We had the good fortune of connecting with Davina Ugochukwu and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Davina, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Since learning about the extent of human trafficking in our communities 16 years ago while in college, I’ve wanted to find a way to be a part of the solution without replicating services and resources that already exist. During my Master of Laws program, where I was studying the intersection of business and technology with human trafficking, I spoke with survivors who did a lot of advocacy work with little to no compensation. I also spoke with survivors who had been invited to speak or perform at major conferences and events, but had not been offered any compensation, accommodation, or help with travel. Finally, I spoke with survivors who stated they signed contracts for paid opportunities with little to no protections afforded to the survivors in the contracts. These stories showed me that survivors were being re-exploited by powerful outlets who steal ownership of the work of survivors, do not compensate them, or take advantage of their stories and talents. This puts a stumbling block in the efforts of survivors who want to advocate against human trafficking as lived experience experts, creating a gap in their protection, financial stability, and, ability to live independent lives away from their traffickers.

As a trauma-informed attorney with a passion for creativity and entrepreneurship, I have the skillsets and passion needed to close the gap created by this form of re-exploitation. With my skill sets, I can help survivors feel empowered by giving them the resources they need to continue their advocacy work while reaping the benefits to which they are entitled. Specifically, MiCreate connects survivors to free legal services for contract drafting, intellectual property protections and business formation, business coaching, financial mentorship, and a survivor community with local partners teaming up against human trafficking. Ultimately, MiCreate aims to be the world’s foremost incubator and network of innovators, creatives, and entrepreneurs dedicated to ending all forms of human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
When I first started MiCreate, I focused solely on providing intellectual property protections to survivors, such as speaker/performer engagement contracts, copyright registration and trademark application submission. During the consultation phase of onboarding potential clients, I realized that many survivors want to start businesses around their advocacy work, as well as gain skills in industries that allow for professional growth. I immediately pivoted the services I was providing to include business coaching sessions and help survivors form and grow their business ideas or endeavors. It was not hard to pivot but taking care of client’s start-up costs has been a challenge due to a lack of funds.

Now, MiCreate is a network for entrepreneurs who have experienced human trafficking to connect to free legal services, business and financial mentorship, and a survivor community and a partner for local organizations teaming up against human trafficking. Specifically, MiCreate runs three programs, Roadmap to Business (R2B), Next Steps, and the Youth Entrepreneurship Program (YEP), all of which provide free services to survivors.

R2B assists human trafficking survivors with free training on how to form and manage businesses or social enterprises. There are 3 phases of R2B: incubate, incorporate, and accelerate, during which survivors develop their business ideas, incorporate their business and connect with trusted MiCreate partners survivors for logo design and brand development, business plan creation and marketing and pricing strategy, financial coaching, and tax compliance. Next Steps helps survivors who already have businesses to achieve further growth through MiCreate’s partners. YEP works with opportunity youth ages 14-24 who are not in school, are unemployed, and at-risk of being trafficked on job-readiness skill-building and entrepreneurship training. After successfully going through YEP, graduates are then provided wrap-around resources to obtain paid opportunities, apprentice in their chosen industry or create a micro-business.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
One of my favorite areas in Houston is the EaDo neighborhood, since it’s pretty walkable with options to see shows, enjoy different bars, and eat a variety of different types of food. I would also take them to see a rooftop movie at Rooftop Cinema, and get some tickets to a ballet or play. Finally, we would probably see a concert and visit one of the arcades such as Game of Dreams esports arcade, or something more old school, like (the recently closed) Mr. Pixel’s Classic Arcade.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to thank my partner, Angela, for being supportive through the start-up phase of MiCreate. She has always encouraged me through the many uncertainties that come with running a start-up nonprofit, allows me to bounce ideas around with her, and attends the various events I am involved with to show her support.

I would also like to thank Stand Up for Kids as they taught me about human trafficking through their work with unaccompanied homeless youth and youth living on the streets. Volunteering with them sparked something in me that has never burned out.

Finally my long-term volunteer and content manager, Claire, has been instrumental in MiCreate’s expansion, as well as in gaining clarity as to what MiCreate is and is not. Aside from her volunteerism, Claire is an amazing creative who has ensured MiCreate’s social media presence is true to it mission in a beautiful, professional and bold way.

Website: https://www.micreate.org/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/micreateus/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/micreate/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/micreateus

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MiCreateUS

Image Credits
Photo 1 – Claire Sauter Photo 2 – A 2nd Cup Photo 3 – United Against Human Trafficking Photo 4 – The Cause Collaborative

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