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Duplessy Foundation aids entrepreneurs pursuing a passion

Sandra Larson
Sandra Larson
Sandra Larson is a Boston-based freelance journalist covering urban/social issues and policy. She has contributed regularly since 2009 to the Bay State Banner, and since 2016 to VIEW BIO
Duplessy Foundation aids entrepreneurs pursuing a passion
Derrick Duplessy (Photo: Sandra Larson)

At the recent Mass Innovation Nights product showcase and networking event in Grove Hall, selected business experts stepped up to the stage to give a short pitch for their services.

One of those experts was Derrick Duplessy of the Duplessy Foundation, who in 45 seconds encapsulated both his work and his strong neighborhood ties.

“I grew up not far from here on Columbia Road across from the Burger King, and went to school at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School,” he told the assembled crowd of some 250 attendees. “So it’s cool to see all you guys here in my ’hood.”

On the Web

Duplessy Foundation: http://duplessy.org

Purpose Rockstar: http://purposerockstar.com

July 6 rooftop scream event: https://www.event…

Then, his concise pitch: “I’m a coach. I work with startups and with artists,” he said. “The big thing is, there are still many of you that could be doing so much better. In the last few years I’ve helped folks raise $2.6 million on Kickstarter. And I want to have way more success stories — so come see me in the back.”

To enthusiastic applause, Duplessy exited the stage to rejoin the Experts Corner, where startup entrepreneurs could stop by throughout the evening for one-on-one conversations with him and with experts on other types of funding.

Duplessy formed the Duplessy Foundation in 2009 as a way to tie together two areas of expertise: business consulting and youth leadership. With fundraising workshops, coaching and related programs, he hopes to be able to assist those particularly like himself: children of immigrants forging their own paths and entrepreneurs yearning to harness their passion into a meaningful and money-making business.

“I saw that people wanted to do very specific things, but they were afraid because these weren’t the five things their parents wanted them to do,” he says, speaking to the Banner recently.

As a youth, Duplessy’s own view of the world was narrow, extending little outside his Dorchester home, church and school. He had few plans beyond his Haitian immigrant parents’ expectations to “find a girl, find a job, and then have kids,” he says. Prospects for a fulfilling career seemed dim when the troubled Burke school lost its accreditation for a time.

An opportunity

His trajectory took a dramatic turn when he was recruited into UMass Boston’s Urban Scholars, a program that seeks out motivated high school students in partner Boston Public Schools and coaches them to successfully enroll in and complete college.

Through that program, he visited some 20 colleges around the country, expanding his worldview exponentially. The Burke regained its accreditation in time for his 1998 graduation, and he went on to attend Bowdoin College in Maine, where he earned a degree in sociology and Africana studies.

“It was amazing,” he says of the Urban Scholars opportunity. Grateful, he began working in after-school youth leadership and development programs as soon as he could.

“I wanted to give back to others who were like me,” he says, “helping first-generation students get into college.”

As fulfilling as these initial jobs were, the income was low, and his interest was piqued when someone suggested he would be a good executive search consultant. As he tells it, “I applied at 3 a.m. and got a call at 9 a.m.” From there, he spent several years working for an executive search firm developing and coaching executives in financial services, technology, non-profit and higher education sectors.

Expertise

Duplessy says that while crowdfunding — raising money through online platforms such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe — is available to anyone, a good fundraising campaign involves hard work and planning. Serious crowdfunders need to take time to identify their crowd and define their story, he explains, as well as take care of the nitty-gritty details of executing the funding campaign. Paying attention to all these facets will help yield greater rewards.

About 400 people have attended the crowdfunding workshops.

“At the end, magic happens,” Duplessy says. “The money is important, but what’s more important is the person feels like, ‘Wow, the idea is proven, there’s a market for this.’”

Besides workshops and coaching, the Duplessy Foundation encompasses several other initiatives: “Purpose Rockstar” is an online community and collection of audio profiles highlighting people around the world who have managed to forge meaningful careers; “Purpose Fellowships” offers support to artists creating businesses; and “Scream Club” is an emerging stress-relief group for the startup community that includes chances to gather, network and — literally — scream from a rooftop together.

With his foundation’s events and services, Duplessy aims to build success and community among people of color, immigrants, women and anyone who has not always fit into the mainstream startup world.

“We want to create places in person and online where people feel they’re not sticking out like a sore thumb,” he explains. “We want more and more people to feel less and less isolated.”