My path was quite long and windy. Still is. I’m what most consider a boomerang. I was born and raised in Indy, but spent most of my adult life in other parts of the U.S. I went to college in Nashville, did a brief stint in Atlanta, and finally landed in New York City for about seven years, and LA for almost three.
I worked at a really interesting intersection: music, entertainment, culture, and tech. I started as an entrepreneur. I had a company that planned and executed experiential event activations, and most of our clients were either startup companies or large brands. Most of our work was hosted at big music festivals. I always tell people: If you’ve ever been to SXSW between the years 2010 and 2015, you’ve probably seen my work.
In 2012, I added something else to my plate and joined on as general manager of Era of the Engineer, the brainchild of Young Guru, DJ and audio engineer for Jay-Z. The goal of the EOE brand was to encourage Black youth, students, and adults to explore careers in technology. This was during a time where diversity and inclusion in tech wasn’t as much of a hot topic as it is now. What we did (at the time) was really groundbreaking. We developed a really amazing program called Earsketch with Georgia Tech and the National Science Foundation that taught kids Java and Python through music production, we did a 13-city tour with Grammy U to all the music and engineering schools in the country, and I produced my first Google commercial.
In 2014, I was offered an opportunity to move out LA, where I took a role as director of sales and marketing for HipHopDX.com and later Blavity.com; both are ventured-backed tech companies. I got inspired to start something in Indy, and it was a reason for me to come back. That is when we created From Nap, With Love and Be Nimble. I moved back to Indy in 2017 and it’s been history ever since.
I’m really excited to see the future of Indiana Avenue. There is so much history there, especially for Black entrepreneurship.
It all comes down to community, connections, and capital. I describe undercapitalized as “a founder who has billion-dollar ideas, but lacks access to capital because of their race, gender, sexual orientation or ability.” Historically, diverse founders, especially Black people, have been overlooked, overmentored, and undercapitalized; yet these same diverse founders (when given access to capital and resources) yield better profitability, better quality of life, better returns for investors, and better capital efficiency. If I was told those facts, I’d bet it all on Black.
Melon Kitchen is a ghost kitchen and a three-month food entrepreneurship accelerator that utilizes tech-enablement to help Black chefs build scalable virtual restaurant concepts. Ghost kitchens drastically lower startup costs for chefs by eliminating the real estate and staff needed to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Most virtual restaurants only require a shared kitchen space, a two-person staff, and a third-party delivery carrier.
Our goal is to create jobs and to help chefs build high-growth, scalable, and sustainable restaurants utilizing technology. In addition, virtual restaurant models can quickly replicate in any kitchen space and offer an additional line of revenue to existing restaurants. Ghost kitchens have emerged quite a bit over the last three or four years, but there has been little to no representation from Black chefs.
Melon is a groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind program in the United States and we believe we can reverse the effects COVID-19 has had on the restaurant industry. Targeting this program to Black chefs who are overrepresented in the food industry but aren’t part of the food innovation economy will drive a new generation of restaurants.
Livery is still one of my favorite places to for a great meal and drink; I take all my out-of-town guests there.
President of the 2022 College Football Playoff Host Committee
Assistant Professor at IUPUI
Executive Director of Indianapolis City Market
Illustrator & Digital Artist
Co-Founder of Be Nimble Foundation
Restaurant Owner and Chef
Blogger, Tales & Turbans
Writer and Journalist
Influencer and Entrepreneur
Designer and Owner of Union Western Clothing
Deputy Mayor, City of Indianapolis
Owner of THE TRAP
HGVT's "Good Bones" and Two Chicks District Co.
Handpoke Tattoo Artist
Chapati and Shani's Secret Chicken
Local artist and gallery owner
Kennedy King Memorial Initiative
Artist and Designer
Hotel Broad Ripple
Growing Places Indy
Pediatrician and Entrepreneur
Owner of James Dant
Local Historian and Author
Phoenix Theatre Dance Company
Saxophonist and Restaurant Manager
Salumist and Owner of Turchetti's Salumeria
Barber Shop Owner and Barista
Realtor and Fashion Expert
Music Club Owner and Promoter
Vinyl Record Collage Artist
Food and Drink Purveyors
Ice Cream Innovators
Illustrator and Educator
Painter and Biking Enthusiast
Manager, RUCKUS Makerspace, and Executive Director, Latinas Welding Guild
Food Bloggers and Authors
Artist and Illustrator
Magician and Illusionist
Public School Principal
DJ and Founder, Rad Summer
Zoo Membership Director
T-Shirt Shop Owners
Owner, The Smoking Goose and Goose the Market
Co-Founder, Sun King Brewing
Writer and Exhibit Designer
IndyCar Driver and Team Owner
Owner, Indy Eleven soccer club
Former Colt Linebacker and Owner, Brackett Restaurant Group
Blogger, Seersucker + Saddles
Fine Artist and Musician
News Anchor, WTHR
Executive Director, Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library
Co-Founder of GangGang Culture
Executive Director, Pattern
Former WNBA Star, Indiana Fever
IndyCar Racer, Contestant on Dancing with the Stars
Chalk Artist and T-Shirt Shop Owner
Owner, The Gallery Pastry Shop
Founder of Felege Hiywot Center
Owner, Manayunk Calligraphy
Owner, Like the Lettuce: Fitness + Health Coach