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Catching up with former American Dream Fellow, Jessica Boyd

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The Cisneros Center sat down with Jessica Boyd, a 2014 - 2015 American Dream Fellow, to hear how her experience with the Center has shaped her career trajectory and her future goals.

What have you been doing since your time at the Center?

I am the Executive Director at the Community Venture Foundation which is the non-profit arm of Startup Junkie Consulting and our mission is to build the entrepreneurial community in Arkansas and surrounding regions. We do a lot of different things that fall within that. We have three pillars. The first is education. We have a variety of programs and most of them are right now targeted toward youth. The second is Engagement. We engage with different entrepreneurs- aspiring entrepreneurs and those already established in the entrepreneurial community. We support existing organizations that work in the entrepreneurial community.

Did your time as a Fellow at the Cisneros Center for New Americans help you prepare for your current position?

The Cisneros Center really helped me make the connections that I needed in order to get this position. Even beyond that, some of the contacts that I’m making now to help set up workshops, or ask for advice or to help get funding, I met through my time at the Cisneros Center. The network that I built from being a Fellow, for even the short amount of time that I've been here, has been very beneficial for me

As part of our mission in supporting entrepreneurs and other endeavors, we focus a lot on social ventures and nonprofits that need strategic support. So right now I'm doing strategic consulting for an organization called Magdalene Serenity house. They're a non profit that helps women survivors of sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and prostitution. Often times both of those come with addiction and it's a sanctuary of healing for these women. I can attribute 90% of the strategic planning skills that I have to the Cisneros Center and our time doing all of the strategic planning for the Fellowship. We really had to start almost completely from scratch and that was a really grueling and rigorous process but it's helped me do something really similar for this organization.

I also learned a lot about how good teams function and how everyone is held accountable. Doing what they say they're going to do and then getting it done. I was a very hard worker and I had a lot of trouble delegating and not doing things myself. Working on a team with a lot of professionals and wonderful people really helps you learn that you can't do everything. In order to do better at what you have to do, you have to lean on and rely on other people in your team. I think that was a very valuable skill.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I’m already an Executive Director but I do really want in the next five years, to grow Community Venture into a recognizable branch. Into an organization that is seen as giving back to the community. To build it into a sustainable organization that can continue after I'm not here. I'd really love to see the benefits of all of that hard work. I love what I do. And I want to remain open to a variety of opportunities. But as long as I lead an organization that is bringing change and help to people who need it, then I am always going to want to do that.

I've been interested in such a wide variety of different issues throughout my life and I think that working with an organization that is entrepreneurial and using entrepreneurship as a tool toward economic advancement is a way to marry all of my interests.

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