As Internships Fizzled, LA Bootstrapped a Startup Program for Disadvantaged Youth

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

As Internships Fizzled, LA Bootstrapped a Startup Program for Disadvantaged Youth

For a lot of youth, 2020 was a lost summer. No internships, summer jobs looked bleak and graduation was dampened.

Joseph Hernandez Terrejon was one of them. Now, he runs a platform that connects barbers, hair stylists and makeup technicians with their clients in a safe environment.

Hernandez Terrejon, a 21-year-old Pasadena City College student, came up with the idea after his sister's hair salon closed and she began booking at-home appointments.


The app became a reality thanks to EmbarcLA, an entrepreneurship program for youth, developed with pre-accelerator program Startup Boost, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles mayor's office.

The program is run by Tania Mulry, co-director of Startup Boost LA, and Moaz Hamid, founder and CEO of health tech startup MVMT.AI. It aims to demystify the world of tech to youth who often don't get access to such training. Judene Small, the managing partner of CHIENET and co-founder of RootsxWings Digital, is also a co-director.

"Many said they are the first in their family to go to college and some had a family member running a small business," Hamid told dot.LA.

Hamid has run incubator programs and accelerators before, but those usually accept around 10 internships or 30 people per class. Within 24 hours of announcing EmbarcLA, over 110 students had applied. The program accepted all of them and began class the next morning.

To build a program schedule, Hamid took cues from the students. Over 90% of them came from low-income households and a few from foster care, he said.

The five-week workshop connected students, aged 16 to 24, with entrepreneurs and company founders through virtual classes, panels and mentorship. It was such a hit that Hamid said he expects the sessions to keep monthly sessions going until the next summer program 2021.

By the time Hernandez Terrejon joined, he had already sketched the prototype of an app that would essentially run like a ride-sharing platform for barbers, hair stylists and makeup technicians.

"[My sister] started doing hair appointments at home, getting more clients than she would in the salon," Hernandez Terrejon said. "And right away something in my head clicked."

At the end of August, he pitched the idea over Zoom to L.A.'s mayor during a demo day hosted by EmbarcLA.

Hernandez Terrejon learned about the program after the Chamber of Commerce canceled their 'LA Tech Pipeline' summer program. He had applied for a position at Snapchat through the program. He said workshops at EmbarcLA taught him how to research the market and demographics of his app idea, "so I could be able to present it to anyone, whether it be the mayor, investors or a business."

EmbarcLA participants pitch L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti their ideas over Zoom..

One panel explored how to become an innovator while working a job at a big company. Another talk led by actor, musician and playwright Marcus Harmon took up writing as a form of entrepreneurship.

Some students tuned in from bathrooms or closets, wherever they could find quiet space. And when Hamid heard several relied on their phone's data plans to join sessions, the directors switched from a data-heavy program to Zoom, which requires less bandwidth.

Hernandez Terrejon, who studies design, recently passed his app design along to programmers. One company, called Squire, offers a similar product to his but so far it only books appointments for barbers.

"I'm never going to forget when one of the guest speakers that said 10 years ago nobody thought strangers would be picking up strangers to drop them off places," Hernandez Terrejon said. "Nothing is impossible in the tech industry, especially when you're an entrepreneur."

Two other participants in EmbarcLA, Alan David and his brother Orlando Leon, plan to apply what they learned this summer to their family's food truck business. UCLA grad Rayvonn Anthony Sanchez Rodriguez Lee, now a student at Santa Monica College, developed an idea for a nonprofit college and career mentorship program for high schoolers.

The program was supported by investors, executives and programs including Techstars Los Angeles, Los Angeles Cleantech fund and Grid 110.

***This story was updated to include future program dates, the L.A. mayor's office and co-director Judene Small.

https://twitter.com/frosebillington
francesca@dot.la

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

Cadence

LA Venture: Emilio Diez Barroso On Why Everyone Isn’t Cut Out To Be A Founder

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+ Shift.com, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
LA Venture: Emilio Diez Barroso On Why Everyone Isn’t Cut Out To Be A Founder
Photo: provided by LAV

On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Bold Capital Partner Emilio Diez Barroso talks about his entrepreneurial journey, what led him to become an investor and shares the qualities he looks for when investing in companies.

Bold Capital is a Series A fund that primarily focuses its investments in deep tech and biotech companies. But, like other funds, they make excuses to invest in other companies every now and then.

“We're always interested in things that have the potential to truly transform how things are done and uplift humanity,” he said.

In his experience with investing in early stage startups, Diez Barroso said “humility and vulnerability are assets and qualities in the journey, and you don’t feel like you have to have it all together with your investors.”

Which is why he looks for people who have “this capacity to take full responsibility for how they show up and they have a vision and they have the willingness to go and execute it.”

In addition to his work at Bold Capital, Diez Barroso also runs two family offices which provide him with a surplus of knowledge in the investment space.

“I wear two very different hats,” he said, “and I invest very differently when I'm investing for myself, when I'm investing for my family, and when I'm investing for LP’s.”

But before becoming an investor, Diez Barroso got his entrepreneurial start when he arrived in Los Angeles. He admits that he failed plenty of times because unlike in Mexico, where Diez Barroso grew up, he didn’t have the same access to the contacts or resources of his family business.

“I would say yes to every opportunity that came my way,” he said, “I had started or partnered with someone and co-founded and most of them I had no idea what I was doing, so most of them really failed and a few got lucky enough to succeed.”

After learning how these startups worked and investing his own capital into several companies, he soon realized he was a much better investor than an operator.

“I think we're not all cut out for the journey,” he said, “and I don't think we should all be cut out for that journey. I think that it takes a very different character to start something from scratch.”

Throughout his own journey, Diez Barroso acknowledged that he struggled with his own identity and need to feel like the smartest person in the room. Once he better understood his own motivations, Diez Barroso was able to see that he was chasing the next reward, the next carrot.

“It's fun to close the deal and it's fun to grow the business,” Diez Barroso said. “But what I hadn't been in contact with is how much of my fuel was derived from trying to outrun the idea of not feeling good enough.”

Of course, he’s not alone. “I see a lot of entrepreneurs, activists all across fields and I can tell the difference when they're running from this fuel that is sort of very quick burning because there is an anxiety that oftentimes makes us narrow minded,” Diez Barroso said. “We are so attached to what we think should happen that we leave very little space for the possibilities.”

dot.LA Reporter Decerry Donato contributed to this post.

Click the link above to hear the full episode, and subscribe to LA Venture on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

This podcast is produced by L.A. Venture. The views and opinions expressed in the show are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of dot.LA or its newsroom.

Xos Receives Multi-Million Dollar Order for Armored EVs

David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

Xos Receives Multi-Million Dollar Order for Armored EVs
Xos/Loomis
The United States transportation sector is rapidly adopting electric vehicle technologies at every level. From aircrafts, to tractor trailers, to sedans and bicycles, no means of locomotion is off limits…even armored trucks.
Read moreShow less
RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS
LA TECH JOBS
interchangeLA
Trending