Fort Wayne native and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith has announced the finalists and community leaders who will participate in the launch of his latest business venture, the Jaylon Smith Minority Entrepreneurship Institute (MEI).
He told WANE 15’s Terra Brantley MEI will create a pool of resources to help minority start up businesses not only in Northeast Indiana but across the country. “I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur my entire life,” said Smith.
Smith said he got the idea for his Minority Entrepreneurship Institute after getting support to launch his eyewear collection, Clear Eye View, which now helps provide charitable funding to support MEI. “The biggest thing I’ve gained is access to relationships and quality networks of people to do business with.”
That network of support is what Smith’s MEI will provide to minorities who are looking to start their own businesses. “They’re going to receive the three things that are so much needed, financial funding, mentoring and strategic planning. I’ve partnered with the National Christian Foundation and the Sagamore Institute.”
The National Christian Foundation is a nonprofit that helps donors give to charitable causes. The Sagamore Institute, is a think tank of business leaders and investors based in Indianapolis. Along with MEI, they’ll listen as emerging minority entrepreneurs from the Hoosier state pitch their ideas in a contest Smith calls his Indiana Showcase.
“They’re going to start off with five entrepreneurs and by the time they leave here they’ll be down to three,” said Holly Raney, Special Events Manager at Parkview Field. “So the contenders will have 10 minutes to talk about their new up and coming idea and then the five panelists will wittle it down to three contestants that move on.”
“This isn’t just a venture to provide some funding,” said Smith. “It’s about creating a marketplace for minorities who desire to be entrepreneurs but don’t have the access because they lack capital. I’m from Fort Wayne, Indiana so what better way to start than in the Hoosier state?”
“We all need assistance and that’s something our minorities lack. So Northeast Indiana is going to be taken care of. MEI will eventually grow throughout the country.”
Judges for the competition include: Jaylon Smith, Jane DeHaven, from Summit City Chevrolet, Gary Brackett, Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl champion and Stacked Pickle CEO and Mark Music Owner/CEO of Ruoff Home Mortgage.
The MEI Showcase will take place in front of an invitation only audience Friday, July 12 from 5 – 10 p.m. in the Suite Level Lounge at Parkview Field.