This interview is part of the City of Philadelphia’s Most Diverse Tech Hub initiative. Campus Philly is featuring the “Philly stories” of Black and Brown tech founders, entrepreneurs, and young professionals who are making an impact in the region, demonstrating why the Philadelphia region IS the most diverse tech hub.
Dr. Leslie Grace is an educator, author, publisher, social entrepreneur, philanthropist, and radio host who loves to empower children and their community. She is the founder of Elements of the Community, Inc., which provides educational, media relations, technology, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship programming for communities within the United States.
Dr. Grace has taught thousands of children and adults how to open their own businesses and manage their finances. Her research concentrates on the benefits and barriers associated with implementing financial literacy programming for adolescents in inner-city neighborhoods, and how their exposure to efficient financial literacy programming will result in significant behavior exchange and behavior modification.
Tell us about your “Philly story.” How are you connected to the Philadelphia region, and what is it about the region that you love most?
I grew up on water ice, pretzels, cheesesteak with Amoroso bread, and Tastykake. My family and I are a sports family. We are fanatics for the 76ers, Eagles, boxing, Flyers, and Phillies. My grandfather played baseball for the Philadelphia Stars back in the day. My father was a photographer for Channel 12 and my mother was a medical student.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I was “West Philadelphia born and raised,” until the drug epidemic of the 1980s wreaked havoc on my family and community, and we moved to the other side of town. My world was turned upside down and inside out, just like so many other children. I attended Simon Gratz High School and was a mediocre student that loved to read and write, but writing is what helped me get a college scholarship. When I was 16, I was featured in a newspaper article entitled “Hero of the Week” and was asked about my career goals. My quote read, “I want to sit in a room full of children and let them know they can make it despite all odds.”
What inspired you to create Elements of the Community, Inc.?
I created Elements of the Community Inc., because I believe that everyone is an element of the community, and with the proper resources, we all can succeed. Our goal is to reconnect, elevate, uplift, and expand an individual’s status in the community. We believe that every child should have an opportunity to continue their education and/or develop a startup company. Their zip code should not determine their altitude.
What advice would you give to a college student interested in starting their own business and pursuing the path of entrepreneurship in tech?
Intern or volunteer for a company or industry similar to the business you wish to create. Find a mentor or follow the footsteps of a pioneer in the industry. Study your industry, come together with like-minded individuals, and look to solve a problem. Entrepreneurs are problem solvers.
You’ve been teaching children about finance, tech, and entrepreneurship for years. How have these classes changed over the years with such an increased interest in tech?
While we are in a digital era, some communities are still falling into the technology gap. The pandemic forced individuals to go digital, but there is a need for digital equity. Some communities either lack access to technology or face barriers that restrict usage of digital technologies. Although there has been an increased interest in coding, app development, and blockchain, there are still so many being left behind.
If you were to give ONE piece of career advice to an aspiring tech professional in college right now, what would it be?
In my previous life as a college professor, I would read a motivational quote at the beginning of class each day. So, today’s motivational quote is by Michael Jordan: “I fail over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Failure is success turned inside out. If you haven’t met failure, that means that you haven’t tried anything. For any college student interested in pursuing a career in technology, always remember to problem-solve, innovate, research, and pilot your product or service.
Learn more about Elements of the Community, Inc., and Dr. Leslie Grace by connecting with her on LinkedIn, following her on Twitter, or by listening to her talk radio show Finance Geeks on Mondays at 7 pm and Saturdays at 11 am (Dr. Grace is always looking to feature new people who are “geeked out” about a product or service they created or are working on!).
Dr. Grace is also looking for content creators for an upcoming project. If you have experience in app development, blockchain, 3D printing, drones, cryptocurrency, mobile, music production and songwriting, agriculture, or videography, fill out the form here or email [email protected].