Courtney Shareef and Alexandra Howard are two members of the BEATS Week leadership team. Not pictured are Aaron J. Barnes and Aaron Jordan.

UofL is hosting a weeklong event to help local entrepreneurs get down to business.

The inaugural BEATS Week (Business, Equity, Arts, Technology, and Sciences) seeks to remove barriers to and strengthen Louisville’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by connecting entrepreneurs within the city and university with research opportunities, resources and community connections. Presented by UofL Libraries, the Black Complex and The Jack Harlow Foundation, BEATS Week will kick off festivities Sept. 18th.

UofL News had the opportunity to catch up with Alexandra Howard, a business research and teaching librarian at Ekstrom Library and member of the BEATS Week leadership team.

UofL News: Can you tell us more about BEATS Week?

Howard: BEATS Week is a week-long event series to promote entrepreneurship among our Louisville community. Our goal is really to break down silos and remove barriers that exist, especially for underrepresented entrepreneurs such as college students and minority business owners. BEATS Week will provide access to research, resources and a community that will help cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset for people from every background.

There are so many different campus and community organizations and resources for entrepreneurs and we really want BEATS Week to  bring everyone together in one place. I think one of the most exciting things about BEATS Week is our diverse team that has helped develop it and put it together. We have a steering committee of different partners across campus, including the College of Business, Office of Student Involvement, Louisville Athletics, Office of Community Engagement, Office of Research and Innovation, Health Equity Innovation Hub and the Engage Lead Serve Board. This has really allowed us to make this a truly collaborative event.

UofL News: Why is BEATS Week important for the university and for college students?

Howard: BEATS Week is important to the university because the landscape of higher education is changing … so we have to be innovative and offer education and programming that is relevant and appealing. Studies have shown that high school and college students are increasingly interested in entrepreneurship. A 2022 survey showed that 60% of college students are interested in owning their own business. BEATS Week offers UofL a chance to help develop student entrepreneurs across academic disciplines. It offers college students the chance to develop their entrepreneurship knowledge and skillset, even if they aren’t studying business.

UofL is also an anchor institution that really emphasizes community engagement. BEATS Week is an opportunity for us to engage the greater Louisville community and provide programming and resources to entrepreneurs who own businesses down the street. The city of Louisville has some incredibly talented, creative and diverse entrepreneurs but the makeup of our city’s business landscape doesn’t totally reflect this. Minority business owners own less than 10% of the city’s local businesses. African Americans make up almost a quarter of Louisville’s population but own just 2.4% of local businesses. With BEATS Week, we want to make sure everyone sees themselves reflected in entrepreneurship and that everyone gets equal access to resources that will help them succeed.

UofL News: What is Jack Harlow’s involvement?

Howard: Because of Jack Harlow’s experience as a world-famous rapper, an actor, a businessman with Phocus and brand deals with KFC and New Balance, we immediately thought of him in planning BEATS Week. We pitched BEATS Week to his manager and while Jack Harlow won’t be speaking at any event this year, we were able to connect with The Jack Harlow Foundation who signed on as our primary BEATS Week sponsor. The Jack Harlow Foundation is committed to reinvesting, uplifting and supporting organizations in Louisville that will make the city a better place. The racial wealth gap is alive and well throughout our nation and in our city. Entrepreneurship is an important approach to building generational wealth and closing that gap. We are grateful for Jack Harlow seeing the importance of BEATS Week and sponsoring our events. We will be giving away raffle prizes throughout the week, so any time someone attends a BEATS Week event, they increase their chances of winning a prize. We may have something special from Jack Harlow to give away at our final BEATS Week event on Friday.  

UofL News: What useful resources does the library have to offer for BEATS Week?

Howard: The library has so many resources to support business development and aspiring entrepreneurs. As the business and entrepreneurship librarian, I primarily support research happening within the College of Business, but I also meet with entrepreneurs on campus and in the community to help them do research to support the development and growth of their business. We have access to very expensive business research databases that anyone in the community can access for free through our library. That’s actually how BEATS Week got started. I was introduced to the founder and CEO of Black Complex, Aaron Jordan, by another community partner and we began to meet in the library to do research for his business.

I really believe that the library is the hub of community and connection at the university. We work with students, faculty, and staff from every department across campus as well as high school students and members of our local community.

UofL News: Can you dive deeper into some of the events planned?

Howard: There will be education events on branding, storytelling and content creation. There will be free food at every event from local minority-owned businesses such as Blak Koffee, The Black Italian and FOKO. Our opening event will be Melanin Music Monday with the cultural center. We will have the tap in event, an entrepreneur resource fair where there will be an opportunity for students to get professional headshots, sit down one on one with business coaches to review resumes and LinkedIn or discuss any other business ideas.

Learn more about BEATS Week events on the UofL event calendar.