Introducing the 2023 Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange entrepreneurs

Twelve news and media founders of color will take part in the community-grounded business accelerator program, receiving training and grant funding to grow their businesses

The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, and the Independence Public Media Foundation today announced the 12 news and media entrepreneurs of color selected to join the second class of the Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange, a community-grounded accelerator program. 

The 2023 Founders Exchange entrepreneurs specialize in a broad range of media platforms including audio, video, live events, and digital-first news coverage. Each founder will receive a $15,000 core support grant, entrepreneurial training, and instruction from journalism and media experts to help grow their businesses. 

The curriculum covers community-powered reporting, branding and marketing, audience and partnership growth, financial modeling, strategies for raising capital, executive leadership, and emotional resilience. Each participant will also receive personalized coaching to help advance their goals. In addition, the entrepreneurs will receive a membership to PhillyCAM, which is joining the Founders Exchange as a resource partner. The partnership will enable them to utilize the community media center and access a high-level production training focused on using the local broadcast studio and radio station to support their work. 

“The Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange is not only charting a path toward long-term sustainability for BIPOC entrepreneurs in Philadelphia but also strengthening an existing and growing community of trusted media entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs,” said Lenfest Institute Head of Philadelphia Programs Shawn Mooring. 

In addition to the core support grants, each founder will have the opportunity to apply for additional grant support to meet their business needs. The Founders Exchange Fund will offer $10,000 in operational support grants and $5,000 in project support grants for selected founders and projects.

The Founders Exchange began with a successful class of 11 entrepreneurs in 2022. Members of the inaugural 2022 class are eligible for $7,500 matching grants as part of the program. Founders Exchange alumni will also serve as peer support mentors for the new participants.

The Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange is supported by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, and the Independence Public Media Foundation.

“We are so excited to welcome this new class of media entrepreneurs. We designed PMFE 2.0 based on feedback from the inaugural class of founders and we are proud to launch a customized program that addresses the most pressing issues that businesses need to succeed and contribute to a thriving news and information ecosystem,” said Diana Lu, director of the Knight-Lenfest Fund. “This includes technical and soft skills as well as this unique cohort experience and growing alumni community.”

The project lead is Jos Duncan Asé, founder, executive producer, and publisher of Love Now Media. Black & Brown Founders, which supports entrepreneurs of color, will deliver the training curriculum.

“This year’s Founders Exchange programming will feature a mix of virtual and in-person gatherings and offer cohort members opportunities to build connections with each other and past cohort members while taking a hands-on approach to solving some of their business challenges,” Duncan Asé said. “One of our key events is a day-long Fellows Revenue Summit, which will offer current and past fellows the opportunity to refine their business models and pursue a learning and skill-building track for revenue generation. The combination of training and practice is what really makes the program unique.” 

The 2023 Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange Entrepreneurs are:

  • Sajda Blackwell (PQRADIO1), aka Purple Queen, is a journalist, radio personality, and community activist. She is the founder, owner, and program director of PQRADIO1, as well as the first Black woman to own an internet radio station in Philadelphia. For the past 14 years, she has been using her platform to advocate and provide a community for independent artists, DJs, freelancers, and up-and-coming broadcasters.
  • Arianne Bracho (Centro Integral de la Mujer Madre Tierra) is a news leader with 30 years of experience in media who currently provides the Latinx community with news and information about social issues. She is the executive director of Philadelphia’s Centro Integral de la Mujer Madre Tierra, which has become a benchmark for Spanish-language programs. She has also been linked to community work through PhillyCAM and was named one of its inaugural Spanish-language fellows.
  • Nathalie Cerin (Woy Magazine) is a Haitian media founder whose mission is to serve the Haitian community both locally and globally. In addition to her position as the lead editor for Woy Magazine, she is a singer-songwriter, educator, and digital content creator. Woy’s content is available in Kreyòl and English and explores history, politics, and arts through its community blog, biweekly newsletter, and Haitian history podcast.
  • Crystal Cheatham (Our Bible App) is a multimedia entrepreneur currently running her own progressive media outlet and publishing company, Our Bible App, which features content at the intersection of faith, politics, and news. She is an LGBTQ+ activist with a focus on religious liberty. Since 2011, she has worked simultaneously as a ghostwriter and queer rights activist with groups such as Soulforce, the Human Rights Campaign, and Equality PA.
  • Monique Curry-Mims (Civic Capital Consulting / Generocity) is a philanthropy entrepreneur who is also transitioning into a leadership role in nonprofit news. As Principal of Civic Capital, an international social impact firm, she works with various organizations to develop strategies that meet their mission and the needs of the communities they serve. She is also in the process of taking over operations of Generocity, a Philadelphia-focused social media impact outlet. 
  • Keyssh Datts (Decolonize Philly) is a community organizer, filmmaker, and activist with deep ties to the Southwest Philadelphia community. They are the founder of Decolonize Philly, an environmental justice organization that focuses on putting power back into community members’ hands. They were also a recipient of the 2022 Lenfest Next Generation Award and received a community leadership award from U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans in 2019.
  • Cobbina Frempong (Green District Media) is a multimedia journalist specializing in videography who works to get beneath the headlines of news stories through expansive visual storytelling with a specific focus on marginalized communities. He owns and operates Green District Media, a video production company that creates projects to preserve history, encourage dialogue, unite communities under shared principles, expose injustice, increase awareness of important issues, and drive progress.
  • Yuebing Hong (ChineseinUS) is a tech entrepreneur committed to fulfilling the news and information needs of Philadelphia’s Chinese community. She founded ChineseinUS, a bilingual media outlet that publishes news and aims to establish clear communication channels between Chinese-speaking communities and their governments. The organization expanded to cover national issues, and during the height of the pandemic, she played a vital role in distributing COVID-19 updates and vaccine information to her audience.
  • Stephanie T. Humphrey (Til Death Do You Tweet) is a tech-based media entrepreneur and professional speaker who provides news and information to the public through multimedia content, workshops, and appearances. She is currently an on-air tech contributor to Fox 29’s Good Day Philadelphia, Cheddar TV, and other broadcast outlets. Her signature seminar, Til Death Do You Tweet, helps people understand the potential negative consequences of online behavior, especially through social media.
  • Cherri Gregg (WHYY / Create Genius Media) is a WHYY radio journalist and lawyer with deep roots in the Philadelphia community. She previously covered civil rights, social justice, race and public affairs issues impacting marginalized communities in the Greater Philadelphia region, spending nearly a decade on air at KYW Newsradio. She is also the founder of Create Genius Media, an ideas-focused firm dedicated to amplifying the stories of Black and brown people.
  • Phillip J. Roundtree (Quadefy LLC) is a radio host, social worker, and educator who creates wellness resources and initiates urgent conversations related to mental health, Black men, and community. He founded Quadefy LLC, an organization dedicated to providing wellness services to enhance the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength of an individual, team, or business. He also hosts the YouTube-based show Rhetorically Speaking and the #YouGoodMan? men’s wellness podcast.
  • Tamara Russell (REVIVE Radio), aka P.O.C. (Proof of Consciousness), is a radio entrepreneur contracted by WHYY. She is the founder and host of online broadcasting platform REVIVE Radio as well as international media platform REVIVE Media. The depth of her interviews stimulates conversation ranging from societal issues, politics, highlighting small businesses, music, health, and other trending topics.

The Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange was founded in 2022. The inaugural cohort featured 11 Philadelphia-area media entrepreneurs of color building businesses focused on investigative journalism, podcasting, multimedia production, and more. 

In addition to increasing the average annual operating budget of the participating businesses by over $50,000, the program also supported a change in perspective about how the founders viewed themselves in relation to their enterprises. They were encouraged to move to a mindset that ensured they were drawing a salary, learning to delegate by bringing on team members, and questioning their assumptions about what it means to run a successful business.

“Through conversations with the cohort and my coach, I was able to better understand what my role in our business should look like,” one founder said. “I’ve created more time to work on business development… [which] has allowed [us] to take on more projects, increase our capacity, and increase our revenue.” 

Local News Solutions

The Lenfest Institute provides free tools and resources for local journalism leaders to develop sustainable strategies to serve their communities.

Find Your News Solution
news solution pattern