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Houston expert: What I've learned about navigating the business world as a Black founder

In honor of Black History Month, Houstonian Benjamin Foster shares some of his lessons learned about navigating the business world as a Black founder. Photo via Getty Images

Entrepreneurship is the process of creating, developing and managing a new business venture with the aim of making a profit. Successful entrepreneurs are known for their creativity, tenacity and willingness to take risks, often disrupting existing markets and challenging traditional ways of doing things to make an impactful change in the world.

With the increasing demand on health care professionals over the past few years, medical professionals, especially nurses, are veering off the traditional nurse career path. Entrepreneurial ventures have slowly emerged as nurses look for different routes for employment that allow them to utilize their health care skillset, such as, transitioning to the health care technology industry or becoming a wellness coach.

When exploring entrepreneurship, one must be passionate about what type of company or service he or she chooses to create, build, develop and invest in. The extensive list of work to be done can be overwhelming, so to keep the motivation going, one must have the drive to see the concept come to fruition. To make an idea become a reality, trustworthy legal counsel is critical. Navigating legalese is not a common skill, so guarantee the legal safety of your company by allowing the experts to fight on your behalf. It is vital to have a strong team as reinforcement to help your organization propel forward.

Successful businesses often have work environments where employees are encouraged to be innovative. For nurses, this can be prioritized through the introduction of online platforms that allow nurses and medical facilities to pick what schedule, location, shift length or compensation works best for them. Through an extensive database, these preferences can be personalized for the benefit of the person on the website.

To address the challenges faced by Black entrepreneurs, there is a growing movement to provide targeted support and resources to help them succeed. This includes initiatives to increase access to capital and business development support, as well as efforts to address systemic inequalities and promote greater diversity and inclusion in the business world. In industry meetings, it is rare to be a part of discussions where there is more than one African American representative and, to be honest, that is probably the toughest part of being a Black entrepreneur. Through these efforts, African American entrepreneurs have the opportunity to build successful businesses and make a positive impact on their communities and the wider economy.

No matter how smart or hard working you are, it is impossible for a nonprofit owner, entrepreneur, or business owner to know everything about running and managing a business. For me, I understood the health care industry and business management side, but I acknowledged that as a founder, it was okay to not know it all and to need the support of a village to get traction to keep moving forward.

As a Black business founder, I take pride in being able to voice the concerns and requests of African Americans across the health care industry and believe that is part of our responsibility as an organization. It is rewarding to spearhead efforts to increase diversity within the health care industry and represent the individuals and the voices that have been overlooked. It is our job to continue to be creative and ambitious in the support we can offer.


Benjamin Foster is the CEO and founder of Nurseify.

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Building Houston


Cemvita has some news regarding its C-level execs. Photo courtesy of Cemvita

An innovative Houston startup that's working with energy companies to decarbonize their operations has made changes to its C-suite.

Tara Karimi, who co-founded Cemvita with her brother Moji, has transition to the company's chief science officer. Liz Dennett has been hired to Karimi's previous role of CTO. The changes enable Karimi to focus on leading Cemvita's scientific research and development efforts as well as participating in driving innovation within the biotech industry as a whole, according to the company's press release.

"I'm excited to take on the role of chief science officer at Cemvita and what it represents for our company's growth," says Karimi in the release. "As chief science officer, I look forward to shaping policy and driving the conversation around the role of biotechnology in the energy transition."

As CTO, Dennett will lead the development of Cemvita's unique biotech products that tap into microbes to decarbonize operations on energy plants. Most recently, Dennett was vice president of data architecture and data engineering at Wood Mackenzie. She previously worked in tech and sustainability-focused roles at Hess Corp., Biota Technology, and Amazon Web Services.

“Working with biological systems presents a unique challenge but also a unique opportunity," says Dennett in the release. "It’s uniquely difficult to go from benchtop to in-situ reactors or oil wells with microbes and to achieve the kind of incredible results that we’re seeing in the lab. You need to build teams with deep specializations in chemistry, biology, energy systems, and geology.”

Dennett, who has her PhD and Master's from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has served on Cemvita's advisory board for about a year, will report to CEO Moji Karimi directly.

“I know that Tara and Liz are going to make history at Cemvita,” says Moji Karimi in the release. “With 15 years of experience using data-driven approaches to solve pressing energy challenges, Liz brings to bear the kind of creativity and expertise that can quickly and meaningfully advance Cemvita’s impact on the Energy Transition.”

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