Article by Anusha Kankure
In efforts to ameliorate the severity of injustice in the US towards the black community, countless individuals have donated to various Black Lives Matters organizations as well as signed a multitude of petitions demanding change and the eradication of the pandemic of racism. Going to a university that focuses on building entrepreneurial skills, I wanted to listen to a Babson entrepreneur's perspective on how to spark social change through managing a business. I spoke with Rhesa Teesdale, a rising sophomore at Babson, and the Chief Executive Officer of Prophet Envoy, on his opinion of how to develop a business that encourages and inspires social justice.
At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to pursue entrepreneurship?
Believe it or not, it was as early as 8th grade. I was on a car ride, and I asked the people around me “what’s the highest paying job”? The response was CEO. Immediately, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in entrepreneurship. Despite everyone laughing, I knew I was going to become a CEO. In the middle of high school, I began thinking about how I truly wanted to make an impact on the world. Although my parents have always wanted me to be a doctor or lawyer, I knew I didn’t want to have a traditional job for a while. I knew I wanted to do something that would affect not just the people in the company I was working in, but a variety of individuals that expanded all over the world.
What is the mission of Prophet Envoy?
What Prophet Envoy aims to do is emulate inspirational content such as Bible scriptures through urban clothing and streetwear for young adults. At its core, the company is really about spreading positivity through wearing our clothing. The idea for spreading motivation through articles of clothing came from a study I read about. The study talked about how an individual is a reflection of the clothes they wear. Therefore, I wanted people to wear Prophet Envoy to radiate positivity.
What does it mean to you to be a Black entrepreneur?
To me, being a Black entrepreneur means I can be a voice for my community through my brand. Additionally, it means using my platform as a black individual and taking the injustice of the black community and turning it into real, tangible change. Sure, you hear of many white entrepreneurs around Boston, and even at Babson. I can’t relate to how they were brought up or their day to day lives. However, with the black community, I can connect and empathize with their daily struggles.
As the BLM cause becomes more prevalent, how do you feel your responsibilities as an entrepreneur changes?
My first thought was that I couldn’t stand back. My school is predominantly white and some people might not be as informed about the violence and racism that is pervasive in the black community. The main reason why I created a whole line of clothing for George Floyd and donated all proceeds to the George Floyd Memorial Fund is because it's not about me anymore; it’s about supporting others who have been severely impacted by systemic racism and uniting the community to fight this injustice. I’ve seen other acts of racism with cases such as Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, but something about George Floyd’s passing was different. It haunted me, I felt like I was part of the Floyd family. I knew that I had a responsibility to inform.
What types of entrepreneurial skill sets and ideologies do you utilize to promote and raise awareness of social issues (such as BLM) as well run a successful business?
A large part of combining business and social issues is based on marketing. I knew I had to market for a different reason than just the tangible product. I had to market awareness and motivation for change in the black community. In the wake of the BLM movement, I marketed Prophet Envoy more so on the message I was delivering within the company. In addition to this, I recognized the importance of marketing the company as a black-owned business to raise further support of the black community.
For students and other entrepreneurs, how do you suggest they ingrain elements of social entrepreneurship in their businesses?
Find something that you're passionate about changing in the world, and see how you can reflect it in business. Find a topic that's important to you. The thing with my business is that I don’t get tired of Prophet Envoy. Some nights I’m up past 3 or 4 A.M, making designs or working on marketing strategies . Even though I am not condoning working on your business in the early morning hours, you should be passionate enough to work on it anytime and anywhere. Everyone has something they’re passionate about; once you find out what that is and somehow link it with whatever you are trying to sell, your business will inevitably thrive. For me, my passion is that I want to inspire people for the rest of my life, and that’s just what I want to do so I work for it.
From my interview with Reese, I concluded that the most important aspect of developing a business centralized around social responsibility, is true conviction in the cause that you are creating this business around as well as believing it will succeed. Linked below is the website for Prophet Envoy; be sure to check it out as there’s a new collection coming out soon!