Michael Woods

Michael Woods

Entrepreneur, Co-Founder, Executive Director

Dream Builders 4 Equity 

In short, what do you do?

I am a co-founder (with Neal Richardson) and now serve as Executive Director of Dream Builders 4 Equity, a nonprofit that supports young people with owning and rehabbing real estate located in low-income and highly distressed communities and co-publishing a book through a semester-long program. As Executive Director, I am leading the effort for Dream Builders programming to support students at three different schools across the city. In 2017, Dream Builders 4 Equity was selected as one of the awardees of Washington University’s Social Enterprise Innovation Competition, competing in a field of more than 150 startups. 

How did you become interested in pursuing your own startup? Did you have a mentor or receive any helpful guidance?

Neal and I weren't looking to create a startup initially. Our hopes were simply to provide access and exposure to youth who had similar backgrounds as us. We viewed access and exposure as being the things we lacked in our development as young men and this caused us to bump our heads much more than needed to get to where we are now. We made a pact to focus on ensuring students could achieve tangible wins. In the process, it led to launching a new organization.

You’re a published author of several books. What advice can you offer to young, aspiring writers?

My advice to young aspiring writers is simple--just write, write as you read this, write while you're on the flight out of town, write on lunch break, write in the waiting room while getting an oil change, write during the commercial of your favorite show. Write. Never stop documenting your visions and journey.

It’s often said that writers are readers, and readers are writers. What have you read recently that’s been particularly inspiring to you?

Recently, I have read, "We Were Eight Years in Power" by Ta-Nehisi Coates, "The End of Poverty" by Jeffrey Sachs, "Sister Citizen" by Melissa V. Harris-Perry, "Shoe Dog" by Phil Knight, and "Pitch Anything" by Oren Klaff. Out of those reads, the thing that stands out most to me is the persistence of Phil Knight to continue building Nike after taking lost after lost and his unwavering belief in his vision until it materialized. 

Tell us about your other initiative, Connected St. Louis, and its work to support local black-owned businesses.

I am the co-founder (along with Eric Love) of Connected St. Louis, which is a community organization that seeks to creates a cultural where more people support black business and unity in the urban community.  Connected plans to unite organizations, businesses, and individuals who are community oriented to become an aligned force to create change.

We are very intentional in patronizing and promoting black-owned businesses. In 2017, Connected brought out hundreds of people to support and patronize SweetArt, Hop Shop, Contrary Cupcakes, and Eyeseeme Bookstore.  Our network made thousands of dollars in purchases when we collectively visited these establishments. Connected St. Louis also partnered with Eyekon Clothing to host a skullcap and glove giveaway during the winter holiday and collaborated with Forward Through Ferguson to support their Movement Series day party.

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