The Eship Center Stands with Black Lives Matter

Friday June 26, 2020

We are devastated by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and so many other Black people who have lost their lives due to social injustice and systemic racism. We want you to know that we see the pain, grief, anger and trauma that our community is facing and we stand with the Black Lives Matter movement. We are committed to being allies to the Black community and will continue our work to create a more inclusive environment for innovation and entrepreneurship.

It is more important now than ever to embrace inclusion, one of our center’s core values. We must all commit to being allies and contribute to doing things differently which means we cannot be silent in the face of social injustice. Our Executive Director, Vickie Gibbs, on behalf of the Eship Center’s team, publicly expressed support and commitment in our June newsletter — please watch the video here. 

We acknowledge the gap in representation as an institution and we want to be change agents in this process. Yet, we also understand that this work is a marathon and it will take time and consistency to dismantle institutional systems. While there is still work to be done, we want our community to know that we are trying, that we have started the work,  and we will continue doing the hard work. 

We will do better. We must do better. Moving forward, we will use our platform and resources to support our community in better understanding the challenges of minority entrepreneurs and students. We hope to position our center to serve as a model for others in how we operate.

We also acknowledge that we cannot do this work alone. Another core value in our Center is collaboration. We have already started looking to our partners to see what they are doing in this space and how we can support each other. We also look to our community for expertise, guidance and feedback. We invite our stakeholders to share their stories, struggles, suggestions, and best practices. We are all in this together. We are all learning together.

What is our Center Doing?

We are being intentional about our hiring, programming, and our network to strengthen our connection to and support of minority and female students, alumni, staff and community partners. There is certainly more work to be done yet we wanted to share the progress that we’ve made over this past academic calendar:

Our Team:

  • In September 2019, Vickie Gibbs was brought on as the Director of the Eship Center. She stated that her primary reason for accepting this role was to make entrepreneurship more accessible for all. In the past year and a half, Vickie has expanded our team to include roles specific to DEI in addition to creating a new strategy focused on DEI.
  • In September, we hired an intern to focus exclusively on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. In this role, she assists with researching, developing and employing DEI strategy for the Eship Center. Her role has helped strengthen the relationship between our Center and  minority students with an interest in entrepreneurship across campus.
  • In mid-January, our Center also hired me as the Assistant Director of Community Engagement. I have a background in DEI and lead our staff in this area. I’ve been instrumental in helping our Center diversify our advisor and speaker pool for student and community facing programming. I am also working on initiatives with our Center’s and the Kenan Institute’s DEI working group.

Our Programming:

  • This past academic year, we developed a program, Eship Scholars, aimed to provide access to opportunities for under-represented students interested in entrepreneurship. We are developing this program to provide participants with the mentorship, connections and funding needed to invest in their self-development in order to launch successful careers or ventures rooted in innovation. The program is set to launch this upcoming academic year with support from NC Idea.
  • In our most recent speaker series, Navigating the Great Pause (a response to COVID), we were very intentional about selecting a diverse speaker pool and 1/3 are black entrepreneurs. You can check out the recordings here on our website.
  • We hosted a conversation, Creating a Space for Black Entrepreneurs, on Wed, July 1 to discuss the authentic journeys of black entrepreneurs in our ecosystem. This is the first of future sessions of candid conversations. You can watch the recording here.
  • In May, Launch Chapel Hill implemented a new series in our accelerator program that exclusively speaks to the topic of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace. We hosted our first session on July 28th, 2020. You can watch the recording here.
  • We will continue to be intentional about representation in our programming. In our most recent speaker series, Navigating the Great Pause (a response to COVID), we were very intentional about selecting a diverse speaker pool for this series and 1/3 were black entrepreneurs. For our student programmings like Coaches Corner and Launch Chapel Hill’s Summer Accelerator’s pitch scrubs every Friday, we have done the same ensuring we include people of color and women. 

Our Research:

  • In January, we launched a 170-page Trends in Entrepreneurship Report where DEI is a prominent focus for the research and includes the inequity in venture capital for black founders. One of our Keynote speakers for the conference where we launched this report was Arlan Hamilton, who has a venture firm funding diverse entrepreneurs and who spoke directly to our audience about this topic.
  • In June, we launched a followup to this report and focused on how COVID is affecting businesses across the United States, and specifically how it is disproportionately affecting those owned by people of color. 

How We Can All Be Allies:

We encourage everyone to be active in anti-racist efforts. For non-black people of color and white allies, we must listen to, support, and amplify Black voices. We all have to join and play a role in the fight against social injustice, systemic racism, and inequity. 

We can use our voice to express solidarity and leverage resources to educate ourselves and our networks. Below are lists with petitions, donations, and informational resources — all ways to become better allies.

It is also pivotal to consider how and where you spend your money because it is an important aspect of allyship. Join us in supporting Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned businesses. The following websites and articles list Black-owned shops and restaurants in the Triangle area that we would love for you to support. 

We also encourage investors in our network to consider bridging the gap in the number of minority-led businesses that they invest in. Our hope is that you use your position as a vessel to offer access to venture capital, connections and financial resources. Launch Chapel Hill’s Alum Company, Kalia Health, developed a guide on how to practice anti-racism within your startup while having limited resources. Below are additional resources that they collected regarding racism in the entrepreneurial space. 

The Eship Center’s DEI Statement

Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. They’re more than just words for us. They are the foundation of the work that we do as a Center at UNC and in the greater community. We are passionate about creating an inclusive, entrepreneurial community that promotes and values diversity. Our goal is to create an environment where everyone, from any background, can feel supported as they explore their unique path. We know that entrepreneurship in itself is already challenging without the additional barriers that diverse communities face. We are committed to using our platform to bridge the gap and serve as a model in how we operate by upholding our core value of inclusion. We hope that each member of our community will always bring your authentic selves and experiences as you join us on the journey.

Thank you for your support, your accountability and your partnership in this work. 


Keysha Jones

Assistant Director, Community Engagement