Throughout the month of February, the Fox School of Business is highlighting the voices and businesses of black entrepreneurs, executives, volunteers and more. These talented professionals are striving to make the world a more diverse, inclusive and accessible place for future generations.
From his work as an assistant professor of Marketing at Howard University to co-founding the Our D.R.E.A.M Foundation, Dr. Johnny Graham, PhD ‘16, has made it his mission to give back to his hometown of Baltimore using his expertise and access.
In his role at Howard, Dr. Graham conducts research on brand management and teaches introductory courses on marketing management and marketing analytics. He received both his undergraduate degree and MBA at the University of Maryland-College Park, where he was a Banneker Key-Scholar and Dean’s Scholar. He then went on to earn a doctorate in marketing from the Fox School.
In addition to his esteemed status as a scholar, Graham is an experienced jazz musician and entrepreneur. He previously served as chief partner of his own strategic consulting firm, Graham & Peters LLC, which specialized in helping young professionals in their entrepreneurial pursuits.
During his time as a PhD student, he was inspired by working with the Philadelphia Future’s program and the ever-present desire to give back to Baltimore. He used that passion and partnered with his fellow entrepreneur and former college classmate Justin Peters to develop the philanthropic concept that would revolutionize their careers.
“Creating something that would be engaging, but also informative for young people was important to us,” he says. “We wanted to expose youth from our community to avenues of economic opportunity, while also building their overall personal development and life skills.”
What started as an idea to organize a week-long youth entrepreneurship camp, in Baltimore evolved into Our D.R.E.A.M, a nonprofit organization aimed at entrepreneurship-based education for youth in underserved communities. Graham leverages his wide range of knowledge on business topics such as marketing research and strategy to establish the vision and program curriculums for Our D.R.E.A.M.
Through the organization’s cornerstone program, The Y.E.S. (Youth Entrepreneurship Startup) Program, Baltimore-based students learn basic business concepts and are given access to resources to help them develop leadership and communications skills, and to fuel their entrepreneurial spirit. The program regularly features lectures and activities led by local entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Since its inception in 2015, the YES Program has served 70+ students from 30+
different schools across the Baltimore metro area.
In 2018, the Y.E.S Program partnered with the Mayor’s Office of Baltimore City for the Teen Biz Challenge, which resulted in 11 students receiving over $28,000 of business startup funding.
With the largest cohort in the program’s history and the Mayor’s Office partnership, the organization has gathered more momentum than ever before. Dr. Graham and the rest of the Our D.R.E.A.M team used their connections within the business world to provide
student participants with volunteers to help them further develop their business ideas.
“The students came up with so many brilliant, tangible ideas, a mobile smoothie stand, a reinvented toothbrush, a hygiene subscription-based service and so much more. They showed business ingenuity and intuitiveness that I certainly did not have when I was their age,” said Dr. Graham.
When Dr. Graham looks toward the future, his goals are to grow holistically as a business thought leader and academic, and to make even more impact in the classroom, in his field, and in his community.