By Mallory Culhane
The organizations and activities students take part in during their time in college can often have a lasting impact on their personal – and professional – lives. As freshmen, students are often told time and time again to get involved on-campus, because you never know what it could lead to. For Cristophoros Beck, a 2016 University of Tampa alumni who graduated with a degree in sociology, found just that, even as a non-traditional student.
When Beck was medically retired from the U.S. Army after serving two combat tours and relocated to Tampa, he started to look into local, surrounding universities. UT immediately caught his eye, despite the fact that the VA education benefits said they wouldn’t cover the cost.
“I was not going to accept not attending UT,” said Beck. “I [wrote] an appeal that overturned their decision, unanimously, and began in 2013.”
While on campus, Beck was involved with Student Government, Black Student Union, the Alpha Beta Gamma chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Inc. and the National Panhellenic Council (NPHC).
“[They] were the most welcoming…I found a home where I belonged,” said Beck when talking about the impact that Greek Life had on his time at UT. One of the people he met through Greek Life is his current business partner, Blaise Alexander-Telemaque, a 2018 cybersecurity graduate.
During their time at UT, they both served as student leaders within their fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Inc., planning events that involved social injustice panels, community service opportunities, networking, and even music.
“Blaise and I both are music creatives,” said Beck. “Growing up, we created music with our friends in local and homemade studios, but upon traveling to college, time and location became a pain point for collaboration.”
This was the beginning of the duo’s business: Breezeshare, Inc. Founded in May 2019, the company is aimed at evolving the music industry by providing those in the industry with a space to collaborate beyond a local studio. Music creatives – including producers, artists, and audio engineers – are able to use the platform to collaborate and produce music from anywhere. From live streaming content to hosting one-on-one sessions, the platform gives creatives the chance to connect in several ways.
“Our passion for technology, entrepreneurship, innovation and music are elements of Breezeshare,” said Beck, who is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Breezeshare. “Time and location [are] the biggest restraints for music creatives, while collaboration has produced some of music’s greatest success and influencers.”
Breezeshare has begun to make its mark in the industry, having partnerships with TampaBeat and Rolling Loud, as well as promotional partnerships with record labels. The two also have expanded their team: John Whitaker, a 2019 UT graduate, joined Breezeshare in June 2020 as the director of business development. Jehnae Jasmine Linkins, a Lincoln University graduate, also recently joined the team as chief technology officer
Although Breezeshare has come a long way since its beginning, the duo’s main issue at the moment is funding for development.
“While we have raised funds through rewards crowdfunding like fundBlackFounders, support from our collegiate network is needed,” said Beck, who said he’s been able to access different social circles from connections at UT and frequents UT alumni events. Although these connections have allowed the two to expand their funding opportunities, it hasn’t been enough.
Beck and Telemaque aren’t the only black entrepreneurs facing a lack of funding for their businesses. Just a handful of venture capital firms have funded black-founded companies in the last five years. Out of the nearly $150 billion of venture capital provided in 2020, just over 3% of that went to black-founded companies, according to Reuters.
This issue isn’t new: according to the same Reuters article, the percentage of capital given to black-owned companies hasn’t moved above 5% in the last six years, even though black-owned businesses make up roughly 10% of all U.S. companies.
Although there’s evidence that funding for black entrepreneurs is seeing some progress as corporate America puts more emphasis on diversity, it’s moving at a slow pace.
Despite the obstacles the two face from a lack of funding, they’re defiant in seeing Breezeshare succeed, and aren’t even close to letting up on their passion for the business.
When asked what advice Beck would give to other UT students, he said, “engulf yourself into passions you care about, everything else is work.”
To learn more about Breezeshare and Beck and Telemaque, go to Breezeshare.co.