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Black Engineers Today

Braxton Jenkins

Braxton Jenkins is a junior studying mechanical engineering at Valporaiso University in Indiana. He is specifically interested in the study of energy and desires to innovate solar panels, installing them in underserved communities in Chicago. He is a member of Valpo’s Christ College Honor’s Program.

Braxton’s dad enrolled him in an engineering program when he was in middle school. The experience challenged him and got him thinking about a future in the engineering field. Braxton was further challenged in high school to consider his role in the care of the environment, as well as socio-economic and race issues and the disparities both had wrought in his community. He entered college with the desire to study engineering and make a difference in underserved communities of color.

Braxton had the privilege of serving in several different countries throughout his college career with an organization called WAVES, including Haiti, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. The purpose of his summer internship in 2019 was to evaluate dysfunctional residential solar panel systems in a rural, indigenous community in El Cacao, Nicaragua. He researched how components of solar systems work and what causes their failures, preparing a presentation that will be used to explain why the systems are failing and viable options to install more sustainable solar systems.

Braxton is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and is the Treasurer for the NSBE Chapter at Valpo.

Braxton’s first piece of advice to students of color is to go into a field of study with a plan or goal in mind. During his time studying engineering, Braxton says, “I’ve been kicked down, then kicked down again. I’ve learned that if you want to achieve something, you have to see yourself in a position of success and then work to achieve it.” Braxton’s second piece of advice is to surround yourself with people who will encourage you to keep going, not just mentally but also logistically. People who will ask, “How are you going to keep going?” One practical way Braxton does this is by meeting weekly with his academic professor from Freshman year.

Read about Braxton's summer internship experience HERE.

Braxton grew up in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago and is a graduate of George Westinghouse College Prep , a Chicago Public Schools Selective Enrollment School. While at Westinghouse, Braxton participated in the  The Northwestern Medicine Scholars program, which is designed to provide outstanding Westinghouse students enriching experiences to explore and be better prepared for careers in medicine and biomedical sciences. Students have the opportunity to learn from the country's leading physicians at a premier academic medical center.

Now Westinghouse also offers the FH Paschen Engineering Scholars program where students get a behind-the-scenes look at civil engineering and construction in Chicago. This highly-selective three-year program provides students summer internships, course work at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and construction site visits throughout the year.



Planks and Pistils

Drawing Attention to History with Flowers

John Pendleton, Cafe Manager at Entrenuity's Common Cup coffee shop in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, brought a little extra attention to the "Founder of Chicago" on the first day of Black History Month. John installed a beautiful floral swag with a wooden sign that read, "a Black man founded Chicago" on the bronze bust of Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable that marks the site of the original du Sable homestead. The bust, by Chicago-born sculptor Erik Blome, drew more attention than usual, thanks to John’s floral installation. Pictures were posted on social media, with one viewer’s photo receiving 9.3k shares! 

When John’s not busy overseeing the team at Common Cup and crafting perfect cups of coffee, he enjoys spending time creating wood and floral designs for his business Planks and Pistils. Check out some of his creations on Instagram.





Imagery by Chi

Yolanda Richards-Albert

Yolanda Richards-Albert, founder of Imagery by Chi and Entrenuity's photographer of choice, has been working as a professional photographer since 2015, focusing mainly on event photography and headshots/portraits. 

Yolanda loves capturing life's meaningful and precious moments. She specializes in creating a relaxed vibe to ensure her clients feel comfortable when she's capturing their image. She's found that most people don't like having their picture taken. However, she takes joy in creating spaces that make others feel at ease, making the process one that they can enjoy instead of just tolerate.

Yolanda is especially excited about her recent photo series capturing portraits of POAD--People of African Descent. She dreamed about the project for over a year and believes it's important because "Black is Beautiful. Black is bold in portrait form. Black representation matters ... and although images of Black people in media have significantly grown, they're still just scratching the surface."

 >>>CLICK HERE  to see her digital photo series.

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H.I. Hands Massage

In honor of National Women’s Business Month, Entrenuity would like to highlight two incredible women in Chicago making a difference in the Lakeview community through health and wellness.

H.I. Hands Massage originally started as Heba and Iman were looking for a space to rent a room to service private clients. On the way to sign the lease, Heba and Iman started sharing ideas on their dreams of having a business together and thus H.I. Hands Massage was born!

Heba and Iman are two young millennials changing the narrative about massage by educating their clients on the importance of health, wellness, and self-care. Massage in society has generally been viewed as a luxury by most people. At H.I. Hands Massage the biggest priority is ensuring that whoever walks through the doors of their business understands that it is in fact an absolute necessity! H.I. Hands Massage believes that wellness is for everyone and should be received regularly.

Heba and Iman have focused their business around each specific client and their personal needs. Heba states, “I wake up and I can’t wait to see who I meet, who I connect with. I am fascinated by how every single session is different and unique. I am constantly learning and re-learning things about our bodies. Iman says that what motivates and ignites her passion is, “I have people depending on me and I enjoy making a difference. It means a lot to me when someone trusts me with their health”.

As a female owned small business, Heba and Iman have had to overcome a number of challenges. “One of the biggest challenges, especially in the massage industry, is having to deal with false assumptions. There have been many instances when as soon as we start talking about what we do, men start to immediately ask us inappropriate questions and make comments. We have learned how to shut down these questions. At times we have to explain that what we do is purely therapeutic within professional boundaries and we have ZERO tolerance to anyone that tries to cross those boundaries”. 

In November, H.I. Hands massage will be celebrating their one year anniversary. One of their upcoming goals for 2020 is to host their own international wellness retreat. Heba and Iman are also looking to hire more therapists and expand their space.

In celebration of their one year anniversary, H.I. Hands Massage is offering a number of promotions and packages. To book an appointment or for more information on the incredible work H.I. Hands Massage is doing, check out

The Chocolate Barista

Introducing Michelle Johnson

Meet Michelle Johnson, marketing professional, creative director, and culture writer and entrepreneur in the coffee industry. Originally from DC, Michelle has traveled across the country and overseas discovering new and innovative ways to push the coffee industry forward. Michelle started her first barista job at 19 at an independent coffee shop in DC and later moved to specialty coffee where she thrived in the complexities of coffee. From going to cuppings to learning how to train her palate, what kept Michelle in the coffee industry was the community of baristas she met along the way.


After working 7 ½ years in coffee, Michelle’s desire is to see others feel more empowered to “pick up coffee and create their own stories with it.” She wants baristas to know they can carve their own path in coffee and forge a career. The industry has allowed Michelle to be incredibly creative and given her the platform to grow her own business and get the message of diversity out.


Michelle manages The Chocolate Barista, a blog that focuses on the promotion of racial diversity and inclusivity in the specialty coffee industry one black cup at a time. As a black entrepreneur and women in the coffee industry, Michelle encourages other baristas of color to “take up space, y’all! Coffee is grown by Black and brown hands and it is in our blood. This is just one of many things part of us and our destiny!”


Michelle states that her entrepreneurial dreams for the future are to “turn The Chocolate Barista into a full blown parent company that includes creative pieces by myself and other Black people in coffee (writing, podcasts, photos, etc), a consulting business for diversity and marketing, and an ongoing scholarship fund to help people do whatever it is they need or want to do in the industry!”


Go check out to follow Michelle and her entrepreneurial journey!





SC3 Goes to Malawi

Gift Mungula, born and raised in Malawi and currently enrolled in the M.Div Program at Moody Bible Institute, took a Social Entrepreneurship class Spring 2018 taught by Brian Jenkins using the StartingUp Now: 24 Steps to Launch Your Own Business workbook and Skillcenter 3.0 (SC3) online platform. The class met Gift’s passion to launch his own organization in Malawi that would help develop small ministries operating alongside small businesses, enabling him to develop a business plan for a real estate business in Mzuzu City, Malawi.

Gift appreciates that SC3 is a multipurpose platform able to guide a person’s development of an idea into a complete business plan. He was able to watch videos and read stories of successful examples through each stage of business plan development. He found it fascinating that the entire content of SC3 was available in over 120 languages and was excited to find that the Malawian language of Chewa was available!

In December 2018, Gift was tasked with teaching a group of young adults in Malawi on the challenges that hinder progress in life and ministry. Gift has believed for a long time that the number one challenge in Malawi is that of not preparing. “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”

“I could not find any better resource for helping my fellow Malawians prepare to win in life than Skillcenter itself.”

Gift plans to continue to use Skillcenter to teach small scale entrepreneurs in Malawi. “I want us to help each other make progress with our own resources and to be able to sustain our own projects. I know that Skillcenter is the perfect fit for my mission.”

SC3 Head


Gift plans to continue to use Skillcenter