- Entrepreneur Name: Jeffrey Martin
- Venture Name: honorCode
- Impact Focus Area(s): Education, Employment Generation
- Business Stage (Ideation, Startup, Early, Later, Mature): Early
- Year Venture Established: 2015
- Business Type: Nonprofit Social Enterprise
Social entrepreneurship is about solving problems. Tell us about the challenge you are focused on addressing and why it is critical that we make progress.
“The social change we are trying to impact is to make sure that all of the new businesses here in Atlanta source talent from our city instead of outsourcing it from other places. When you look at our major growing industries like film (which is $9.5B annually), fintech, IOT, and others, we have a booming technology sector. But if you look at Georgia schools, a little less than 5% are teaching some form of computer science.
Here in Atlanta we are focused on our most vulnerable population- black and brown students- and more specifically black students that identify as queer or gender non-conforming. At honorCode we are working to ensure that these vulnerable populations can have a way of making a living for themselves at the end of the day.
It’s critical that we make progress on this issue because we talk about our city’s proud civil rights history, but if you look at recent trends the black folks are being pushed out of many neighborhoods they used to reside in. We can’t keep doing this thing where we are planning for the future, when we haven’t turned to build new capacity around the things that are not working today like our models around post-secondary education attainment, workforce development, and career pipeline. Atlanta will not ever be the city it says it is without us taking action.”
Entrepreneurship is a journey that requires connections and support from a wide array of stakeholders across the ecosystem to help successfully identify, start, and grow a social enterprise.
“It’s hard for me to talk about my experience because it is a bit of unicorn journey growing up in East Lake, attending Paideia, going on to Brown and Wharton, Teach for America, and Goldman Sachs. A lot of folks won’t have the same access points because of those networks and that narrative.
Looking back, honorCode grew out of a concept paper that I wrote and sent to Carol Naughton who is the President of the Purpose Built Communities. She knew me since I was 10 years old as I grew up in East Lake and went to Drew Charter School. Because of Carol’s feedback, which ripped my concept paper apart, honorCode changed from a model of creating and running its own school and instead became focused on providing teacher training and education to better deliver computer science across existing schools.
Center for Civic Innovation (CCI) also played a role as I was introduced to their Fellowship program through the Penn Social Impact House Fellowship. Those networks were connected through Echoing Green which helped me to meet CCI’s founder Rohit Malhotra. So my college network has been important as well.
I was part of CCI’s inaugural Civic Innovation Fellows class back in 2016. CCI for me was very important for relationship development as I was connected to Val Porter who connected me to leaders of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta which led to find my executive coach Kim Anderson formerly of Families First and now with Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative (AWBI). The CCI experience expedited that important relationship building.
Additionally winning Forbes Change the World Entrepreneurship Competition catapulted us into a space where others took notice including Points of Light’s Civic Accelerator (CivicX) which we recently completed. CivicX provided a platform for us to market our work as we won an award for greatest impact. We are hopeful that the CivicX exposure will lead to investment funding in the coming year.”
Why Georgia’s Social Impact Ecosystem Matters
Being an entrepreneur is hard and it’s even more challenging when you are a social entrepreneur as your business model and / or structure doesn’t follow the same path as traditional start-ups.
“When we look at investment, very few of those dollars go to women and people of color. I have a very quintessential meritocracy path; however, because we are in the state of Georgia instead of California which doesn’t have as strong of an impact investing ecosystem, dollars have been slow to fund scalable ideas.
I would like to see our Investor and philanthropic community do some customer discover work as part of this ecosystem building effort. We can benefit from taking some ideas from the design thinking space to create true alternative investment approaches that can get to civic entrepreneurs faster. By investment, it’s not just about dollars, but connections to expertise to do various things like developing better program evaluation to prove our results and models.”
Interested in learning more about Jeffrey and honorCode, please visit:
- Jeffrey on LinkedIn
- honorCode in the News