Name: Lincoln Stephens
Profession: Social Entrepreneur
One Word That Describes You: Driven
Corporate America, with its many challenges, isn’t for everyone. For Lincoln Stephens, a self-described “muckraker and entrepreneur,” his past life as an advertising account management executive wasn’t completely fulfilling his life’s ambition. He decided to find a different path. The Dallas, Texas, born, professional left corporate America to pursue his passion for mentorship, and co- founded The Marcus Graham Project.
After he left top brands, such as Frito Lay, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Chevrolet, Mr. Stephens told BE Modern Man, “I didn’t want others to make the same mistakes I made early on in my own career, by not saving money properly or investing in my future the way I should have. So, I decided to go out there and help others, through guidance, to navigate their own career, and expand their knowledge-base.” The 34-year-old social entrepreneur decided to leverage his bachelor’s degree in journalism with a focus in strategic communications, to facilitate his goal.
Upon Mr. Stephens’ graduation from the University of Missouri-Columbia, one of his own mentors, a man by the name of Larry Powell, gave him the idea to start a “diverse network of professionals in the industry.” After observing that corporate America wasn’t taking advantage of a whole segment of possible consumers, Lincoln quit the corporate world for good, in 2008, to become a team leader and motivating force in Black culture.
“Our black youth are in need of strong role models,” Mr. Stephens told BE Modern Man exclusively. “We can continue to double-down on that need by making an impact on the ground and spending time in person, as well as being digitally connected to our students, alumni, and young leaders. I try to respond [to them] within 24-48 hours, if not immediately. Mentorship is foundational to what the Marcus Graham Project is about. It is something we choose to do for a lifetime, not just for a reason or a season.” Mr. Stephens quickly established himself as a leading force in community organizing. From serving as the Chicago and Dallas Street Team Leader for Rock The Vote, to an active leader for African American Leaders of Tomorrow, Mr. Stephens believes that helping others is the most important way to touch the souls of the next generation of influencers and leaders.
Having recently completed his master’s degree in entertainment business at Full Sail University, Mr. Stephens also proves that education never stops. “I have grown to see how important experiential and engaged learning is to truly learning a craft,” he said. “We have seen success in our students who have the world as their classroom, as opposed to the typical schoolbook and test. You have to learn by doing in our industry, which also gives you the soft skills that you need.” Whether or not one decides to put their faith in the traditional four-year degree model, or find a job through alternate means, having passion and the resolute faith to accomplish one’s goal are key tenets.
Lincoln Stephens’ road to success may read as impressive, but it wasn’t without obstacles. While embedded in corporate America, he dealt with the not-so-hidden-fact of being the only person of color in the room. Being viewed as the spokesperson for an entire race can be daunting, even if one is a natural born leader. For Lincoln Stephens, finding success outside of the velvet rope of 401k-living also had its challenges.
Read more about some of the challenges Lincoln overcame on his road to success…