Travis Young Picture

Travis Young, an Eastern Shore native, was tapped as 757 Collab’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion and strategic partnerships. (Courtesy photo)

757 Collab in Norfolk hired Eastern Shore native Travis Young as director of diversity, equity and inclusion and strategic partnerships to help Hampton Roads build a more inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem.

757 Collab, located in the Assembly campus in downtown Norfolk, coordinates the efforts and resources of the 757 Angels investor group, the 757 Accelerate business-growing program and 757 Startup Studios workspace. The organization had partnered with entrepreneurial leader Techstars to assess the region’s ecosystem. While highlighting many regional strengths, the report also noted an inclusion gap in that the demographics of local tech entrepreneurs don’t represent the community at large — a problem not unique to Hampton Roads.

That’s where Young, who grew up in Cape Charles, is going to get to work by building relationships that can lead to critical partnerships, and, ultimately, help more entrepreneurs build their businesses, said Monique Adams, 757 Collab managing director.

Young brings experience through inclusion efforts with the New York City Department of Education and The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission. He launched a nonprofit called Nationhood that uses research on legislation, policy, and other initiatives to create social impact campaigns that amplify causes to a broader audience. He’s founded a number of projects that build collectives around social justice topics.

Young shared more about his experience and next steps in answers to Inside Business questions.

What do you hope to accomplish with 757 Collab and in the region?

My goal is to listen first. Although I was born and raised here, I haven’t lived here full-time in almost 15 years. Even though a lot has changed, a lot remains the same. I want to ensure that I’ve done my due diligence to ensure that I’m interfacing with all of the right stakeholders who have been doing the work of expanding the ecosystems before I create programs that no one wants.

What do you think are the strengths of Hampton Roads? What attracted you here?

During the beginning, I started to think about what I wanted out of life, how I wanted to spend my time, and where I wanted to be geographically. I’m not alone on that train of thought. We see it with the Great Resignation. For me, I wanted to be closer to family, and this moment felt like the perfect time to make a significant shift. I left New York City in October of 2020 during the early onset of the COVID-19. This move was supposed to be temporary, but I ended up staying and realizing that Hampton Roads is home. The strength is in the people and their resilience. Your favorite’s favorite is likely from Virginia.

What are some of the region’s challenges?

All I see are opportunities but ask me that question again in six months.

How will your experiences, both in your career and personally, guide you in your new role?

After graduating from Bayside High School, I moved to Richmond to attend Virginia Commonwealth University (Go Rams). VCU is a very diverse school in terms of culture and ethnicities. I was very active on campus. As the co-founder/president of the Economics Club, I was always trying to recruit new members to join, so I took advantage of meeting people who did not look like me. That stuck with me while living in Chicago and NYC. The ability to network has now evolved into the ability to be a connector needed in building and growing partnerships.

Over the course of my career, I’ve also held multiple roles in different industries, so I consider myself to be a generalist, which could be viewed as a gift and curse. For me, I think that having a diverse set of skills gives me more tools that I can leverage to help solve a problem.

What was growing up on the Eastern Shore like?

It was the best. I had the ultimate childhood experience. I remember riding my bike, go-cart racing with my cousin and having massive water balloon fights in the neighborhood. On the land, we had all types of fruit trees. I loved picking figs off the tree with my grandmother and helping her make preserves. Life was so simple then.

What motivates you?

My family. I do everything in support of them.

What do you do in your downtime?

I love to travel. I’ve had some of the most transformational experiences abroad. Traveling opens up your worldview, and then you realize how insignificant some things are when you think about it writ large. I also enjoy cooking. I cofounded BLKPalate, a Brooklyn culinary collective that used food as the lens to talk about the intersection of race, class and privilege. My passion for cooking stems from my time sous-cheffing in high school at Harbor Grille in Cape Charles, which is now Brown Dog Ice Cream.