How One Man Went from Homelessness to Silicon Valley Boss Moves

How One Man’s Hustler’s Spirit Led to Silicon Valley Boss Moves

(Image: ThePhatStartup)
(Image: File)

That led to me starting a tech accessories brand called Slate & Stylus – for every iPhone/iPad case we sold, we were able to provide children in Kenya with school supplies through our partnership with With a vision to grow, I transformed that into CrowdCases – a platform for non-profits to fundraise by participating in weekly design competitions in which the designs that won were turned into cases. None of these were great failures, nor were they great successes, but they taught me a lot about creating value, finding your audience and operating on a shoestring budget.

You spoke at the Tech808 conference a few months back. Share with us the story of where you were financially and emotionally just before founding BackersHub.

At the time when I started BackersHub, I had been in San Francisco for a few weeks. I flew out there last summer, via a one-way plane ticket. I asked my friends from high school if I could sleep on their couch until I figured out what my next move would be. I knew getting out of my comfort zone would force me to either fly or die trying. I was running out of money and was finally down to my last .27 cents – this was a very stressful time as bills were piling up, I had no way of flying back home to New York and didn’t even know how I would pay my phone bill that was coming up in a few days. Not having a ton of cash to get started was actually a blessing – as it helped me to stay really focused, and make every move calculated. I brought my cousin along with me who was looking for a new project to work on and got started.

What is BackersHub?

BackersHub is a community of repeat Kickstarter + Indiegogo Backers. Our members are the most active Backers in the crowd funding market – each week we highlight new campaigns that are exciting and innovative.

What prompted you to launch BackersHub–what pain were you trying to address?

As a former Kickstarter campaign creator my biggest struggle was getting Backers for my campaign. The goal of BackersHub is to help campaign creators get their projects in front of Backers that would most likely support it.

As you were researching/preparing to launch were there any things that you discovered that surprised you? Were any myths busted for you about the crowdfunding community?

What surprised us the most was how dedicated Backers were to supporting innovative ideas. The feedback our community gives to creators really helps shape and steer the direction of their campaign. Also, Backers tend to back several campaigns through out the year.

What has been your biggest takeaway from your entrepreneurial journey so far?

The biggest takeaway has to be “Bet On Yourself.” So many times we get complacent at a job or career we hate because we are afraid of taking a risk and jumping into the unknown. We live in a day and age where information is available at our fingertips and starting a business is now easier than ever. It’s not going to be easy, and can be really frightening at times – however, the reward greatly outweighs the risk.

What’s the one piece of advice or wisdom you would share with the you of a year ago as the you of today?

The advice I would give myself would have been “get started now”. I would have started my entrepreneurial journey even sooner, but that is all in hindsight.

What advice do you have for folks who have an idea for a startup but do not have a technical background?

I would highly recommend building a team that focuses on your weakness – find somebody that is technical if you do not have those necessary skills. Also, having a team is definitely better than going at it alone.

What are the three most important things that people should consider before launching their startup?

The 3 things that should be considered are:

1. Pain. Is there a real pain in the market?

2. Value. What can you offer to fix that pain?

3. Solution. Can you create the solution in an affordable way?

First time entrepreneurs tend to just create products without really assessing the market to see if what they are creating is needed.

Please share the things/tips a person launching a crowdfunding campaign can do to make her or him more attractive to your members and backers generally.

Launching a campaign these days is very much similar to creating a well oiled machine with so many moving parts. Everything must be in sync, from the video, to the description, pricing of the rewards and the actual idea. We put together an in-depth course on how to launch a physical product successfully for anybody interested at

What are the benefits to investors of joining BackersHub?

As a campaign creator, you will get your idea in front of thousands of people that love to support great ideas and look forward to being first. If you are an active Backer, it is a great community to get access to Early Bird rewards, awesome deals and to be kept in the loop on upcoming products.

How can people find out more about BackersHub?

Anybody that is interested in launching a crowd funding campaign, getting deals on Kickstarter + Indiegogo-funded products or just learning more about BackersHub should check out or shoot Dwight an email at

What’s on the horizon for you as an entrepreneur?

What’s on the horizon for me as an entrepreneur? Hopefully to continue to grow, create value for our clients and inspire others to take the plunge into entrepreneurship.

One final note, Dwight has taken every public opportunity possible to say how much he has always wanted to appear in Black Enterprise, and how proud that would make his mom. Well, Dwight, here’s to making Mom proud! Thanks for sharing your story.

Michelle Y. Talbert is a recovering corporate attorney turned strategist and social media content producer. She’s NYC born and bred, but you can find her living and loving in Washington, DC. She founded Her Power Hustle, the community and podcast for women entrepreneurs. Connect with Michelle on Twitter @MichelleTalbert and on LinkedIn.