136: Leigh-Ann Buchanan (Venture Café Miami)

Leigh-Ann Buchanan on Innovation City

“Inclusion allows people to not only be at the table, but to play a role and feel like they are a part of the ecosystem.” – Leigh-Ann Buchanan

Welcome to Season 3 of Innovation City, a podcast featuring innovators, creators, and disruptors to discover how business is changing in the modern world.

Created and produced by SLAM! Agency in cooperation with Venture Café St. Louis and Venture Café Miami, Innovation City gives you an inside look at how rapidly business and culture are changing thanks to increasing diversity and inclusion, heightened creativity, and a stronger and better-connected business community. Venture Café is the largest combined gathering of entrepreneurs and innovators anywhere in the world. Events are held every Thursday in St. Louis, Miami, and other leading innovation cities around the globe.

Today’s guest is Leigh-Ann Buchanan, Executive Director of Venture Café Miami. Leigh-Ann is the founding Executive Director of Venture Café Miami. Under her leadership, VCM’s innovation programming has attracted over 45,000 innovators, resulting in content partnerships with 1000+ organizations and 1500+ free educational sessions. She is also the founder of the Nyah Project, an author, facilitator and frequent speaker on strategies for inclusive innovation ecosystems, entrepreneurship-led economic development, experiential leadership development and impact models and social justice innovation. We are so excited to have Leigh-Ann joining us not only for this first episode of season 3, but to be joining Tyler as a co-host of the show!

They discuss:

  • Being the founding executive director of Venture Café Miami
  • Her personal mantra: I am focused on people, purpose, and impact over everything else.
  • This mantra is a guide for her day-to-day life and everything she is apart of
  • Leigh-Ann’s background:
    • Originally from Vancouver, Canada and moved to the US when she was 16 years old
    • She finished high school at the age of 16 and started college immediately after in Florida
    • Studied law at the University of Miami
    • Her early career was spent practicing law (7 years)
    • She got involved with the American Bar Association (ABA) and found a interest in racial and ethnic justice issues
    • She was fascinated by the way large tech companies were able to take on challenges in new and innovative ways
    • Her interest in innovation led her to Venture Café
  • Venture Café Miami was founded in 2016
  • The importance of inclusion with an organization like Venture Café and providing a space for people of varied backgrounds, socioeconomic status, venture stage, etc
  • One of Leigh-Ann’s favorite quotes:
    • “If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.” – Charlie Parker
  • Diversity and inclusion, most often, do not happen by chance
    • Venture Café puts the time and effort into their outreach, relationship development, and internal planning to ensure a welcoming environment for all
  • Founding the Nyah Project in 2014, an exclusive fellowship which develops purposeful youth leaders of color from underserved communities through transformative experiences abroad
    • The organization also provides access coaching to students maximize their chances of getting into college and acquiring scholarships
    • Since starting, they have served 57 students, 100% of them have got into college, and over 90% of them have won scholarships
  • Leigh-Ann thinks of the the Nyah Project as a way to redistribute social capital
    • Giving students, who historically would not otherwise have access to, different pathways to resources, higher education, etc.
  • Looking to expanding the Nyah Project nationally, specifically starting with an expansion in St. Louis, MO (TBD)
  • Connect with Venture Café Miami on their website or on social media @venturecafemia
  • Connect with Nyah Project on their website or on social media @nyahproject
  • Connect with Leigh-Ann on Instagram @leighann.buchanan
  • Welcome Leigh-Ann as the new Innovation City co-host!

Lightning round:

  • What are you reading right now?
  • What is one country you would like to visit that you haven’t yet?
    • Peru
    • Fun fact: Leigh-Ann has visited over 40 countries
  • What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
    • Follow her daily mental, spiritual, and physical cadence
  • What is one thing that you do too much?
    • Scroll on Instagram
  • What is your superpower?
    • Connection and Concepts