Benito Lubazibwa founded ReMix Ideas LLC because he had a new vision of entrepreneurship.
“My vision was to democratize the entrepreneur ecosystem,” said Lubazibwa, ReMix CEO. “And I believe the system is working, but it’s working for the few. It’s not working for everybody. ...I think it’s time to build a new system which is more just and equitable.”
The Little Rock organization is not a nonprofit, but ReMix is able to offer most of its programs for free because the programs are funded by its partners, he said. ReMix also charges consulting fees and has received grants.
The organization’s mission is to help Black entrepreneurs start, grow and scale their businesses. Lubazibwa, who founded ReMix in 2017, believes Black business ownership is a path to wealth creation and that increasing it will reduce the racial wealth gap that is quickly widening in the United States.
ReMix Ideas is teaching Black entreprenuers how to create a sustainable and profitable business model, Lubazibwa said.
But, he said, they face barriers involving what he calls the “four Cs”: knowledge capital, financial capital, social capital and hope capital.
Black entreprenuers don’t have access to financial capital or social capital, i.e. the contacts they need to succeed because, in business, who you know can be more important than what you know.
Lubazibwa said attaining economic mobility has historically been a challenge for Black people, so some have lost hope and stopped dreaming about commancing their own destiny. Black people don’t see enough people who look like them running businesses, so they don’t pursue entrepreneurship, he said.
ReMix does a lot to help local Black entrepreneurs with the four C’s.
It runs the ReMix Ideas Business Academy, a 12-week program designed to give under-resourced entrepreneurs the skills they need to create, scale and sustain a successful business. Lubazibwa said 80% of the curriculum takes a “learn-by-doing approach,” while the other 20% is lecture.
ReMix hosts pitch competitions, too, and has held seven so far. Each winner receives $5,000, and the organization’s goal is to double that amount next year. ReMix also awards a monthly $1,000 “Power of Many” grant.
ReMix conducts “pop-up crowdfunding” as well, to raise money for immediate financial needs.
Lubazibwa said his organization has partnered with the Central Arkansas Library System on the Rock It! Lab, which aims to inspire, educate and connect under-resourced entrepreneurs by offering them no-cost co-working space, technical assistance, workshops, programs, events and one-on-one consulting at the Main Library in Little Rock.
ReMix hosts Shop Black Live, a weekly show and online marketplace showcasing and selling Black-owned products, and it launched the Little Rock Night Market, a family-friendly event where startups, artists and entrepreneurs can showcase and test their products or services.
ReMix is small. Its team comprises just Lubazibwa and two others, and it relies heavily on partnerships and relationships with local Black business owners as well as other stakeholders, Lubazibwa said.
The organization’s partners include:
- Community Development Financial Institutions, which provide financial services in low-income communities and to people who lack access to financing;
- Communities Unlimited, a nonprofit economic development corporation and community development financial institution headquartered in Fayetteville that offers $500-$50,000 business loans.
- Philander Smith College and Arkansas Baptist College.
ReMix has helped start more than 50 businesses and helped more than 150 existing businesses, Lubazibwa said. The organization has served approximately 400 entrepreneurs.
He said its goal is to launch 100 companies in Arkansas by 2025.
Lubazibwa added that, while most Black-owned businesses have a single employee (their owner), he’s hoping the Black-owned businesses ReMix helps launch will be able to scale up to two or three employees. He wants those 100 companies to create 300 to 400 jobs.
In the meantime, there are a few new programs in the works at ReMix.
Lubazibwa said it is in the early stages of conceptualizing and developing a coding training program called 501CODE.
ReMix Ideas also plans to launch the Freedom Project next month. That is a program designed to equip formerly incarcerated Black people with the tools, skills and resources they need to start and run successful businesses.
The organization has also evolved to focus on helping Black-owned businesses weather the COVID-19 storm.
So ReMix has formed the COVID-19 Equity in Action Group specifically for that purpose.
(Correction and Clarification: A previous version of this article reported the wrong headquarters for Communities Unlimited. Also, ReMix Founder and CEO Benito Lubazibwa wanted to clarify that ReMix is helping Black entrepreneurs create a sustainable and profitable business model and had never meant to imply that no Black entrepreneurs know how to do that.)