Q&A: Ravel Bowman, two-time TESA participant

By Kayla Sosa

Ravel Bowman is an esteemed graduate of the Teen Entrepreneur Summer Academy (TESA) held every year at Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business. After participating two years in a row in the program, Bowman continued to focus on business and marketing. Today, he’s a year into his studies at Grand Rapids Community College and interning at Start Garden, as well as managing his own social media freelance work. He hopes to eventually transfer to GVSU to major in Marketing.

This year’s TESA program runs June 24-29 and registration closes June 6. Bowman sat down to chat about his experience with TESA, and his plans for the future.

CEI: Let’s talk about the first time you did TESA, in 9th grade. What was that experience like for you?

Bowman: It’s funny, the skill sets I used in TESA, I actually use today. Like thinking critically, thinking different things. The skills you learn here, they’ve grown upon (themselves). My mentor is huge into design thinking and solving the root of the problem and he always asks me, ‘what problem are you trying to solve?’ And I think back to TESA, when we were in that conference room brainstorming how we had to think differently to figure out what our product was going to be to fit the category for that year.

Ravel and his teammates talking in a conference room during TESA 2014.

CEI: What does the week look like for the participating students?

Bowman: Monday was great. You go in there, it’s like the first day of school, you don’t know anybody, you don’t talk to anybody.

It’s like a class in session, so you would learn different skill sets and do different thinking activities to help you think critically, think differently about your product. Every year there’s a set category or set theme.

After we did our lesson, we would do a breakout session and work in teams … we would just brainstorm, ideate, and figure out what problem we were trying to solve.

CEI: What were one of the business pitches you worked on for TESA?

Bowman: The second year was all about health and wellness, because we did something with vegetables. It was TGIF – Thank Goodness It’s Fresh – and we were going to be (providing) fresh fruits and vegetables for students who were on free or reduced lunch. And so, they would enter in the bus and they would look underneath their seat and reach and grab fresh vegetables every single week. It’d have recipe cards that they can cook at home with the family. We wanted to have the family cooking aspect, and we also wanted to add the other aspect of trying to make our community healthier.

CEI: And you won that year with that business idea?

Bowman: Yes, we won the grand prize.

Dark Blue Team Presenting
A TESA student pitches with his team in the final pitch competition, 2014.

CEI: What skills do you feel you took away from TESA?

Bowman: TESA taught me the value of relationships … and building a network and how money isn’t the only form of currency; it’s networking, it’s time. It also taught me what it takes to run a business, and what it means to be creative minded and help do disruptive thinking.

CEI: You’re an intern at Start Garden and do freelance social media work. How are you applying these skills now in the professional workplace?

Bowman: I started doing social media in addition to Start Garden because I want to do digital marketing. It’s not an official company yet, it’s just me, but I treat it as a business; making sure I provide the best services for my clients. I still actually look through the booklet that we get (from TESA) … It’s an incredible booklet that teaches you all the different things about running a business and being a business.

CEI: Why is your career and professional ambition so important to you, especially at such a young age?

Bowman, 2019.

Bowman: It’s all about growing my craft and my skill set. I’m a perfectionist at heart. Back in high school – and I say this in the humblest way possible – people used to come to me for leadership positions or roles, or look to me to lead the group projects, because I set such a high caliber standard for myself and my classmates and my teammates because my craft means something to me. When I put my name – Ravel Bowman – on a sheet of paper, on a document or something like that, it sends a message to the world … I’m working on myself, on my grind, and my hustle, so that when people look at me they’re like, ‘Woah, let’s give this kid a position that we would normally give to a junior/senior in college because he’s applied himself to do the work, he’s ambitious.’ That way, later down the line, I’ll be more set up for success and then people can count on me for more projects.

The deadline to sign up for this year’s TESA program is May 31. Find more information and to sign up visit www.gvsu.edu/cei.

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