Ward 5 resident Brandon Andrews owns or has become involved in a few District businesses that reveal his belief in the benefits of entrepreneurship.
He says adamantly, that Blacks should take a chance and start their own firms.
“Everybody can be an entrepreneur,” Andrews said in an interview with the Informer. “Everyone has the ability to open up a business or start a non-profit. The key is to meet a need. Anyone who wants to open a business should try to meet a need in the local community.”
Andrews works as the co/founder and chief product officer of Gauge, an artificial intelligence-enabled mobile market research firm and has responsibility for products, marketing and sales. He also serves as the CEO of The Inexorable LLC, a consulting firm specializing in management, scientific and technical fields. For Values Partnership, he works as a senior consultant. He also fulfills his duties as an advisory board member of Angels & Entrepreneurs which connects entrepreneurs with investors using tools such as crowd investing, venture capital industry analysis, regulatory commentary and tips on how to deal with angel investors.
Andrews’s entrepreneurial pursuits serve as part of the District’s Black business landscape. An August 26, 2020 post on the website Technical.ly DC reports nearly 30% of all businesses in the city count as Black-owned, a larger percentage than Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta and Boston. The website noted District Black businesses brought in more revenue in 2017 than the four cities cited above.
Working with ‘Shark Tank’ TV Show
Through his work at Values Partnerships, Andrews has managed to develop a relationship with the popular business television show “Shark Tank.” On “Shark Tank,” small businesses seek the funding of multi-millionaire and billionaire entrepreneurs such as Daymond John of the FUBU clothing company or Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, respectively.
Andrews said he works with “Shark Tank” producer Mark Burnett to bring Black entrepreneurs on the show.
“That show has about 30,000 applicants a year to appear on the show,” he said. “Needless to say, not all of those people get on. I organize events that reveal to people what it takes to get on the show. We work on their pitches and how to best answer the questions of the investors.”
Andrews said his “Shark Tank” work has been fruitful and notes that a few business owners in the District have appeared on the show.
On the Path to Entrepreneurship
Andrews, who comes from a small town in Alabama, made his way to Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, where he developed a sense of service to others.
“I would go to North Tulsa, where the historic Greenwood community is located,” he said. “That is where ‘Black Wall Street’ once existed. I just started knocking on doors and asking people how I could help. I found myself fixing leaks and watching after people’s kids.”
While Andrews didn’t start a business in Tulsa, his volunteerism led to an internship on Capitol Hill and a full-time job with U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) after finishing Oral Roberts in 2008. Working with Inhofe, he delved into foreign policy and defense matters. His knowledge gained by working in Inhofe’s office benefitted him as he would go on to become a part of the U.S. State Department’s speaker’s bureau, primarily on entrepreneurship, a few years later.
“In 2020, before the pandemic shut the country down, I went to Mongolia to teach people about entrepreneurship,” he said. “I have also traveled to Kyrgyzstan and Europe to talk about American entrepreneurship. I look forward to doing that again when the pandemic slows down.”
Advice for Black Entrepreneurs
Andrews said in order to be a successful entrepreneur, one doesn’t have to be a genius.
“When we think of great business people we think of Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg or Daymond John and how they are portrayed in the media and you should model yourselves after them,” he said.
“That isn’t what will make your business a success. As a business owner, you have to solve a problem. If you solve a problem and meet a need, you will be successful,” he said.
He said if one decides to open a business, they should make sure their finances are solid for a few months, have plans on how to promote their business and get ready to work really hard.
“Anyone can be an entrepreneur but how successful you are depends on you,” he said.