I was inspired a few weeks ago to meet the Williams family of Helena, Arkansas, who have returned to their home town to start a business, the Delta Dirt Distillery. They’re making sweet potato vodka, and hope by getting in on the ground floor of a food trend, they can build a successful nationwide business.

I found the story particularly evocative because Harvey Williams recognized the courage of his great-grandfather, who managed to buy the farm where he was a sharecropper. That doesn’t sound like a big deal today. But if you understand his actions in the context of the history of Helena, which is only about 15 miles away from the large swathe of land where the Elaine Sharecroppers Massacre happened in 1919, you understand why Harvey honors his great-grandfather’s memory.

Because of his courage, the family owned a farm – that’s the kind of asset required to build intergenerational wealth that in turn enables entrepreneurship.The Williams’ other motivation is to be a catalyst for economic development in Helena, which has been losing population and has an extraordinarily high poverty rate, just under 50% as of the latest Census figures. A large portion of the future lies in the hands of entrepreneurs like the Williams family.

To recover from the pandemic and to rebuild, the incoming Biden Administration should focus on policies that help entrepreneurs working in hard-hit communities. That’s the case that venture capitalist Seth Levine and I make in our upcoming book, The New Builders. We’re going to be speaking about it at an event at MIT next week. 

— Elizabeth MacBride, founder, Times of Entrepreneurship  Here’s my story this week about the Delta Dirt Distillery
Sign up for the MIT event here.

Times of Entrepreneurship Stories of the Week

Out Of Delta Dirt, A Bright Clean Splash Of Hope: A Sweet Potato Distillery

A successful Black family moves to the town where they grew up, sinking their life savings into a new venture. They could become a catalyst.

Read the Story »

A Mental Health App Makes A Fast Impact

By find parters in Liberia, Kenya, Lebanon and the middle of the United States, Cress Health seeks to widen its reach.

Read the Story »

Top Scientists’ Wish Lists

Human tissue replication, recyclable face masks and rapid-manufacture ventilators are among the innovations that could change the course of a pandemic.

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The New Builders
Date: January 27, 2021, Noon ET
Information available here.

Times of E Editor Elizabeth MacBride, Seth Levine and Malia Lazu discuss the future of American #entrepreneurship.

Mental Health for Entrepreneurs
Date: February 2, 2021
Location: Virtual
Information available here

The entrepreneurial community faces higher rates of depression and suicide than the general population. Entrepreneur Erik Severinghaus, author of Scale Your Everest: How to Be A Resilient Entrepreneur, is leading this discussion, hosted by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago.

Entrepreneurship Rocks: Music as an Entrepreneurial Venture
Date: February 9, 2021
Location: Virtual
Information available here

Greg Harris, CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, discusses the intersection between music and entrepreneurship.

Technology Powering the Return To Work, Play, Spectate
Date: February 11, 2021
Location: Virtual
Information available here

This is the first of two sessions hosted by tech enterprises and startups at the Innovation Institute for Fan Experience to discuss new technologies to help those holding live events resume them safely. 


MassCEC’s InnovateMass Program
Deadline: Rolling
Information available here.

This program offers up to $250,000 in grant funding and technical support to applicant teams deploying new clean energy technologies or innovative combinations of existing technologies with a strong potential for commercialization. Applicants must run Massachusetts-based companies or have a location in the state and have a technology that fits specific guidelines.

Chandler Innovations
Deadline: Rolling
Location: Chandler, Arizona
Information available here.

Entrepreneurs who live or work in Chandler, Arizona, are eligible to apply for this business incubator. Business ideas must be tech-based.

This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.

A business journalist for 20 years, am the founder of Times of Entrepreneurship and the co-author of The New Builders.