On August 27, the Black Entrepreneurs in Training (BET) program hosted a Community Day for students interested in building and strengthening the Black entrepreneurship community at Cornell. Tiffany Norwood ’89, the 2022 Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year, served as the keynote speaker for the event, which also featured a presentation from Jehron Petty ’20, CEO and founder of ColorStack, an entrepreneurship skill-building workshop, and a discussion about entrepreneurship opportunities at Cornell.
Petty, who cofounded BET during his time at Cornell, kicked off the event by introducing the program. The BET community aims to inspire, inform, and initiate the next wave of future Black entrepreneurs. Emphasizing the importance of community-building, Petty led introductions around the room before diving into the day’s activities.
Attendees broke the ice with a lighthearted pitch practice activity. Teams picked an item and collaborated to convince “judges” to buy or invest in a novel use of that item. The activity required attendees to step into an entrepreneurial mindset, thinking about how products can solve problems and improve upon existing solutions.
The main event of the day, Norwood’s presentation to the group, came next. Known as one of the top tech entrepreneurs in the world, Norwood’s entrepreneurial career started when she founded her first company as a junior at Cornell. In the 35 years since then, she has founded eight startups, successfully exited multiple times, and worked in over 50 countries.
As one of the first successful Black female tech entrepreneurs, Norwood has made history in several ways. She raised more than $670 million to fund WorldSpace, an early space startup, when she was 27 — an achievement that no other entrepreneur has accomplished since. Additionally, she is the first Black woman to receive Cornell’s Entrepreneur of the Year award.
Today, Norwood serves as the founder and CEO of entrepreneurship education company Tribetan and co-founder of SimWin Sports, a digital sports league platform. Her broad business experience has made her a coveted speaker on entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership. She generously shared her expertise and advice with the group.
Following a break for lunch, Petty told his own startup story and shared the lessons he learned along the way.
In his first foray into entrepreneurship as a member of the 2020 eLab cohort, Petty worked on BLU Media, a community development platform for Cornell students of color. He went on to found ColorStack, a nonprofit working to help Black and Latinx Computer Science students receive degrees and get hired, after graduating in 2020.
The event concluded with an explanation of the wide array of entrepreneurial resources available to Cornell students, including the eLab student business accelerator, Women Entrepreneurs at Cornell (W.E. Cornell), the hardware accelerator programs at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, Entrepreneurship at Cornell Hackathons, Big Red Ventures, and the BioEntrepreneurship Initiative.