never forget those events and seek accountability. But we also owe it to ourselves to move forward and to keep building with an eye towards the future.


Name: KJ Saffold
Branch of Service: US Army
Years of Service: 10
Name of Business: Red Ball Express
Tell us a little about your business: Red Ball Express will provide best-in-class technology, warehouse, and logistics infrastructure to enable cost-efficient cannabis distribution for producers and retailers. Our diverse team consists of cannabis and transportation industry experts, as well as combat-experienced logistics veterans.
What or who inspired you to be a business-owner?: My 91-year-old grandfather, Fred L. Mitchell. He has taught me many viable business lessons despite not having a formal business education. He is a Korean War veteran, who owned Mitchell's Grocerland in the Chicagoland area in the late 1960's.
In knowing the difficulties that Black business owners tend to face, what does being a Black entrepreneur mean to you?: Our motto, "Aut viam inveniam aut faciam," translates to, "I will either find a way or make one." Being a Black entrepreneur means gaining knowledge and providing genuine opportunities within historically disenfranchised communities. It means bridging networks, resources and capital to provide positive examples of how to achieve success.


Name: Lori J. Wilcox, M.Ed.
Branch of Service: US Army
Years of Service: 12 with a tour in the war torn country of Bosnia Herzegovina which gives me the Honorable status of Combat War Veteran
Name of Business: Building Block City Ministries (formerly Honeys Ministries International)
Tell us a little about your business: BBCM is a community outreach organization that provides services that adhere to the human need by focusing on the whole person. We provide afterschool care and tutoring for over three hundred children. We also provide meal service to these at-risk youth. We conduct and teach Empowerment seminars to ex-offenders especially Veterans by coaching them to be the best version of themselves, to include effective communications, basic needs, job hunting and housing. We also host multi-community Expungement Summits and Food Drives weekly.
What or who inspired you to be a business-owner?: My parents inspired me to become a business owner through their community out as pastors. These two did everything they could to provide for their church family and village. My dad worked a fulltime job, cut grass, shoveled snow, collected metals and can and still maintained his FREE pastorship. He has been in ministry for over 40 years and never collected a paycheck from the church. My mother worked as fulltime CNA, had a home daycare during the day all while raising her 10 children and the children in the Village whose parents were not around.
In knowing the difficulties that Black business owners tend to face, what does being a Black entrepreneur mean to you?: Black entrepreneurship means that I can pay it forward by helping our people recreate the village. It means that I can now hire some of the ex-offenders from my program and help them to get ahead. It means that I can write the narrative of my economic growth and development all while serving my village. Furthermore, it means that I can take my past knowledge and experiences and apply them on a larger scale and reach more individuals.


Name: Lavern Sellers Jr.
Branch of Service: US Army
Years of Service: 8 years, 5 months
Name of Business: BattleBuggies To Go LLC
Tell us a little about your business: BattleBuggies To Go is a same-day grocery delivery service for all DeCA Commissaries here in the U.S. and abroad. BattleBuggies To Go is aware of the threat of inflation and would like to extend a service for affordable groceries and household goods. We also employ military personnel, retirees and members of the veteran community to shop for all other authorized patrons.
What or who inspired you to be a business-owner?: As a young man, I realized at an early age that I wanted to live a life of service. This prompted me to join the military at 19. Becoming an entrepreneur will allow me to continue to serve my community, and pave a way for myself and other service members.
In knowing the difficulties that Black business owners tend to face, what does being a Black entrepreneur mean to you?: Being an entrepreneur allows me to act as an example for the youth in my small hometown of 6,500 and hopefully motivate others from similar backgrounds. I'd like to inspire them to dream big and to not count themselves out. Given all the opportunities for Black Entrepreneurs I hope to influence the masses to establish a name for themselves in an unfamiliar space.


Name: Topaz Navarro
Branch of Service: US Army
Years of Service: 25
Name of Business: Escape Velocity Academy
Tell us a little about your business: Escape Velocity Academy is a life coaching / transformational coaching programing focused on creating self-awareness, realizing inner potential, and bringing clarity to our clients through thought-provoking questions. We believe Escape Velocity is fueled within. It's not about the current location, it's all about trajectory. Once you establish upward trajectory all it takes is patience. 1% better every day.
What or who inspired you to be a business-owner?: As a male, Afro-Latino with over 20 years of service in a Special Mission Unit I felt I had a unique background and experience relative to peak performance, operating at the edge of burn out and transitioning from the military to the corporate sector. My mission became leaving every person I met 5% more motivated and inspired than before we met. An independent coaching program became my way to pursue this mission. I like to say that we have become accustomed to being "A's" at Army and suddenly become "C's" at Civilian and this loss of competency and relatedness often leads to depression, anxiety, and loss of purpose. The coaching program is focused on co-elevating, rebuilding team, purpose, and community.
In knowing the difficulties that Black business owners tend to face, what does being a Black entrepreneur mean to you?: It means the ability to connect and relate to us and to those like us through shared experience and expectations. It means serving an often overlooked and underserved community.


Name: Grady Miller
Branch of Service: Air Force
Years of Service: 5
Name of Business: Pristine Pooch Dog Wash
Tell us a little about your business: We are an automated dog wash service facility which provide pet owners the opportunity and capability to wash, shampoo, and dry their pets using timed dog wash machines.
What or who inspired you to be a business-owner?: Financial freedom
In knowing the difficulties that Black business owners tend to face, what does being a Black entrepreneur mean to you?: It means being a productive member of my community and being an example of success to those around me.


Name: Dr. Paris Love
Branch of Service: US Army
Years of Service: 8 years
Name of Business: Paris Love Productivity Institute, LLC
Tell us a little about your business: We help overextended professionals overcome those barriers that are keeping them dissatisfied, disorganized and discontent in their life, business, or career. We help individuals do the things they talk about but never get around to doing.
What or who inspired you to be a business-owner?: I have a special needs son and wanted to create generational wealth so that he and future children would never have to feel less than or unworthy. I created the business to help others overcome limiting beliefs and behaviors as well as banish generational curses.
In knowing the difficulties that Black business owners tend to face, what does being a Black entrepreneur mean to you?: It means putting your head down and doing the work necessary to help others, create services and products that will last when I am long gone, and being my ancestors wildest dreams.


Name: Aida Johnson-Rapp
Branch of Service: Army and Army National Guard Reserves
Years of Service: 4 years, 7 months - Active Duty Army 1988-1993 and 4 years Army National Guard 1993-1997.
Name of Business: Aspire to Harmony
Tell us a little about your business: I create rituals for cycle of life celebrations, weddings, movement, wellness and corporate workshops that support mindful solutions for living your best life. Knowing that we all "Aspire to Harmony", my mission is to assist couples, organizations, families and individuals with finding theirs.
What or who inspired you to be a business-owner?: My husband owns his own business and has for years. We eventually want to merge our passion for public speaking and teaching into off-site retreats and other life enhancing services.
In knowing the difficulties that Black business owners tend to face, what does being a Black entrepreneur mean to you?: Being a Black entrepreneur gives me a means to defy the odds. I want to create my own wealth, own my own time and inspire other members of my community to do the same.


Name: Monifa C. Caines
Branch of Service: Air Force
Years of Service: 9
Name of Business: Queen of Spades Style, LLC
Tell us a little about your business: We help women with natural hair, cancer survivors and women with alopecia protect their hair and head. We create bold and beautiful accessories that help accentuate their beauty even more so they live being their authentic selves!
What or who inspired you to be a business-owner?: I was inspired to be a business owner by realizing there are not enough options for women that wear their hair in its natural state. I and other women are told to bring our authentic selves and when part of that is wearing our hair in its natural state, it's not accepted. I became a business owner to change the narrative of what's beautiful.
In knowing the difficulties that Black business owners tend to face, what does being a Black entrepreneur mean to you?: Just as anything I have done before or will do in life, I know I have to work and hustle at least 10 times more and 10 times harder to get visibility for my platform and my company. Being a Black entrepreneur means I am leading the way to be successful so I can turn around and pull the next woman up.


Name: Nisla Love
Branch of Service: US Army
Years of Service: 6
Name of Business: Choose Love Solutions, LLC
Tell us a little about your business: Providing small business owners peace of mind by keeping them compliant with the IRS while helping them live better financially.
What or who inspired you to be a business-owner?: My parents inspired me to be a business owner.
In knowing the difficulties that Black business owners tend to face, what does being a Black entrepreneur mean to you?: Being a Black entrepreneur means being a trailblazer by making an impact in the lives of others by showing them that with hard work and dedication, your dream can come true.


Name: Regina D. Rembert
Branch of Service: US Army, Army Reserve
Years of Service: 22
Name of Business: BuyVet
Tell us a little about your business: "Think, Shop, Buy Veteran First." BuyVet is a non-profit organization and our mission is to support and advocate for veteran-owned businesses.
What or who inspired you to be a business-owner?: My grandfather Charlie Kelly was a Black farmer and entrepreneur.
In knowing the difficulties that Black business owners tend to face, what does being a Black entrepreneur mean to you?: Being a Black business owner means the world to me for two reasons. First, I am carrying on the family legacy. Second as a veteran, running BuyVet is my way of giving back to fellow veterans and my veteran community. God, family, and country are all important to me and help to define who I am as a person.


Name: Christopher Barnes
Branch of Service: Navy
Years of Service: 8
Name of Business: Heavenly & Handy
Tell us a little about your business: We are a full-service residential outdoor Renovations company. We also provide all outdoor construction and creative needs to include landscape design, concrete, decks, and more. Commercial and residential construction are our focus.
What or who inspired you to be a business-owner?: A terrible contractor experience, and also being tired of working in healthcare nursing. Mentally I needed a break, and being outdoors was always something I loved.
In knowing the difficulties that Black business owners tend to face, what does being a Black entrepreneur mean to you?: It means everything, and almost like the world is against you in many ways. It's a struggle on top of another you are born into as a Black person. It builds strength for me to pass on to my children and their children to eventually limit their struggles in life.


Name: Natasha N. Standard
Branch of Service: US Army
Years of Service: 20
Name of Business: NNS LLC Footwear
Tell us a little about your business: We purposefully design and manufacturer women's shoes that focus on comfort never forgetting style. The range of product offering is Luxury Italian Made Footwear, Military Grade Combat boots sized for women, Athleisure Slippers with cool custom logos.
What or who inspired you to be a business-owner?: My grandfather inspired me as a business owner, he left the Tobacco fields of Kentucky as a share cropper; moved to Indianapolis, IN; his janitorial company paid for homes for each of his children and grandchildren, then sent most to college.


Name: Will McNeil
Branch of Service: US Army
Years of Service: 9
Name of Business: Black Tech Jobs
Tell us a little about your business: Every day we wake up believing that we can change the world by changing the mix of people that drive business and technology. At our core we connect the Black tech community the larger business and technology communities and points of intersection that have historically and continually miss each other. We deliver on this across our three business segments.

  1. Our Job Board at Black Tech Jobs where thousands of jobs are listed. Where active job seekers can find opportunities.
  2. Through our retained executive search service where we connect employers to mid-career and senior level Black tech professionals on a one-to-one basis
  3. Through our diversity consulting service where we help clients large and small achieve their diversity mission no matter where they are in their diversity journey.

What or who inspired you to be a business-owner?: This is my 7th company. I started my first company when I was 9 years old selling plant seeds and flower seeds to little old ladies in my neighborhood in Flint Michigan. I knew then that I had the power to shape my own destiny and I one day I would own my own company.
In knowing the difficulties that Black business owners tend to face, what does being a Black entrepreneur mean to you?: It means that I have a chance to create opportunities for other Black tech professionals. I have been a community activist for decades and wanted to make a bigger economic impact on my community by creating a business that was an economic multiplier.
I've known that I was going to be an entrepreneur most of my life. I have spent a lot of years building my skills. I'm building a scalable business that is forecasted to more than triple year of revenue growth in 2021 and do it again in 2022. I wake up every day knowing that I am black. I have never let that stop my progress. It may mean that I have to take a longer road or work harder than some to get to where I'm going; it's immature to believe that struggle is not going to be a part of my journey. I hope that my experience can be model for someone else the way that Johnson, Burrell, and Rogers have been for me.


Name: Schmid Etienne
Branch of Service: US Army
Years of Service: 8
Name of Business: R.E.S.S.E.T Studio
Tell us a little about your business: R.E.S.S.E.T Studio is an emotional wellbeing app that uses behavior-change solutions to help first responders manage stress and anxiety and improve emotional wellbeing in under 3 minutes anytime, anywhere. Our app provides first responders with research-driven modalities that can reduce stress and anxiety and better mood whenever they need it the most. Our app can be used in real-time, thereby helping first responders to break through the continuum of stress. Our app is different in three ways. One, it shows the customer how to use their senses to manage stress. Two, all our interventions are under three minutes and can be used real-time. And three, it is personalized.
What or who inspired you to be a business-owner?: When I worked in the corporate world, I saw clients not receiving the highest level of quality and care. I also saw employees not being treated with respect because of their background. This inspired me to create my first business and create a business that put the client's needs first and supported every employee. I have carried this mentality with me in every business venture.
In knowing the difficulties that Black business owners tend to face, what does being a Black entrepreneur mean to you?: Being a Black entrepreneur means that I have to work twice as hard, face more rejection and prove myself time and time against just to reach the same level of success as my peers. In addition, it means that I am paving the way for younger Black entrepreneurs like myself to know they can reach their dreams.

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