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Dyson student’s initiative supports Black-owned businesses

When Arianna Kohilakis ’22 was in high school, she created a marketing firm to work with small businesses owned by immigrants in her area.

Now a rising junior in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, she thought about that initiative as Black Lives Matter protests took center stage across the U.S. this spring. That led to Empower, a new student-led initiative that connects Black-owned businesses with undergraduate student volunteers who offer their time and talent to support business operations or projects. Participating businesses are matched with students within 48 hours.

Empower provides a platform for student volunteers to support the Black business community by completing tasks and projects related to social media account management, website design and development, photography and graphic design. Students have also worked on strategic assignments, including branding, business development and accounting.

Since many of Kohilakis’ peers were without summer internships due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Empower created an opportunity for volunteers to make a difference in supporting the Black community while obtaining valuable business experience.

“From helping to plan coding bootcamps specifically for Black youth in underprivileged areas, to formulating the launch strategy for makeup subscription boxes that cater to individual skin tones and beauty needs, Cornellians’ skillsets are being used to drive a movement,” Kohilakis said.

Since Empower launched in early June, it has matched more than 125 Cornell undergraduate students to projects with Black-owned businesses.

A version of this story appears on the Dyson website.

– Stephen D’Angelo

Media Contact

Abby Butler