Black Futures in Business: Celebrating The Link Between Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Diversity
Author: Melinda Crouchley
Posted: February 5, 2018
Demetrius MensahIt all started with shoes. 

Last month, an interactive exhibit titled “Traditionally Unconventional: Why Not Me?” was unveiled at the KMC by the Center for Retail Leadership around the artwork and actions of Demetrius Mensah, a creative entrepreneur who moved to Portland, OR from Milwaukee, WI in 2013 hoping to pursue his passion for footwear design. 

Demetrius’ #whynotme mentality is built around four key principles: “Know who you are, know what you’re about, know what you’re doing, and know why you're doing it.” This mantra has propelled him to work creatively with brands like Adidas, Nike, Apple, Jordan brand, Reebok, Keen and many more.
“Partnering with PSU gives me the opportunity to speak directly to students, and present them with an alternative approach to accomplishing their goals. By sharing the mindset that has been the catalyst for my success, the next person can innovate that- and the possibilities of what can be done will continue to grow,” said Demetrius.

The  exhibit ran from January 18-31 and shuttered its doors, papering over the intricate and colorful shoe designs with black butcher paper. The timeline of Mensah’s achievements and success are still in plain view for the passer-by.
But the display and affirmation of black excellence does not stop there -- not at The School of Business.

On February 7 at 5:30 p.m., 11 more black creatives and entrepreneurs will take the stage for “Different Strokes: A Panel of Black Creatives and Entrepreneurs” hosted in the Karl Miller Center Atrium. Pan-African entrepreneurs, business owners, and creatives will share their stories, success, challenges, and hopes of being leaders in the Portland community. This event is in collaboration with the PSU Cultural Resource Centers, School of Business, and the Pan-African Commons. 

Black Futures month will continue at PSU and The School of Business throughout February with more events hosted by the Center for Retail Leadership and in conjunction with Demetrius Mensah. A new pop-up exhibit in KMC 155 running February 8-28 will play on the “Traditionally Unconventional” theme with GRAIN, showcasing inspiring stories of black pioneers and innovators, past and present. The exhibit highlights remarkable individuals who went against the grain with action that have collectively influenced millions. 

Demetrius Mensah workDemetrius hopes that by sharing untold stories of the people that inspired him, visitors will be challenged to open their minds, see things in a new light, and walk away with a different view of innovation.

“My aim is to inspire others to reach their full potential, regardless of their circumstances. Challenge the status quo, rise up in the face of adversity and don’t be afraid. You don’t have to be great to start, you just have to start to be great,” said Demetrius. 

The exhibit will culminate in a Celebration Event on Thursday, February 22 in the Karl Miller Center Atrium, including a panel discussion about creativity and innovation in the black community. 


Additionally, the Karl Miller Center Atrium will play host to these February events:
Say Hey! Networking Event - 2/20
Future of Business: A Student's Perspective - 2/23
See Beyond the Numbers; In Honor of Black Futures Month - 2/28

Suwadu Jallow, Accounting ‘18, and Tien James, Assistant Professor of Management at PSU’s School of Business, are heavily involved in the planning of “See Beyond the Numbers” on February 28. The event invites all students to learn more about the accounting profession, and opportunities, the changes to the Student Incidental Fees, and Financial Wellness sessions. It is a collaboration between the Pan-African Commons & AICPA Legacy

Suwadu's vision is to ensure that students come out of the event with knowledge they didn't have before -- and to make smart financial decisions. The quote by Angela Davis, "We must always attempt to lift as we climb", has always resonated and guided Suwadu.

“I hope students will gain information that will help them to make more informed decisions about their finances, and be exposed to opportunities and information related to the accounting industry and Student Fee Committee,” said Jallow. 

It started with shoes and expanded to finances -- always with an eye to the future. She wants a hand in shaping Portland business to reflect the spirit of entrepreneurship, rooted in innovation and filtered through a lens of diversity.