Top 5 Tips for Young POC Entrepreneurs & Grassroots Organizations / by Thomas Lopez

by Thomas Lopez Jr

IIYC Heads to Austin for the Titan Generator

Giant rock/paper/scissors game during Generation Titans

Giant rock/paper/scissors game during Generation Titans

The IIYC recently attended Titan Generator during SXSW in Austin, TX. Titan Generator is a dynamic startup micro-accelerator program powered by national social movements (such as IIYC, March for Our Lives, Color of Change & United We Dream) to support entrepreneurs of color. When we were asked to attend in a facilitation capacity, we immediately knew we wanted to participate. As a young organization we are often asked for tips that can aid other young entrepreneurs and grassroots organizations in their work. This event inspired us to ask ourselves some extremely necessary questions. The way in which the event was structured allowed us to hone in on issues we’ve faced and solutions to overcome those issues. When presented with the task of writing a blog about our experience I played with the idea of writing a simple reflection, however, I felt that in the spirit of Titan Generator it would be far more effective to share the IIYC’s top 5 tips for any young entrepreneur or grassroots organization.

Top 5 Tips for Young Entrepreneurs & Grassroots Organizations

It’s safe to say the the IIYC is a freak of nature in terms of grassroots organizations and organizational growth. We grew from a youth group servicing the young water protectors in Standing Rock, to an International organization over the course of about 3 months. Some of this advice may be subjective, but we feel that remembering these 5 tips could save you time and money during your start-up period.


1 - Know Who You Are:

Cliche, I know; but it’s so important that you know who you are as a business and a business owner. This will not only help you deliver authentic work, but it will also allow you to further understand your personal and/or organizational worth and in knowing who you are, comes knowing what you’re worth. Storing all processes and procedures on a file management software, such as Google Drive, will help you organize yourself.

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2 - Develop a Strong Presence:

Whether you’re online or IRL, your brand is key to being seen and heard. Your brand should be consistent, strategic, reliable & easy to identify. All these ultimately circle back to knowing who you are as a business and business owner. Utilizing tools like Canva, Adobe Creative Suite and social media platforms have been extremely useful in developing our online presence.


3 - Collaborate:

Don’t reinvent the wheel, don’t even try. Chances are there is another person or organization out there wanting to do the exact same thing. Contact your community and see how resources can be shared to enhance everyone’s experience and never be afraid to ask questions. On the other hand if you’re a larger org, reach out to the communities and see how you can uplift young entrepreneurs or grassroots organizations (you remember what it was like. Don’t be a hater!!!)


4 - It’s Okay to Say NO:

This one is pretty self explanatory. You are not obligated to do or take anything and not all money is good money. The IIYC has turned down funding opportunities in the past and I assume we’ll do again in the future. No amount of money is worth the integrity of your movement or business values


5 - Be Fiscally Responsible & Financially Accountable:

Literally, document and track every expense and all income/donations you make as a business. As an entrepreneur or grassroots organization, you should have business status with the IRS. Whether that’s a corporation, LLC, a business with fiscal sponsorship or a non-profit (501-(c)-3, 501-(c)-6 etc.), being responsible when it comes to managing money (i.e. saving receipts, documenting a profit & loss statement (P&L) or statement of financial activity, balance sheet and reporting your businesses taxes to the IRS every year) are required to legally operate as a company for all business structures. If there is one thing I feel has been the saving grace of the youth council it’s having someone who is willing to put 100% of their attention towards finances, budgets and anything involving understanding business law and generally accepted accounting procedures (GAAP)! Oftentimes people have great ideas, but they fail to organize themselves financially. This is the ultimate failure of so many young companies. Utilizing tools such as Expensify, Quickbooks, Google Docs and Google Sheets can help you organize yourself and your business for financial success.

IIYC Members from Denver, New Mexico and Texas at Google Austin.

IIYC Members from Denver, New Mexico and Texas at Google Austin.

Fail Fast & Fail Forward

These tips are not going to save you from making mistakes. In all honesty the way we learned most of this is through making mistakes, and more mistakes can be expected. It’s also worth mentioning how much we have worked to leverage resources and people within our networks who have skills navigating these bureaucratic systems in ways we’re still learning. But fail fast and fail forward. Don’t let the fear of institutions and government stand in the way of developing your ideas and manifesting them into fruition.

There is no one way to do things, and each business is going to require different types of care. Make sure you do what is best for you and/or your business (go with your gut). If you found these tips useful share this blog and tag @IIYCFamily. Thanks for reading and good luck to you on your journey.