Pharrell Williams awards business grant to African-American entrepreneurs
- Williams revealed the winners of his Black Ambition reward programme
- The highest award of $1 million went to Justin Turk and Andre Davis, co-founders of Livegistics
- Williams' non-profit was established to help Black and Latino entrepreneurs
Justin Turk knew his company was unique, but receiving a $1 million reward from Grammy-winning musician and producer Pharrell Williams was unexpected. Turk and his business partner, Andre Davis, are in the national limelight after Williams revealed the winners of his Black Ambition reward programme on Tuesday.
Williams' non-profit was established in December with the goal of assisting Black and Latino entrepreneurs in closing the wealth gap through entrepreneurship.
The highest award of $1 million went to Turk and Davis, co-founders of Livegistics. The Detroit-based business owners run a cloud-based material management software firm that reduces paperwork in major civil and demolition projects. The firm also offers data and analytics that construction professionals may utilise to improve productivity.
Livegistics also benefits the environment by reducing the amount of paper used each year and by assisting local communities in accelerating the removal of blight in urban areas.
"We knew we had something special, but you don't go in thinking you will walk away with $1 million. But when it happens you are like, 'Wow, we just won $1 million,'" Turk said. However, the 40-year-old stated he had no idea bliss and suffering could coexist.
His father-in-law died before he could deliver the news that his tech start-up had won the top prize.
"All in 24 hours, it was the greatest and worst moments tied together forever. There we were with our biggest business success to date along with the worst day of our lives all in 24 hours," Turk said. "It is weird. Sometimes I feel guilty for being so happy about what's going on, but I know he would have been excited."
Turk, who co-founded the company with Davis three years ago, said he watched a team of health care experts struggle to resuscitate his wife's father, whom he admired, only hours after of learning he had won.
He was a war veteran with a passion for architecture. And they both had a strong passion for construction.
Turk stated that instead of throwing a party for friends and family, he will bury his father-in-law in a private ceremony on Saturday.
"He would have been enamored with what's going on. If he would have been able to see all of this, it would have just blown him away," Turk said. "He would walk around the city of Detroit and look at buildings on his own. This would have just made his decade."
Turk and Davis have been friends for decades. Davis said the two met in elementary school when they were 5 years old. They were housemates at Bowling Green State University in Ohio at the time. It was never a desire for Davis, the chief financial officer, to become business partners, but it made sense.
"He's been in just about every special moment in my life," Davis said. "Not only are we solving the single most significant reason construction companies go out of business (cash flow), we're doing so in a manner that creates less work and makes the lives of our customers easier to manage."
Davis, 41, stated he worked as an outsourced CFO for customers in the Metro Detroit region at Financial One.
For ten years, he ran his own accounting and financial services firm, while also keeping one foot in the non-profit sector to give back. He wants to inspire other Black and minority entrepreneurs to take the risk of starting their own firm.
"A thought today, backed by effort today, is one step closer to your dream tomorrow. Justin is brilliant. His background is the foundation for what I forsee as a unicorn in the making," Davis said. "A third generation business owner, minority-owned, who understands all facets of large construction projects at an expert level...who also has a degree in computer science to speak tech geek language! You don't find a Justin Turk walking around every day."
Turk and Davis both stated that this victory is more significant than their own. It's all about making space for the next individual.
They are being taught not just how to navigate, but also how to dominate in an industry that has only lately decided to offer entry to people of colour, according to Turk.
The victory will open doors. Turk, on the other hand, has a different objective in mind. He explained, "We don't just want an invite, we want to create the guest list."