Research To Equip Entrepreneurs To Navigate Equality Barriers

In 2009, Dr. Asheli S Atkins graduated from Prairie View A&M University and began her career at the university as a Program Coordinator for the Undergraduate Medical Academy. In this role, she worked with aspiring pre-med students and assisted them in their matriculation to medical school. Though her role was fulfilling, she could not quiet her entrepreneurial spirit. To feed this desire, she was heavily involved with business-related and mentoring organizations such as the Greater Houston Black Chamber and National Black MBA Association.

As her desire to become a business owner grew, she decided to obtain a Master’s in Business Administration while working full-time at PVAMU. Like most MBA programs, the curriculum included classes that focus on various business-related topics including business law and ethics and marketing. What Dr. Atkins soon realized was that the content in these courses did not account for how identity impacts the experience of a business owner. This revelation is what led her to her next academic endeavor — obtaining a Ph.D. in Sociology. The heavy requirements of a doctoral program meant that Dr. Atkins would need to leave her full-time job and become a full-time student again. With her eyes on a greater prize – a Ph.D. – Dr. Atkins began a daily commute from Houston to Texas A&M University. 

After 5 years of struggle, both mentally, financially, and academically, Dr. Atkins successfully defended her dissertation titled, “Path of Least Resistance: Barriers and Strategy Construction Process for Black Entrepreneurs,” on June 19, 2020. In her research, Dr. Atkins developed a multidisciplinary framework to examine the strategies Black entrepreneurs use to navigate barriers in the market. With the use of qualitative methods, she analyzes the experiences of her participants and uncovers the strategies they construct, while also learning how personal and professional experiences with racism, discrimination, sexism, and power dynamics influence their decision-making processes as entrepreneurs. This data assists her as a researcher, business consultant, and small business advocate. Dr. Atkins uses her research to equip entrepreneurs with tools and strategies to avoid and/or limit their experience with barriers that may hinder their business success.

As an academic, Dr. Atkins’s main goal is to ensure her work makes it beyond academia. In August 2020, she was given the opportunity to lead a Feed the Soul Foundation as the co-Executive Director, alongside Jonathan Howard. Feed the Soul is a national non-profit arm of Black Restaurant Week, LLC designed to support marginalized entrepreneurs in the culinary industry through business development resources and mentorship support to foster sustainable business growth. With support from partners across the US, Dr. Atkins uses her research to determine the best way to support Black, Latin, and Indigenous culinary professionals who may also be marginalized in other areas including, but not limited to, disabled, formerly incarcerated LGBTQIA+, and senior citizens. This platform allows Dr. Atkins to bridge her passion for entrepreneurship and her expertise as a Sociologist to change the landscape of business success and sustainability for business owners around the nation.Dr. Atkins also provides the Women’s Inflection Point with the support of statistical and empirical data via an interactive survey specific for attendees, which offers an in-depth look at their personal and professional life, as it relates to self-actualization and self-efficacy. For women, especially the working woman, their social identity and social roles influence their lives in unexpected ways. Before the WIP/MANCAVE conference equips you with the strategies & tools you need to reach your highest potential, the results from the survey will shine the light on possible areas of growth

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