Updated: Nov 16
Running a tech nonproift is not easy, but it would not be possible without the team of people in this picture and so many more who aren't pictured. Thanks for making the fifth year anniversary one for the books!---Nash
Last month, we celebrated the fifth anniversary of The Bean Path. In the midst of it all, I did take a moment to reflect on the significance of this milestone. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labour, just half of small businesses in the United States survive the five year mark.
When I started on this journey back in 2018, I wasn’t sure how the community would respond to The Bean Path. However, what I did believe was that it was needed. Myself and fellow tech professionals and enthusiasts, volunteered our time, energy and expertise to host Tech Help Desk on Saturdays at local libraries throughout Jackson. The response was overwhelming. For months, people of all ages, colors and backgrounds came to Tech Help Desk to get assistance with everything from how to effectively operate their smartphones to developing apps and websites.
The demand was great, but I knew we could do more. Jackson deserved more. I started asking myself, “how can we close the digital divide?”. Even in technology there's a clear line between the haves and have nots. Digital divide refers to the gap between people who have access to modern information and communications technology and those who don't. I don’t think that was any more apparent than during the COVID pandemic.
Here we are, five years later and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. The Bean Path has served over 3000 residents and small businesses, offered more than 150 programs, hosted over 200 youth via our summer camps and after school programs and provided approximately $15,000 in scholarships and grants. Our Tech Talk series brings in industry leaders who share their experiences, expertises and opportunities.
Last year, we opened The Makerspace, home of The Bean Path and the first phase of the JXN Tech District. The 6,500 square foot facility not only supports workforce development, but is Jackson's premier STEAM hub and offers classes in 3D printing, fashion design / sewing, laser cutting, robotics / AI (artificial intelligence), drones, UX (user experience) design, VR (virtual reality) and coding. The Makerspace is also a great place for creatives and innovators who are interested in developing a business idea, honing new skills, or creating prototypes. This year we opened The Bean Barn, which is another indicator of the movement of the developing Tech District. The Bean Barn’s openness allows us to host events like robotics and drone-flying competitions and skate party fundraisers.
While this journey has not always been easy, here are a few things that I’ve learned along the way.
Everyone should have access to technology. It's no longer a luxury, but a fundamental right. Technology is a path towards a more equitable society. It empowers individuals to connect, learn and thrive in ways previously unimaginable.
Collaboration works! It not only works, but it fuels innovation. Our partnerships with Microsoft, Jackson Public Schools, Mississippi Coding Academies, Innovate Mississippi, Succeed and Elevate, and Magnolia Sunset Markets are just a few of the success stories we have developed over the years.
Jackson is ready! Mississippi is ready. No, we are not Silicon Valley or Austin, Texas, but we are primed and ready. The Bean Path has developed an amazing network of staff, consultants, volunteers, donors and advocates who see and believe in the vision. All of our classes at the Makerspace are taught by local experts.
I believe that technology can be a force of good that not only transforms our lives and communities for the better, but can provide solutions that are technologically sound, deeply human-centric and makes a meaningful difference in people’s lives. I’m excited about the path forward and building a brighter future for the communities we serve here in Jackson and beyond!
Dr. Nashlie Sephus is a proud native of Jackson, Mississippi. She is the founder of nonprofit The Bean Path, which provides individuals access to technical expertise and guidance and the developer of The JXN Tech District.