June 18, 2021 • By Ashley Rabinovitch
Even before she developed her first business concept, Jordyn Weaver MIE ’21 knew she was destined for entrepreneurship. “I viewed starting my own business as the best way to create the life I wanted,” she reflects.
The Charlotte, North Carolina, native had always dreamed of living in California, so she leapt at the opportunity to participate in an 11-day immersive business and career leadership experience with the Summer Institute for Emerging Managers and Leaders (SIEML). SIEML, a system initiative aimed at increasing diversity in graduate business programs at the six University of California business schools, offered exactly what Weaver was seeking: an introduction to top programs and industry leaders in a thriving hub for innovation. “The West Coast produces amazing companies,” she reasoned. “California seemed like the right place to be.”
She wasn’t disappointed. For nearly two weeks, Weaver forged connections with like-minded peers and industry leaders from across the state in hands-on workshops, networking events, and a case competition. “SIEML actually gave me my first opportunity to participate in a case competition,” she shares. “It was a valuable way to explore different avenues of business and learn how to improve a business concept in collaboration with a team.”
Ultimately, her time in California reaffirmed her desire to pursue a graduate degree within the UC system. While a number of programs caught her attention, the Master of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MIE) program at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business was the perfect fit.
She had recently founded a company while earning her degree at North Carolina Central University, but she lacked knowledge and resources to drive it forward. “The MIE program gave me the mentorship, connections and opportunities to grow as an entrepreneur,” she affirms.
Weaver developed the idea for her first startup as an undergraduate student when she realized that none of the businesses she frequented were Black-owned. Forefront, previously called the Black Market Company, is an e-commerce platform that promotes products and services owned by Black entrepreneurs and empowers those entrepreneurs to find an audience. “Think of it a mixture of Etsy and Instagram,” Weaver explains.
As she finishes her MIE, Weaver is working to reposition her brand to appeal to a global market of socially conscious shoppers outside of the Black community. She has no shortage of dreams for future expansion, like leveraging the power of influencer marketing or creating a business incubator for Black-owned enterprises. “Thankfully, the Merage School has connected me to mentors and coaches who can offer the feedback I need to grow,” she says.
Looking back, Weaver credits that first SIEML experience for welcoming her into the network that would accelerate her journey as an entrepreneur. “A lot of us have bright ideas that can impact and change the world,” she reflects. “We just need a chance to get our ideas off the ground.”