While sitting on a review panel board for proposals from small businesses, mostly women and minority-owned, during her years at NASA’s Ames Research Center as an aerospace engineer, Aisha Bowe had a realization:Â “Why not me?â€
Already a successful engineer, she wanted to launch her own business developing tech solutions for defense contractors and enterprises. This is how STEMBoard was born.
A Double Mission
Co-founded by Bowe in 2013, STEMBoard is a tech solutions company that creates software solutions for government and private entities.
In addition, STEMBoard works to close the achievement gap by empowering historically underrepresented youth to help build transformational technology.
“People are very used to a company that does one thing very well. [STEMBoard] is a collection. We’re not only majority African American-operated and owned, we are agile,” says Bowe.
“We do hardware, we do front-end and back-end development; we are a collection of engineering minds focused on solving societal problems.”
Bootstrapping the Business
What’s more, Bowe and her co-founder launched STEMBoard without outside funding. “We went to the Valley. My co-founder and I were unable to raise about what was less than one year of pay.â€
Investors doubted the revenue projections Bowe proposed.Â The founders realized that, with their business model, they could bring in revenue and stay true to their values, without the need for outside investment.
“We started winning contracts. We were able to bring our team on, and there is no VC involved. [Now, it’s] three years later, and we are doing exponentially better every single year,â€ she says.
The company focuses on creating high-tech solutions and ensuring the tech talent pipeline is diverse and prepared.
“We had a customer that came to us who wanted to fly drones in a confined environment; imagine operating a drone in a tunnel or pipe. We developed software that would operate in a GPS-denied environment and do real-time mapping. We have a laundry list of other [requests] that are like that,â€ Bowe says.
At the same time, STEMBoard is embarking on projects, such as providing over $50,000 in funding to Fayetteville State University’s Computer Science department.Â “Students got to work with us, [and] they got their year paid for. They developed an algorithm, which is being transitioned into the commercial market. These students can put on their resumes that they have real job experience,â€ says Bowe.