ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective (STLEEC) has named LaShana Lewis Director of the regional Collective to lead the organization in developing equitable change to the entrepreneur ecosystem so that an entrepreneur’s success will not be pre-determined by their race or gender.
Lewis, CEO of L. M. Lewis Consulting and an entrepreneur in the tech and diversity fields, was selected as a Fulbright Specialist in February 2019 and has lent her knowledge as a tech director and consultant for nonprofits and startups around the country. She also has volunteered at the planetarium in the Saint Louis Science Center, served as a board member with the St. Louis Downtown Neighborhood Association, founded the LGBT Center of St. Louis, and sat on committees for multiple organizations dedicated to improving the St. Louis region.
Prior to founding her company, Lewis was an apprentice with LaunchCode, which led to full-time employment as a systems and software engineer at Mastercard where she also led the PRIDE business resource group. She quickly became a role model for diversity in the technology community and met with President Barack Obama as part of the nationwide TechHire Initiative, meant to encourage employers to hire and train people with non-traditional tech backgrounds.
“The Collective is excited to move into our next phase of work and have LaShana lead the charge,” said Lindsey Harrison, program manager at BioSTL and STLEEC steering committee member. “Her passion for diversity, entrepreneurial spirit and relationships in the St. Louis community are a great combination to help the Collective expand membership, build sustainability for the Collective and drive change in the startup ecosystem.”
In 2016, BioSTL launched the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective with 11 entrepreneur support organizations to create a first-of-its-kind regional collaborative effort focused on ensuring that systems meant to support entrepreneurs are equitable, especially related to race and gender.
After receiving a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation at the end of 2016, STLEEC held The St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Summit to brainstorm ecosystem solutions from 150 participants. The Summit resulted in the creation of four action committees focused on: access to resources, measuring and sharing data, diversifying networks, and ecosystem navigation.
As the initial stages of the Collective are moving to a more sustainable format, BioSTL will still actively manage finances and play a lead role among its peers and partners in ensuring success and sustainability of the Collective but will take a more ‘backstage’ approach to this leadership, empowering others to advance equity-related work in the ecosystem.
“My work has always reoriented me to doing the kind of work that the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective brings to the table. To see a program like this grow out of the need for equitable distribution of resources speaks volumes for the St. Louis region. I’m excited to move the Collective’s efforts forward, and expand diversity within the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Lewis.