Before Cassius Palacio received a school email encouraging students to apply for the Spring 2021 Future Founders Be Your Own Boss Virtual Internship, he had never really thought about becoming an entrepreneur. Sure, he loved to come up with creative ideas and concepts, but the idea of turning those into a functioning business hadn’t crossed his mind. Yet something about this school email stuck with him, including – he admits – the chance to earn some extra cash before graduating Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy. So Cassius decided to give it a shot, submitting an application that quickly earned him a slot in our 2021 internship cohort.
When the program launched in the spring, Cassius says he didn’t expect his skills to stack up against some of his fellow Be Your Own Boss interns, many of whom had been running side hustles throughout high school. Yet this didn’t deter him from enthusiastically diving into the program, absorbing the entrepreneurship lessons offered by the Future Founders team, and working with his assigned group on the final project for the program: developing and pitching a full business in the Be Your Own Boss Pitch Competition.
For their business concept, Cassius and his team came up with the idea for JoYOUsly, a sustainable and socially conscious e-commerce clothing store that donates a percentage of its profits to provide workforce development opportunities for homeless youth and teach them sewing/design skills through hands-on experience. Like many great business ideas, it took a few iterations to get their concept just right. But Cassius says that the team was clear from the beginning…if they were going to create something great, it had to incorporate a social issue.
With their idea set, Cassius and his team got to work building a mockup of the JoYOUsly app. In one of the most elaborate mockups we’ve ever seen created in the Be Your Own Boss program, the team created the entire customer journey on JoYOUsly – from searching for a product and learning more about the indie designers behind each piece, to the checkout process that showcases how your dollars work to support homeless youth. In just a few short weeks, Cassius and team were able to create not just an idea, but an experience. And this experience was one that the judges fell in love with, awarding JoYOUsly 1st Place in the Spring 2021 Be Your Own Boss Pitch Competition.
Now a freshman studying architecture at the University of Southern California, Cassius is using the momentum from his first place victory to explore the entrepreneurial spirit that Be Your Own Boss brought to the surface. Specifically, he is investigating new opportunities to build for the Metaverse, as he views this virtual landscape as a completely blank canvas upon which he can sculpt and design his vision. However that doesn’t mean he doesn’t also think about the buildings that define our cities here and now. In fact, Cassius is also using his newly developed entrepreneurial skill sets volunteering for the Architecture + Advocacy Project at USC.
Focusing on how architecture and its design process often adversely affect BIPOC communities (think segregation, food deserts, displacement, etc), the Architecture + Advocacy Project works to solve the power imbalance between architects and the communities they design in, so that communities have actual agency over what gets built in their neighborhoods. The organization accomplishes this through a few monthods: 1. Equipping high school students in South Los Angeles with the knowledge and tools of architecture to increase their agency over their physical environments, 2. Inspiring BIPOC students to pursue careers in architecture, and 3. Developing the relationships between students and professors at USC as well as with South Los Angeles community members to reimagine the traditional ways architecture gate-keeps design knowledge and expertise.
While Cassius has always been one to seek out new opportunities and to volunteer his time and skills in order to make the world around him a better place, his time in the Future Founders Be Your Own Boss program really helped him understand how ideas can grow and change, and that it’s ok to let them evolve as you uncover more information. And it’s this ability to learn and grow with his ideas that has already made Cassius such a positive force for change. One we can’t wait to watch as he continues on his entrepreneurial journey.
Click here to learn more about the Be Your Own Boss program.
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