Inspirational Entrepreneurs | The BIG Pitch Winner Chris James
During the BIG Pitch, a pitch competition for entrepreneurs of color, there was such anticipation and excitement in the room because of the passion for change you could feel from the entrepreneur’s pitches. Chris James, founder of The Roots Art Connection, was one of those who especially excited us. Chris walked away a winner, and we have a feeling you’ll know why after reading. For Chris, there’s no such thing as working the typical 9-5. Instead, he has immersed himself into his business and melded into his life, making it his life’s mission to use art to connect people to their roots and culture.
Follow along this Q & A to learn more about Chris’ work in the Central Arkansas area and his future business plans now that school is quickly approaching. He’s certainly not letting a pandemic get in his way!
1. How did you come up with the idea for The Roots Art Connection?
The Roots Art Connection was a dream before I even knew it. I began doing the work in 2010 by going into Argenta Alternative School (NLR Academy) and giving the students a platform to express themselves through art; poetry, music, dance, and writing. Years later, that passion became a little more organized, and I gave it the name The Roots Art Connection in 2013. I wanted to use art to connect people to their roots emotionally and culturally.
2. Why is the mission so important to you?
The Roots Art Connection mission is my life work. I am impacting lives. The people of the world have been made heavy due to their trauma. The work I do helps them become lighter. It’s needed work.
3. How has the Covid-19 crisis impacted your business?
COVID-19 caused five of my schools to cancel for the year, but it has also forced us to become innovative. We are now using technology to offer services in a way that we never have. I love it.
4. How will you put the prize money to work in your business?
The $10,000 I won will help my organization offer art integrated education services to potentially 1,000 more students by 2021. We are beginning now to choose our new districts to serve. We will more than likely offer these services virtually.
5. Have you ever had a mentor, and what did they teach you?
I have had several mentors, whether they knew it or not. I’ve always been a sponge. I soak up knowledge from everyone I can. I learned from a poetry buddy years ago that it was possible to teach poetry and make a living. I learned from the organization Alternate Roots that nonprofits should think like FOR PROFITS to create sustainable revenue because grants will not fund the movement.
6. Why do you feel it is essential to have diverse voices in mentorship positions?
I think it’s important to have diverse perspectives in your circle because it makes you more well-rounded. It helps you to see the full spectrum of your vision from many eyes.
Overall, I just want to say that I’m super happy about THE BIG PITCH COMPETITION! It gave me and my business a leg up, and I’m eternally grateful. I look forward to reporting back to you all about the work that we do.
To learn more about The BIG Pitch or to get involved, please visit www.thebigpitch.org.