At Goodcity’s annual fundraiser, the Chicago Defender met one of its social entrepreneurs: Jeffery Beckham of Black Box Creative Inc. Goodcity, spelled with no space between good and city, is a 501C-3 organization that partners with community and faith-based organizations that provide services to under-resourced neighborhoods.
Goodcity says it has worked with at least 400 local organizations in its 30-year history mentoring and providing services from capacity building to acting as fiscal agent. It’s current CEO, Jimmy Lee joined the organization in 2013 after working for Carl Rove raising money for the Republican Party. “I felt I could make a bigger difference with my skills in other ways,” he told Crain’s Chicago Business.
Jeffery Beckham, CEO of Black Box Creative Inc., a mobile and web design company that focuses on community-based, non-profits, and small businesses started out primarily providing digital know-how to small start-ups but has since grown to service larger clients such as Trinity United Church of Christ, Flavor Brunch in Hazel Crest and Tuskegee University.
Black Box help establish a digital presence for your business whether creating a website, social media platform or simply setting up an email account or electronic billing system. “We come in and help you roll out a digital strategy to make you more efficient. If you need a website, understanding social media and email – anything technical to make your business better,” he states. Once set up, Black Box teaches the business owner how to harvest and understand their digital information to connect with their target audience in a more significant way.
Beckham stresses that technology is now the driving force in society and that our youth needs to be properly prepared to take advantage of this new paradigm. To do so, he says “We teach a coding camp and partner with other STEM initiatives.” Beckham, a member and mentor with the 100 Black Men of Chicago, and mentor with Link Unlimited Scholars uses technology and digital literacy as a tool to drive change in Chicago’s youth. “I bring young people into the company and let them get a first-hand view of how to structure and operate a small business.”
A lot of our youth are already engaged in social media and tech. Innately, they get it he asserts. “I’m showing them they can have a business out of the knowledge they have.” This summer, youth ages 12-18 will be put on teams and assigned real life projects to complete. The projects are designed to engage the youth and show them that there are more opportunities in technology besides coding such as becoming a project manager, a sales person, and many others. And to teach business skills “I want to make sure they understand the business side of coding as well.”
Beckham admits that some of our youth face enormous challenges and have to be approached in a certain manner. That manner he says has to be creative by engaging both sides of the brain by incorporating art into STEM (science technology engineering art and math). He refers to himself and his company as a social entrepreneur and recalls the first meeting he had with Jimmy Lee at Overflow coffee house in the South Loop.
Jimmy talked about the work that they (Goodcity) did and Beckham immediately thought he wanted to help support that work. “He had supported other classmates of mine from New Leaders Council like Fabian Elliot, of Black Tech Mecca, and Nick Shields, of The Green Balloon Foundation.” Impressed by what Jimmy Lee had to say and his commitment to improve Chicago; Beckham committed to being an ambassador for Goodcity’s annual fundraiser ‘Sounds and Stories’ which was well attended this year.
“I saw that he was working with organizations that support my community. They have a hyper-focus on organizations and institutions that are making Chicago better but they work with a lot of African American businesses.” Goodcity provides back end, and back office structural support helping businesses become sustainable behind traditional fundraising models and methods. We can’t rely on grants and corporate money anymore he states. “We have to be creative in raising money. Looking at social entrepreneurship as a construct and figuring out the value of my product and services and maybe we can sell that and raise capital.”
“It’s a natural fit,” he says; referring to the relationship Black Box Creative Inc. has with Goodcity. Black Box provides technical assistance with business and digital concerns and Goodcity offers back office and structural support. Non-profits are closing every day due to the state of funding locally, in Illinois, and nationally and we run across organizations everyday that need the help of Goodcity.
Organizations like Goodcity help to circumvent the reliance on traditional funding allowing non-profits to stay in business longer he says.
According to Black Box’s website if “You’ve got an idea. We’ve got the means to turn it into something amazing.” For more information on Black Box Creative Inc., visit their website at http://blackboxcreative.com/