5 Questions with Talib Graves-Manns, Founder of Knox St. Studios

July 16th, 2020

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Talib Graves-Manns, a fourth-generation entrepreneur, embodies a self-described “Blue-Blood Hustle.” The entrepreneurial history of his family has fueled his passion to build innovative businesses. From 2015-2016, Talib served as the Entrepreneur in Residence with Google for Entrepreneurs and Code2040 at the American Underground in Durham. Since then, he has founded or cofounded four businesses centered on Black excellence and upward mobility: Knox St. Studios, Partners in Equity Fund, Life on Autopilot, and Black Wall Street Homecoming. He is responsible for business strategy and growth in all four organizations.

Talib holds a Bachelor of Science from Hampton University and a Masters of Business Administration from Wake Forest University Schools of Business. He is also the 2015 recipient of the Triangle Business Journal, Corporate Leader in Diversity Award. Previous to becoming a full-time entrepreneur Talib worked in predictive analytics, CRM management, and social media analytics. The Knox St. Studios leadership team consists of Selena Haggins, Director of Curriculums & Programs, and Richard Brown, Director Tech Career.

Knox St. Studios received a grant from the Techstars Foundation for 2020.

01. Give us the elevator pitch for Knox St. Studios.

Knox St. Studios connects and equips current or aspiring entrepreneurs across the Triangle area of North Carolina and beyond with the skills needed to create businesses, jobs, intellectual property, and community wealth for generations to come.

02. How does your organization create a more diverse and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem?

The Knox St. Studios Theory of Change is straightforward: we connect and equip current or aspiring entrepreneurs across the Triangle area of North Carolina and beyond with the skills needed to create businesses, jobs, intellectual property, and community wealth for generations to come. By connecting community stakeholders (primarily African Americans) into a codependent network while also equipping community stakeholders with the data and educational curriculums (aligned with business trends), we will increase the number of underserved community stakeholders who are positioned to thrive in the business trajectory for the future of North Carolina and beyond! We expect to experience the positive externalities of job creation, generational wealth creation, entrepreneurial venture creation, growth in STEM course work, and growth of small to medium-sized businesses.

03. How will the grant from the Techstars Foundation be used to further the mission of your organization?

As the Road to Zero Wealth (presented by Prosperity Now) reports states, “it is estimated that by the year 2053 African American wealth will be Zero.” This statistic is directly correlated to trends in entrepreneurship (lack of resources, under-funding, etc), property ownership, and technical education. Our job at Knox St. Studios is to reverse this statistic. The Techstars Foundation grant will be used to invest in our programs, staff, and virtual (online) offerings — our mission is to reverse this statistic stated above!

04. How did you come to do this work and why is it important to you personally?

As a fourth-generation entrepreneur who has been fortunate to participate in the positive externalities and impact of African American entrepreneurship on community, ownership, and commerce, it has always been my intention to utilize the education and resources I have been bestowed with to uplift my community. Over the course of my academic and professional career, I have always been intentional about learning, creativity, and the application of innovation to solve problems closest to my community. In regards to the opportunities that have presented themselves over the past four to five years, I am a firm believer that the following quote is appropriate: “I don't believe in luck, luck only happens when opportunity meets preparation.”

Here is a brief origin story. In 2015 I was referred to a fellow Black businessman in Silicon Valley who was working for a top Venture Capital Firm. I began to research the firm, read one of the founder’s books, and decided that I would spend $350 of my last $600 on a flight to Silicon Valley for a Fireside chat the firm was hosting. During the two days that I was in Silicon Valley it was my intention to learn as much as I could about that firm and team, and ultimately submit for a job in the VC firm. However the next day over lunch I met the fellow who was hiring for a Google For Entrepreneurs (Now, Google for Startups) / Code 2040 Entrepreneur in Residence role based in Durham. I immediately jumped at the opportunity, decided to put my career interest (becoming an investor) on hold. The rest is history. The Durham Community (big shout out to American Underground and the Black Wall Street Homecoming team) opened its arms and welcomed me in!

05. Tell us the story of a specific entrepreneur you are proud to have supported.

We are proud to support Jasmine Adair Flood: Graphic Design, Founder of https://www.jasmineflood.com/ based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Jasmine is a great example of an entrepreneur who believes what we believe — that “you lift as you climb.” Over the past four years, Jasmine has not only been a student of our programs (leadership series programs) but also a teacher (web design, graphic design, and small business presentation courses). Her ability to provide a consistent product, excellent customer service, and a creative eye that seems to always “get it” make Jasmine an entrepreneur posited for great success!


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