As the owner of Ebony Suns Enterprises, LLC, Russell Hicks is positioned to positively impact the lives of young men.
Hicks’ consulting business provides social media training for youth and social entrepreneurship programming to schools and nonprofits.
“I found purpose in really focusing on the youth, particularly Black males, and giving them some direction through a new economic development model, that being social entrepreneurship,” said Hicks, who is 35.
“What my business does through education is teaching youth how to make money and gain 21st century skills; but to use those skills for leadership and social entrepreneurship as a means of building self-sufficiency for themselves, their families and their communities.”
Hicks is one of 10 Black men from Philadelphia who recently netted the Black Male Engagement (BME) Leadership Award, which was created to recognize Black men from all walks of life who engage others in making communities stronger.
The award of $20,500 enables Hicks to lead an initiative called FLASH MOB, where young Black men will learn how to create — then implement — a business-branding campaign via social media. Participating youth will receive intense training and mentoring.
As a part of this initiative, Hicks plans to hold a conference, a business plan competition for participating youth, and a tour of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Hicks views his work as helping to create an alternative to crime.
“It’s creating an alternative to crime and that’s really at the root. If you want to solve socioeconomic problems you have to have socioeconomic solutions,” Hicks said.
“I believe social entrepreneurship is the next civic rights movement, because it is a social economic solution,” says Hicks, who is a Chicago native.
Hicks strives to change the mindset of youth.
“The last generation was taught just to go to school and get a job,” said Hicks.
Hicks said the current generation needs to take it further than just obtaining an education and getting a job. He says they need to add business ownership to the mix.
After graduating with a business degree from Howard University, Hicks was drawn to Philadelphia to work at The Enterprise Center in West Philadelphia. Hicks directed the center’s Project Great Potential — an initiative designed to equip young men between the ages of 18 and 25 with the tools to develop business enterprises and create wealth. From there Hicks went on to teach social entrepreneurship to adjudicated youth at the E3 Center.
When Hicks launched Ebony Suns Enterprises in 2011, 100 Black Men of Philadelphia was one of the first entities that he worked with. He’s since branched out to work with OIC America and Universal Companies.