Meet Dr. Jaleesa Wells
Founder of BossiRainbow LLC and Assistant Professor of Arts Administration at the University of Kentucky.
“I began working with Launch Blue to build my startup, which is a creative social enterprise called BossiRainbow LLC. BossiRainbow was established 4 years ago, and is still very much in the beginning stages. I started with the idea of creating a new art material out of either recycled plastic or a renewable material. Which led me to Launch Blue. I started working with Serenity Wright, Associate Director of Social Innovation from the Office of Technology Commercialization, and we had many conversations about the idea. I originally thought “Oh, this is 10 years away,” and Serenity said, “No, we can start creating the idea now!"
Q & A
Q1: What is your background and what are you doing now?
A1: “My background is in the arts, specifically in performing arts, but I’ve always been a crafter and maker. I completed my master's degree in arts administration policy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Before my MA, I served as an Americorps member with the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky and was placed with Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville for two years. Here, I learned about social enterprises. Their Restore is considered a social enterprise, as a commercial arm supporting the mission activities of the organization. Then I studied creative social enterprises in Scotland during my master’s degree at SAIC. I was really interested in learning more which led me to creative social entrepreneurship in Scotland as the central focus of my doctoral studies at Strathclyde Business School. This led to me becoming interested in not just studying but also practicing creative social entrepreneurship, and a couple of business ideas later I founded BossiRainbow LLC, a creative social enterprise studio.
Q2: What inspired you to come up with the idea for BossiRainbow?
A2: "For me, it wasn’t so much inspiration, as it was creative necessity. I really wanted to push myself to create more, so I started making wearable art in BossiRainbow. But, I had so many ideas and felt that I was compartmentalizing them all by focusing on only one form of creative expression. While I was meditating one afternoon, I started thinking of how I could see all my ideas intersecting each other. I thought maybe that's what the business wants to be and I need to open my mind to allow the opportunities to come together. Once I said the words, creative social enterprise studio, BossiRainbow made much more sense."
Q3: What has been the most rewarding part of founding your own startup?
A3: "The most rewarding part is getting to meet other people! Meeting new people to collaborate and work with is exciting and a lot of fun. When I started out in my entrepreneurial journey, I felt a little isolated, especially when I was living in Helensburgh, at the foothills of the highlands in Scotland. But since I've started to share my ideas more widely, especially through the VACE bootcamps and the Launch Blue programs, I've made great connections for BossiRainbow."
Q4: What community resources would you recommend to other founders?
A4: "My business is based in Berea, Kentucky which is a great resource for anyone trying to start a business in the arts or creative industries. I encourage people to connect with the people in their Small Business Development Center (SBDC), because even if they don't necessarily have a background or understanding in the context of your business, they know all the nitty gritty details of starting a business in your area, and can connect you with key information and people such as accountants, lawyers, etc, directly. Universities are also a good resource because they're built on the mission of sharing knowledge. Your nearest university might have an entrepreneurship bootcamp or an incubator program with resources. At the University of Kentucky, Mariam Gorjian is the New Ventures Manager for the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship (VACE) & the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC). She is a dynamic networker and amazing connector, and she is familiar with stakeholders and resources that you might want as you start your business."
Q5: What is one piece of advice you would share to anyone considering becoming a founder?
A5: “Do it! Spend time daydreaming and talking to people about your ideas, even if they don't fully understand it. A big part of building a successful enterprise is your ability to communicate your ideas and activities to a wide variety of stakeholders. Stakeholders can be customers and investors, and they are also your collaborators, partners, supply chain, friends, work colleagues, community groups, etc. We can only get creative social innovation to happen if we’re sharing our ideas widely."