2 women at LITE Memphis Pitch Night

LITE Memphis: Creating Wealth through Entrepreneurship

“LITE Memphis is the opportunity.” 

– Terini Dewberry, LITE Memphis program alumni and current coach/mentor

Terini Dewberry joined LITE Memphis during her last semester of high school and, though that could have been the end of her involvement, it was just the beginning. 

LITE Memphis works to equip Black and Latinx students with 21st century skills to create wealth through entrepreneurship. The goal is to reduce, and one day eliminate, the existing wealth gap by helping young people start their own businesses. Programming starts in high school with community workshops that feed into LITE’s Finalist Program. Finalists receive monetary support to launch their dream idea through LITE’s entrepreneurship curriculum. For eight years, LITE students have been supported through paid internship matching, business coaching, and career development. 

The LITE Memphis curriculum comes directly from community need, helping students professionally, mentally, and financially. This comprehensive model is how LITE Memphis is moving the needle on closing the wealth gap in Memphis. 

LITE Memphis, to Terini, “meant an opportunity for a young Black child to be able to make it in Memphis.”

LITE started in the classroom, with a group of teachers who saw an unmet need in their students. Now, over 9 years later, LITE continues to transform students’ lives by providing them with resources to excel. What started as a project is now a full curriculum to eradicate the barriers that block students from becoming business leaders and entrepreneurs in our community. This kind of program is not always accessible to the students that need it most – and that is what LITE Memphis is looking to alleviate. 

“LITE Memphis is a way for people of color to truly build yourself and build others.”

Terini

The mission of LITE is focused on long-term success and the building of generational wealth. Day-to-day this involves working directly with students: workshopping with them, helping them go back to the drawing board when needed, and supporting them in making a strategic plan in order to launch their business. It’s helping them uncover the confidence to know that they are able to do things like start a business and to make more money than they’ve seen other people in their lives make.

Images from Pitch Night 2021. Photos courtesy of LITE Memphis.

“There are ways for our children to not have to resort to anything other than education and bettering themselves and their families through their efforts.” 

Terini

For Terini, this meant helping her step outside of her comfort zone and working through her shyness. She was able to lean into public speaking. She learned about stakeholders, business models, and presentation all before graduating high school. 

“That’s truly what I think the gem of LITE is, is being able to take that shy student and turn them into- quite honestly- the next CEO of a company.”

Terini

The LITE Memphis life cycle doesn’t stop once you graduate. LITE works to support their students beyond the 16-week finalist program. Students, like Terini, then have the opportunity to get connected to paid internships, partnerships, and resources post-high school. Terini’s time with LITE shaped her confidence and solidified her career interests. 

Today, Terini is a digital marketer. She works as a marketing assistant and owns her own business. She promotes women empowerment and education – both in college and through life experience. Terini recently joined the LITE Memphis team as a coach/mentor- coming full circle from where she started years ago. 

Terini wants to pour back into the city and the programming that supported her. You can do the same. You don’t have to have a background in business. You just have to have a willingness and eagerness to understand the need and meet students where they are. 

The LITE Memphis team, like many nonprofits, is small but mighty. They need- and cannot function without- their coach/mentors.

Ways to get involved and support LITE Memphis

  • Subscribe to their newsletter to stay informed 
  • Stay up to date on all things LITE through their social media
  • Follow Terini’s story and business
  • Shop from their students’ businesses 
  • Volunteer with LITE Memphis
    • Coach/Mentor Interest Form
      • Requirements
        • 23 years old and pass a background check
        • Background in business is not a requirement
        • Any experience with entrepreneurship or in the nonprofit sector or simply the desire to help young people start their own businesses
        • Experience or desire to work with youth, specifically Black/Latinx students. 
        • Comfort being around and acceptance of gender queer and sexually queer students and exhibiting as willingness to meet students where they are, wherever they are 
        • Ability to commit to a session time on Sundays
  • Donate to support their efforts of obliterating the wealth gap in Memphis

Do you know a student interested in joining LITE?

Here are 5 Reasons that LITE Memphis is the opportunity for you:

  • It’s free!
  • We help students launch businesses, secure paid internships, and get money to launch businesses after college.
  • Students get to meet other teens from high schools all across Memphis and grow their network of innovators their own age.
  • Students get to work on what they are passionate about. Imagine learning real-word skills while working on your dreams. Students love it. 
  • Over 98% of students said they’d highly recommend the program. 

Apply here!

Dannon Eubanks is the Director of Community Engagement at Volunteer Odyssey. She graduated from the University of Memphis where she spent lots of time falling in love with the city through volunteering. You can contact her at dannon@volunteerodyssey.com.

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