This feature is a part of our “Bridgebuilder Spotlight” series where we lift up some of the amazing Bridgebuilders in our network. If you’d like to connect with Devoe or other Bridgebuilders, contact our Communications Lead: Adam Denney firstname.lastname@example.org
“I am one that understands the struggles, so I try to give my all when I do give back”
Devoe Sherman was reminded of something over quarantine: creating comes natural to him. “I’ve always had an artistic mindset. By fourth grade I loved writing stories and poetry… I’ve always loved to be artistic.” Devoe still utilizes that creativity today, but not how one might expect.
In a nutshell, Devoe is a serial entrepreneur who focuses on social impact and community work, bringing his creativity to bear when solving challenges he encounters.
Founder of three organizations--First Generation Leaders of America, First Generation Entrepreneurs, and Black Male Man Cave--Devoe has centered his entrepreneurial pursuits around lifting others up. As Devoe’s organizations continue to thrive in their missions, his creative mindset is still in play.
“Create a space that offers empowerment. First, you need a few ingredients: empathy, transparency, investment, and access to resources. Then ask yourself, ‘what can I do to help others succeed?’ Then you begin creating that environment for others that offers empowerment, accountability, and sustainability.”
Devoe reminded us creating these spaces takes effort. But Devoe has a trick up his sleeve to bring people together: he is a storyteller.
“Storytelling is a way to help others overcome those same fears and traumas that many of us have gone through. And when you do this with others who share a similar story as you, you begin to create real bonds that can last a lifetime.”
So, Devoe started at the beginning.
“When my mom was in labor, the umbilical cord became wrapped around my neck. My mom was 14 at the time, so we both could have easily died. I don’t know, it’s like even at that moment the universe was saying, ‘Devoe, try and you can do it, regardless of the situation.’”
From an early age, Devoe said he began to see the larger picture. He grew up down the street from The Holy Trinity Church, and by ten he was going there every Wednesday. “I learned the principles of character--those principles like how to treat others, manage your anger, be kind, and to control emotions.”
Devoe graduated from Woodward Career Technical High School in 2012 and began his studies in political science and liberal Arts at the University of Cincinnati. “A lot of my friends from high school dropped out and began to fall between the cracks, and I saw that there was really no type of support or no one around to help with the issues.”
During his undergraduate career, Devoe became very engaged and active on several university boards and community service organizations, including First Generation Leaders of America.
“Community service gave me a bigger sense that all this can’t be just about me, I have to do this for my community.”
Flash forward to today and you can still find Devoe applying his work to the service of others through his focus on building leadership skills, entrepreneurship, and advancing equity in his community.
“Entrepreneurship has helped me become more influential to others. Now I am able to mentor other kids, to speak at schools, and try to do what is necessary to help lift up my community. I understand the struggles, and I give back in all I do because I understand.”
“This is about my community, this is about what we are all going through. You may be going through some things, but there are other people that look like you, that are going through those things as well, and what if we could take all the experiences and trauma we have went through and apply empathy, and be the person who can help show others the tactics and strategies to increase economic mobility.”
It is that empathy component that really matters: when you’ve personally experienced an issue, you can really begin to relate to someone and meet them where they are. You can help them make decisions that are impactful. “Once you personally go through a situation, you know how to come out of it. You know what it is like on the other end.” But advice isn't the only thing Devoe wants to provide.
“It is easy to give someone advice, but it means nothing if we do not provide resources. If I don’t have the necessary resources available (physically, mentally, economically), then how can someone expect me to just make it happen? What can you expect me to do?” And connecting others to resources is what this entrepreneur is all about.
Devoe became connected to Cohear a few years ago. “I met Dani [Cohear Founder/CEO] and he was telling me things about what he wanted to do with Cohear. At that time, it was just a mustard seed of an idea.” From there, the two developed a relationship and stayed in contact. “It [Cohear] was something I knew I wanted to be involved with.”
The next thing Devoe knows, he is getting a call from Dani to connect him with the CEO of a company who just wanted to listen and learn from him.
“I was not used to that, and I think the other people invited felt the same way. You mean to tell me there are actual CEOs on this call who are listening and telling us they want to do better? ...This person wanted us to help him figure out how to allocate funds to ensure that people get jobs, and not only do they get jobs, but they keep a job that pays a living wage."
Creating a space to share our stories and ideate solutions to problems with those decision makers who have the power to enact equitable change is what Cohear is about. And for Devoe, being a part of this creative process is just natural.