7 Louisville Teenagers Create A Tech Company; Building Websites

Louisville, KY is positioning itself to become a major player in the global technology industry and a city sponsored organization called ‘Code Louisville’ has assisted in making entrepreneurs out of seven local teenagers. codelouisville-logo+banner

In an attempt to stay ahead of the technology curve, a collaboration between the Metro Louisville Department of Economic Growth and Innovation, Greater Louisville Inc, EnterpriseCorp, the Louisville Free Public Library, KentuckianaWorks and local employers was established to create the technology growth program known as Code Louisville.

The program consists of a series of twelve-week sessions which uses the Treehouse coding program to train future software developers. According to the Code Louisville website, between 2010 and 2020, Louisville is projected to have a net increase of nearly 2000 new programmer and software developer jobs.

In 2015, Code Louisville decided to expand its training program to include high school students from Louisville’s predominately black Russell Neighborhood, so it created a pilot program called Code Louisville After School. Classes for the the program would be held at the city owned learning center in the Russell Neighborhood known as The Beech.Watch Brothers (2015) Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Coding at the BeechIn 2005, The Beech was established within the Beecher Terrace housing projects to address the lack of adequate learning centers located in Louisville’s Russell Neighborhood.

Its construction was a joint-venture between Ballard High School and the Metro Louisville Housing Authority. To create the state of the art facility, the walls of two adjoining apartments units were torn down. The newly constructed unit was then equipped with WiFi, computers and furniture.

In the Spring of 2015, Code Louisville partnered with Ballard High School and created a pilot program called Coding at the Beech. It was designed to teach qualified students that maintained at least a 3.0 GPA, how to become software developers.

Ballard High School supplied the students for the program and Code Louisville brought in Kevin Johnson, a recent University of Louisville graduate with a Master’s degree in Education, and MBA student Diana Duran from Bellarmine University to assist and supervise the students.

Initially, twenty-five students were enrolled in Coding at the Beech but due to personal obligations only seven were able to complete the program. The students were given free city bus passes and met twice a week at The Beech, for two hour sessions over a twelve week period.

Left to right: Naphtali Zazueta (16), Marquise Evans (15), Terriyon Ashby-Brown (17), MontazTillman (16), Justin Jones (15), Direese Breckinridge (18), Bobby Sumlin(17)
Left to right: Naphtali Zazueta (16), Marquise Evans (15), Terriyon Ashby-Brown (17), Montaz Tillman (16), Justin Jones (15), Direese Breckenridge (18), Bobby Sumlin(17)

The program taught the students how to code using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Once they mastered the techniques, they designed the website for Coding at the Beech (atthebeech.com) and were then able to create their own website development company called Beech Technologies (Beechtech.org).

Their newly founded company creates custom websites complete with a personalized internet domain, tech support, social media presence, software updates and frequent analysis reports to track the success of the client’s web presence. The websites are currently being offered at a discounted rate of $99 per month. Comparable services with their competitors generally range around $250 per month.

Coding at the Beech on computers

Grants and funding for the program were provided by Access Ventures and the James Graham Brown Foundation. These grants allow the students to earn minimum wages until the company becomes profitable. Course instructor Kevin Johnson explains,

“They are making minimum wage and anything past our break-even point, they’re doing profit sharing. So if we are super successful and we get a bunch of accounts…Any cream on the top of that, they’re going to split amongst themselves.” 

In addition to designing and creating custom websites, the students are also responsible for sales and marketing. Sales representative, Direese Breckenridge, faces the tedious task of seeking out potential customers and presenting them with possible website options to allow their business to run more efficiently.

Operating a business is challenging for the youths but fortunately they have developed an amazing bond which allows them to persevere through adversity. In addition, the student’s family members have shown a great deal of support throughout the course of the program. Breckenridge was full of excitement when she said,

“My parents were the first people that said yes to us. They were our first customers to buy a website.”

The group of seven insist that they are thoroughly enjoying the program and that it has played a huge part in keeping the teenagers out of mischief. They also stress that they are learning a lot about technology and that the experience has been life changing.

“I love this job…When I was in middle school my teacher told us to build a website and we used a basic software program, so I was happy to finally be able to use more sophisticated technology.” – Terryion Ashby-Brown

President Obama and Justin Jones
President Obama and Justin Jones

President Obama recognized the efforts of Code Louisville, particularly Coding at the Beech, during his April 2, 2015, visit to Louisville to discuss technological advancement. Justin Jones, was congratulated by the President personally for his participation in the program.

“This has definitely been a maturing experience for all of us. It’s rewarding to learn new skills to help better ourselves and know that we are leading the world in its technology state, but it’s also equally rewarding to learn how to interact with human beings in a workplace society.” – Justin Jones

Anticipating that Beech Technologies excels as a business, city officials plan to bring the Coding at the Beech program back next year and recruit additional students. Instructor Kevin Johnson said, “It’s a long term commitment for us and our clients.”

Brad Harrison is a journalist/motivational speaker/entrepreneur and on-air personality. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in Communications with cum laude honors from the University of Louisville. In October 2015, he started UrbanMaxx Magazine to provide positive role models for Urban residents that reside in at-risk-communities and lack positive leadership in their lives. For booking or advertising - contact Brad Harrison at bradharrison@urbanmaxx.com