By Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson
The Birmingham Times
Rae’Mah Henderson said she will always have an entrepreneurial spirit.
Henderson, 23, founded several entrepreneurial ventures, but now, works to bring other entrepreneurs to Birmingham. She currently serves as the Program Manager and Investment Associate at the Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator and one of the People To Watch in Birmingham during 2024.
Techstars focuses on supporting startups working within the scope of the energy field – including climate technology, clean technology and energy efficiency.
“I work with Techstars to bring 12 companies here every year to Birmingham. We invest $120,000 into each of their companies,” she said.
Ultimately, the founders of these startups come to the Magic City for a 13-week program, which means the program founders relocate temporarily, with the goal being these companies would make Birmingham their new headquarters.
Henderson assists specifically by planning out the entire “founder experience” for the three months that founders are in the Magic City.
This includes everything – operations and programming, bringing in high-impact speakers and former founders …. “or something as simple as taking them horseback riding …. (or) to see the countryside,” she said. “Overall, I am responsible for the execution of the program –events and trainings.”
Henderson has quite an impressive resume already. She was accepted into the Goldman Sachs Womens’ Possibilities Summit’s 2023 cohort. She also went through Create Birmingham’s CO.STARTER program.
The Power Of The Pivot
Henderson’s path to her passion, at TechStars, hasn’t quite been a straight line.
Just before the TechStars position came open, she actually told a friend she wanted to do something with energy and investments and shortly afterwards, the opportunity came along. She said she wasn’t looking for it.
“A friend from the previous company I worked for (Landing) informed me of the position and thought I would be a good fit,” she said.
To understand how significant her role is to understand her road to get there.
Henderson said she’s been around startups all of her life, working with her entrepreneurial mom even as a young child.
“My mother started her business selling clothes basically off the front porch of our Section 8 home in Fairfield. Every weekend, before I was even in preschool, I’d be up there with her at the Bessemer ﬂea market too, in the heat working for a snow cone.”
Henderson grew up in Birmingham finished high school (she was a home school student) and had a desire to go right into business.
Her first business venture right out of high school was in 2017 when she began to market Salads Express.
The idea for Salads Express came after a road trip with her family in which she noticed there was no access to fresh, healthy food.
Henderson said she pitched the idea and had everything she needed except for capital and it never got off the ground.
“My last venture was a dessert store in The Riverchase Galleria mall, but we unfortunately had to close down in 2020 due to COVID.
She partnered with her mother to run a candy apple business.
“[That experience] proved to me that I am capable of the relentless hustle sometimes required to be an entrepreneur,” she said. “However, it left me so burnt out that I have had to retrain myself around working smarter and understanding I don’t have to push my body to its limit to succeed. I’m much more of a conscious achiever now.”
“I’ve worked for (several) different organizations,” said Henderson. “I went to work for T-Mobile (2018 – 2020) and I also worked for a local startup here in Birmingham named Landing (2021 – 2022) is part of a nationwide network which provides fully-furnished apartment homes.
She then went to Atlanta in 2022 to work for a short time at The Plug, a digital marketing company, before coming back home to Birmingham TechStars earlier last year and said “now, I am on the other side of the table (helping fund company founders).”
So, instead of thinking of herself as a traditional entrepreneur, Henderson said she now calls herself an “intrapreneur.”
“I deﬁnitely could still consider myself an entrepreneur, but more so in a different way,” she said. “As an intrapreneur, it’s more so what someone may say is a corporate entrepreneur bringing change to larger organizations, and that’s more so how I’ve been referring to myself as an entrepreneur strategist, and now as a program manager, someone that can provide entrepreneurial support.”
Looking To The Future
Looking ahead Henderson said, “I very much like to attune myself to recreate.”
Whether it’s her career, hair or even her look, she will give herself permission to change, to do things differently and to be different with absolutely no guilt.
“I have no shame around that anymore (career changes). And I think that’s because I had good people advising me that there’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
And for those founders and visionaries, she gives a word of advice. “What’s very important for an entrepreneur to have is (a vision of) being able to see the different iterations of yourself.”
And that’s not all. “That’s my biggest thing if I can pass on – learn your lessons quickly and move on to the next.”
And what about her own entrepreneurial ventures?
“I feel it (another business) is on the horizon for me and I think I’m welcoming that next phase of my life whenever that bubbles up. I deﬁnitely will be pursuing it (entrepreneurism).”
For more information on TechStars and their mission, visit techstars.com.