Jumpstarting a city’s tech industry, winning a boatload of awards before the age of 34, writing books and captivating audiences on the national speaking circuit are all well and good. But if you really want to get people’s attention, give them something sweet. Just ask Felecia Hatcher, who co-founded Feverish Ice Cream and Gourmet Pops in 2008 with her husband, Derick Pearson.
“Feverish put me on the map and got me a lot of media attention, like from the Today show,” said Hatcher, who worked in tech and marketing before pioneering the popsicle trend in Miami. “I always tell people that they should be more surprised that I was ever in the food business than my other careers.”
Her surname couldn’t be more apropos, because the natural-born entrepreneur is always hatching up some idea. Hatcher sold Feverish two years ago to make room on her plate for new endeavors. Figuring her employees wouldn’t be in pops forever, she and Pearson launched Code Fever Miami in 2012 to teach minorities marketable tech and business skills to earn a living for the long haul.
Parents immediately flooded the program with requests. About 80 young people, 60 more than Hatcher had anticipated, enrolled in the inaugural workshop. The program teaches them to code and introduces them to venture capitalists to learn about startups and funding. Hatcher says there is an untapped fountain of entrepreneurial interest, talent and ideas within minority communities, which she describes as innovation deserts.
“Even if the money is available, we aren’t seeing enough resource magnetism and deal flow in minority areas,” she said. “Look at Airbnb; immigrant populations have been offering a similar channel for a while. Or Little Haiti’s jitney taxis, a utility that’s the same as uberPOOL. What if they’d had the right resources to solve the global transportation problem a long time ago?”
Hatcher has several initiatives in motion to level the playing field. In 2014 she and Pearson created the first Black Tech Week, connecting startups and professionals in science, technology, engineering and math with dozens of expert speakers and mentors. This year’s conference, October 2-7, should coincide with the opening of Hatcher’s latest project: Tribe, a 10,000-square-foot co-working space in Overtown. The multipurpose hub will house a maker lab, accelerator incubator, classrooms, pop-up shops and other events.
Hatcher also is pushing for local governments to establish innovation funds, similar to ones in minority-concentrated cities like Atlanta and Detroit. The goal, she said, is for startup companies to be less reliant on nonprofits like the Knight Foundation, which supports Code Fever and Black Tech Week.
“Startups usually get their first round of funding from friends and family, but what if your circle can only afford to give a round of applause?”
Growing up, Hatcher was obsessed with the TV show MacGyver, which became synonymous with overcoming insurmountable situations with simple tools. That same kid made a small fortune selling Girl Scout cookies in her mom’s workplace, the tax collector’s office, and went on to make artisan popsicles the coolest thing in South Florida. Hatcher has what it takes to make Miami’s tech scene blast off.