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Kicking off IDEATE: A New Journey for Young Entrepreneurs

In October we celebrated the kick-off of IDEATE at Chicago Beyond's office in the West Loop neighborhood, bringing together high school students from across the city.

IDEATE is an intensive 11-week experiential program where students will collaborate on building and developing their business ideas. Under the guidance of experienced facilitators and mentors, participants will engage in hands-on activities to build a strong business idea, learn problem-solving strategies for business development, and understand how companies develop new ideas and products.

During an entrepreneurship panel, Billy Ndizeye from World Business Chicago and Devin Gatling from Gatling Studio shared invaluable advice with the students. The panel was moderated by Tobi Oladejo, Gray Matter Experience's Program Coordinator and Facilitator for the program.

Devin emphasized the importance of purpose over money, stating, "Money doesn't make you successful - I think purpose does. With all the time that you have, find what you are more passionate about, use it, and leverage the time." Billy added his voice, encouraging the students to trust their journey and embrace mistakes as opportunities for growth, “Trust that your journey is going to lead you where you’re meant to be. It’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them. Use them as an opportunity to propel you in the right direction.”

The enthusiasm among the students and their support systems was evident as they left the event, inspired and ready to embark on their entrepreneurial journey.

“I am most looking forward to taking in the knowledge about entrepreneurship and learning other people’s thoughts and views on entrepreneurship. I’m also excited to be inspired by other business owners and learn from them so that I can grow my own business” Ismari Fregoso, Junior at Westinghouse High School

As a highlight to the kick-off, students had professional headshots taken by the talented Nicholas Moody. Each student received an entrepreneurship package, including an official Gray Matter Experience t-shirt, Big Life Journal to capture their innovative thoughts, and a Gray Matter notebook and pen. Equipped with these tools, they are well-prepared to brainstorm, ideate, and bring their ideas to life.

Gray Matter Experience is proud to empower Chicago's youth to become the next generation of entrepreneurs. Through its innovative programs, the organization aims to foster creativity, resilience, and leadership skills among young individuals. Learn more about our programs at

About Gray Matter Experience:  

The Gray Matter Experience empowers young Black people ages 14-24 to disrupt the status quo, mobilize innovative ideas, and champion their communities. Since 2016, they've supported more than 1,000 young people through personal development, business education, and nurturing their commitment to social impact. Their programs offer a nationally recognized curriculum, designed by Black leaders, that cultivates the entrepreneurial mindset – an approach that embraces innovation, authentic leadership, and a proactive drive to solve challenges across all career paths.

The Gray Matter Experience’s engaging tuition-free programs, national partnerships, and community of allies ensure that curious creators and budding visionaries are equipped with essential skills, relationships, and resources to become agents of change and thrive in a global economy.


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