Transforming Education, Fueling Entrepreneurs: The Promise of Digital Resourcing

Transforming Education, Fueling Entrepreneurs: The Promise of Digital Resourcing

From right to left: Coeval Wilsondebriano, Monique Wilsondebriano, Revice Jordan, Tiffany Rachann, Erica Krutu Davies

Funding for small business enterprises has been buzzing for several years. Everywhere an entrepreneur turns, there are tons of opportunities to apply for grants, low-interest loans, and other nontraditional financial products to get and keep more business up and running. While there has been no shortage of opportunity, something lurking has counteracted the options, scaling the dangers of exploiting the very communities the funding is intended for and much of it has to do with visibility and access.

In 2019, the United States reportedly spent $870 billion on primary and secondary education, amassing nearly 7% of the total GDP. Those numbers yielded the U.S. 6th on the list of countries investing the highest percentage on education and was documented as one of the heftiest increases in spending on education in the previous decade.

2022 outlined a different story. With $795 billion invested, the per capita reduction equated to an average of $15,120 per student across primary and secondary institutions annually, compared to $17,310 in 2019. Educational support services funding was reimagined, and a win was recorded for community-based and comprehensive literacy development programming funding. The forecasted numbers and the projections remained the same, allotting 220 million of the $778 billion to be allocated and funded for marginalized communities to take advantage of critical services. These calculations fragrantly affect entrepreneurs who own and operate educational support service businesses like my company, Imagiread.

The advent of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence based learning tools has opened up layers of honest conversation between developers and end users. With literacy leveling at play alongside the need to quickly appeal to various audiences, Edtech developers have been unearthing deficiencies at unprecedented rates, encouraging the prioritization of funding to research, develop, and test improvements. Companies with Edtechers who have access to funding and/or have bootstrapped funding to carve out proof of conceptual solutions are hierarchized, and everyone else waits their turn, spiraling a fierce and competitive landscape.

Unfortunately, my company, Imagiread, has been one of the entities that have been waiting and, in waiting, has learned more about navigating staging and growing amidst an aggressively growing industry by leveraging digital tools and resources. Our goal has always been to provide award-winning, culturally relevant primary and supplemental literacy development programming and instruction for school-aged children and the communities that support them online and offline. With reduced access to capital, traction to bridge the gap for millions of learners became a dismal feat, spiraling the business cycle downward.

The same year that the US spent the most they had in a decade on education was the same year I became a member of The Meta Leaders Boost Network. In the beginning stages of increasing digital advertising tools to spread awareness about our programming, I’d sought ways to reach new audiences to engage in an ongoing conversation about formative literacy development access and how such translates to socioeconomic sustainability. Citing affordable housing, transportation, and food security, highlighting a narrative substantiating how the lack of access compounds the digital divide, informing a need for a dynamic community-based model was the goal. Touting isolated data from one of our partners, Comcast Essentials, and adding it to what I’d collected from a community-based participatory research study facilitated years prior was the ticket. I needed to ensure the community identified with interrelated challenges. Those challenges outlined limited access, signaling ableism, and a gross lack of capacity. With concise details in hand, it was time to answer the call and reach more families with Imagiread’s programming. I turned to social media to support the endeavor and was astounded at the return.

In early 2020, Imagiread launched its first physical educational placemaking project, The Little Free Library at The Community Garden, in the historic OST/South Union neighborhood in Houston, Texas. Citing education as a key social determinant of health, the project’s need was established with community leaders, organizers, educators, and residents. It resulted in a co-created blueprint of how the project would serve all involved and expand access, eventually bridging the digital divide and preparing families for #thefutureofeducation and #thefutureofwork. Social media marketing and advertising played a tremendous role in engagement, and our launch event was held in February 2020. Plans to host a monthly event were stifled by the global announcement of COVID and the enforcement of sheltering in place. The upending of plans to not only engage a local community with ongoing literacy development support options via in-person programming exacerbated the access doom that was prevalent despite a decade-long increase in funding therefore, the only real option I had as a business owner was to retreat to social media marketing, again.

Through social media engagement, I faced the fact that Imagiread’s operative strengths often mirror the communities we serve. As a small business, I am often ill-prepared to endure disasters and have noted that it takes us double the time and energy to recover and realign. With displacement fresh on the minds of everyone, I considered the implications involved in engaging the community in a new conversation about access and drawing from their conclusions. I looked yet again to the two platforms we employ the most, Facebook and Instagram, to give me the insight I needed. The outcome was a triumphant story of the power of community-based educational engagement and connection, leading me to pivot the business and enhance our digital presence.

In April 2023, I was fortunate to travel to Washington, DC, to meet with Kevin Hearne, Oklahoma’s State Representative, about the resources needed to sustain my small business along some incredible business owners. The Meta Leaders Boost Network provided the opportunity to attend, as it was a chance to dig into tools and resources that one needs when staging and growing their business. Diving into how digital resourcing provides an inlet that is sometimes seemingly devalued, especially when done online, however, the in-person connections with fellow business owners and leaders were beyond inspiring, and the professional development sessions were impactful. So much so that I have since reconsidered the launch strategy for our first childcare center slated to open in Fall 2023.

It’s because of The Meta Boost Leaders Network and the digital resources provided that I’ve managed to connect with a wonderful group of humans who value education, collaboration, and entrepreneurship, affirming the future of business and the promises that come with it.

1. Why Women-Owned Startups are a better bet, Boston Consulting Globe

2. Biggest Challenge When Starting a Business, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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