Au’Loni Magazine had the opportunity to speak with Liberty County Minority Chamber CEO Sabrina Newby about her new project for youth entrepreneurs, Helping Young ‘Preneurs Excel, or HYPE.

Based on the idea of incorporating business acumen into younger minds who live in underserved areas, the HYPE program will allow students in Liberty County, Georgia to use their backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) to develop a business product.  

Keisha Owens, an educator, mother, and volunteer who teaches middle school in Midway, Georgia, is Newby’s partner in the creation of the program. In her words, “[HYPE] is designed to help student leaders focus their ideas, while receiving coaching and mentoring until their idea becomes a product. Communication skills will also be cultivated and developed during this process, this skill is an important leadership attribute as well.” According to Newby, HYPE’s teachings will give students, primarily students of color, “all the skills – the real skills – of what they need in order to move forward.”

Owens sees HYPE as a way to elevate not only individuals but whole communities. “Embracing the entrepreneurial skills of our youth is integral in creating productive, global citizens and propelling long-term economic growth in our city, state, country and world,” she said.

With HYPE, students have a year to develop their product and are encouraged to design whatever interests them. At the end of the year students have the opportunity to pitch their idea to a group of their peers. If their idea is accepted, they move onto the next stage, pitching their idea to interested investors who can help the student create a business or mentor the student.

While HYPE will provide lessons and support, the responsibility of accumulating resources falls on the student. It’s a lesson in self-sufficiency, one Newby knows well.

Newby is the CEO and founder of BouGie Natural, a line of natural hair products and vitamins which her website boasts help to grow “healthy hair from a healthy scalp.”

“I ‘bootstrapped’ my own business without any loans, without any investors, and I made it a viable business.” said Newby. “I believe that if we give that knowledge to African American kids or children of color that come from poor backgrounds, they can do the same thing.”

Newby recognizes the challenges that children from Liberty County face. According to data compiled from the 2016 American Community Survey, while 90% of students have a least a high school degree, the best of all counties in the area, only 19% of those students go on to receive a bachelor’s degree or better, compared to the state-wide rate of 29%.

Newby attributes the low rate to lack of interest in going to college, but maintains that the students “have the intellect to create whatever they dream. All they have to do is have the right structure to help them create.”

One such student is Corey Davis, an eleventh grader and chairman CEO of HYPE. Described as articulate, smart, and a “straight shooter,” Newby remarked that he reminds her a lot of herself: “I came from a poor family, very humble beginnings, but over time I changed my life.” Davis has a YouTube page where he creates movies and cartoons. Even more impressive? He’s self-taught. When Newby asked him if he could create a commercial, he replied, “Oh I can create anything.” Sabrina laughed, “I was in awe.”

With the help of Owens and Davis, Newby recently pitched the program to the Liberty County school system, including Liberty Country interim superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry. “They were overwhelmed by it,” Newby said. “They absolutely loved it.” When the program gets the green light, Newby hopes HYPE will take at least 30 students, if not more.

“There’s nothing like HYPE in the nation,” Newby said. “It teaches business, which most children of color aren’t taught in schools.” And Liberty County is the just the tip of the iceberg. Newby’s goal is to make HYPE a nationwide after-school program. She’s already begun incorporating HYPE in Albany, Georgia with the help of Georgia State African American Chamber of Commerce.

When asked why she was so passionate about HYPE, Newby recalled her childhood. “I was supposed to be a statistic,” she said. “People of color aren’t allotted the same opportunities that our white brothers and sisters are allotted. I want to be able to give [the knowledge and opportunities] back. Hopefully these young people, though they’re still in high school, they’ll remember that and adopt the same mindset, to pass the opportunity, to pass the information. That’s how we grow a community.”

Picture provided by Sabrina Newby