Jules Porter’s idea for an African-American-owned and -directed video game company earned her first place in the social venture category of the Ninth Annual Fowler Business Concept Challenge. Porter, a joint J.D./M.B.A. student graduating in December, was awarded $16,000 to further develop her idea.
Porter’s concept is Seraph 7 Studios, which aims to give diverse communities a seat at the table by telling fresh stories with an unrivaled authenticity, and investing in the next generation of diverse gamers to empower them to tell their stories in an interactive medium. Through work study programs and summer camps, it aims to increase the graduation rates and reduce the achievement gaps of students of color. This develops and uplifts local students, while increasing the cultural competency and nuanced multi-cultural understanding of players.
“I have been a gamer my entire life since I was a little kid playing ‘Mario,’” Porter said. “But over the decades, there are things developers have yet to address such as the way women are portrayed in gaming. We’re scantily clad, we’re hyper-sexualized and it’s unrealistic. I’ve also served in the Marine Corps and I’ve never gone into battle half naked, so why do we keep putting people out there like that?”
“I also looked at the way people of color are portrayed in gaming,” she continued. “We’re barely included. When we are, we’re gangsters or drug dealers. Instead of seeing ourselves as heroes, we’re the bad guys. We don’t get to be the hero, and that’s a problem.”
The Fowler Business Concept Challenge is held annually in the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship and this year drew students from 30 academic programs who competed in one of two tracks – business or social venture. Participating students develop a concept with the potential to become a viable, high-growth business. Entries are judged on originality, clear and compelling value proposition, competitive advantage, market opportunity and feasibility. The top four in each track are awarded scholarships.
The competition is named in recognition of University of St. Thomas alumnus Ron Fowler ’66, chairman and CEO of Liquid Investments Inc., whose gift to the university made this and future competitions possible. This year’s scholarships were also made possible by gifts from Fowler; the Cade family; Ernst & Young; Fidelity Bank; William Hoeg; and the Charles Kubly Entrepreneurial Scholarship.