Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith is on a mission to help minority entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
Last week, Smith and his team at the Minority Entrepreneurship Institute held its inaugural MEI Texas Showcase, a pitch competition for minority entrepreneurs from across Texas. Fittingly hosted at The Grand Atrium at The Star in Frisco, the showcase was intended to help small businesses run by minority entrepreneurs get back on their feet amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
As daily operations slowly return to normal, the showcase was Smith’s way of being part of the solution.
“I want to use my success as a pathway for thousands of other black and brown entrepreneurs to become successful. I call this my purpose beyond athletics,” Smith said in a statement. “The MEI has created a committee of industry experts to help guide and educate these entrepreneurs.”
Smith, a successful entrepreneur, founded MEI to help minority entrepreneurs gain access to capital and mentorship that could help grow their businesses. Given the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus, Smith and his team wanted to do what they could to “reboot the Dallas economy.”
Citing a report from the University of Texas, the team said that West Dallas, south of I-30, and east of I-35 will be the areas that are most affected by the pandemic. These are also communities that are home to a majority of Dallas’ Black population, MEI said. That’s where the MEI Texas Showcase came in.
MEI received applications from 147 minority entrepreneurs in 42 Texas cities. Of that batch, 10 finalists were chosen to participate in the “Shark Tank”-style showcase.
The judges (or “Sharks”) included: Jaylon Smith; Torii Hunter, a five-time MLB All-Star; Tom Dowling, head of Goldman Sachs’ Dallas office; and Roland Parrish, CEO and owner of Parrish Restaurants.
“It is vital that we empower our minority communities with mentorship, resources and funding,” Parrish said in a statement. “My hope is that the entrepreneurs who apply and compete in this year’s MEI will capitalize on this opportunity, as we strive to create more for them in the future.”
After the event wrapped, Smith announced on Twitter that MEI was able to add five minority-owned businesses to its portfolio, investing a total of $600,000. The companies are: ShearShare, Zirtue, Kanarys, DukeAI, and AfroLandTV.
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