An image of a grey wall with the worlds "hip hop" painted in red.

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Hip hop is an art form that was born in the streets of poor black neighborhoods, and for many people, it has been a road out of poverty and into success. The core message of hip hop is that one can rise above their circumstances and better themselves. That same message is also at the core of the Institute of Hip Hop Entrepreneurship (IHHE), a tuition-free program based in Philadelphia.

IHHE isn’t an incubator for the next big rapper or producer, hip hop is in its heart, but the program is geared toward helping young people (ages 18-32) get the training and help they need to turn a business idea into a reality. It’s a program focused on giving back to the community. Starting a business is difficult, and expensive, and it can be almost impossible if you don’t have access to the resources other entrepreneurs have. Like if you’re one of the roughly 500,000 Philadelphians living in poverty.

So the IHHE combines education with incubation, to get under-served young people thinking like entrepreneurs and help them get their business ideas off the ground. The final session of the program will include the opportunity for students to pitch their business ideas to investors. Even for those students who do not get funding for their ideas, the program will be a huge head start, allowing them to build networks of people in the city who are willing and able to help them. Networking is immensely important to sustaining a healthy business but, like starting a business, hard to do without resources.

Philadelphia’s poverty rate of 28% might be higher than most places, but new business is a good way to boost local economies, and it benefits the national economy over all. Of course, if only a small selection of people are starting those businesses, the economic benefits are not so well distributed. Programs like IHHE can help bring the promise of capitalism, economic stability, and success to a much wider audience.