How Nashlie Sephus Works To Boost Jackson’s Tech Ecosystem

Tech consulting, engineering programs, and scholarships

When Nashlie Sephus envisions longevity for her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, she sees a transformation for the city into the next big tech hub. 

Sephus is the founder and CEO of The Bean Path, an incubator and tech consulting organization that provides technical advice and guidance to individuals and small businesses to help grow networks and fertilize communities. The tech nonprofit leader recently purchased a 14-acre property to build a workspace called the Jackson Tech District

Nashlie Sephus

Poet Williams/Terrence Wells Photography

"I want to provide tech help and exposure to people in the community who otherwise wouldn't have been empowered with such or had access to such," Sephus told Lifewire in a phone interview. "I want to bridge the tech gap in my communities."

Sephus founded the nonprofit in 2018 to help enable digital literacy, promote tech workforce development, and empower small businesses and startups in the community with tech tools, awareness, and know-how. Bean Path's CEO is also on a mission to strengthen the tech ecosystem in Mississippi and foster collaboration and inclusion across the state, starting with the capital city of Jackson. Outside of providing tech consulting, The Bean Path hosts office hours at local libraries, puts on engineering and coding programs and offers scholarships and grants to Jackson students and community members.  

Quick Facts

Name: Nashlie Sephus

Age: 36

From: Jackson, Mississippi 

Random delight: “I play the piano and a few other instruments. Music was my first love!”

Key quote or motto: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).”

From a Side Hustle to a Dream

Sephus grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, a city named after former president Andrew Jackson. Sephus said many Black residents reside in the state's capital, yet they have little ownership over businesses and property in the downtown area. Roughly 82% of Jackson's population identify as Black or African American, and the greater Jackson area shows even more diversity. 

"Despite getting a bad wrap due to our harsh past as a state and economic issues, the city has a lot of soul, arts, music, and food culture with a sense of community," Sephus said. 

Sephus first broke into entrepreneurship while studying computer engineering at Mississippi State University. She began consulting on websites and software development for small businesses as a side hustle through her doctoral program at Georgia Tech. Sephus went on to work as a chief technology officer and developed prototypes for a startup company called Partpic, which eventually raised $1.5 million in venture capital.

"I often say I was working at a startup company but didn't really know what a startup was due to my background in engineering," Sephus said. "Now I've founded a few additional companies and advised several others."

After Amazon acquired Partpic in 2016, Sephus went on to work for the tech e-commerce giant and has continued to do so while building The Bean Path. Sephus specializes in artificial intelligence and facial recognition software. Selling a company to Amazon has been one of the most rewarding moments in Sephus' career. The nonprofit leader has built The Bean Path's team up to 10 part-time employees, with plans to add some full-timers this fall following a raise of $300,000 in funding.

Nashlie Sephus at a desk, reading from her phone

Poet Williams/Terrence Wells Photography

The idea for a tech hub sparked after Sephus struggled to find an office space for The Bean Path back in 2018. With this new mixed-use development, she wants to strengthen Mississippi's tech ecosystem, which she believes this physical space will improve. The Jackson Tech District expects to span seven buildings and include event space, apartments, a grocery store, a photography studio, an innovation station, and more. 

"The Jackson Tech District will be a live-work-play innovation hub with collaboration, inclusion, and equity in mind," she said. 

While Sephus has seen much success in her nonprofit entrepreneurial work, she is still struggling in some areas. Her main challenges have been raising funding for a nonprofit and convincing people to invest in Jackson's tech ecosystem. Despite adversity, Sephus is confident she can overcome anything. 

"I believe with the right strategy, precision, and understanding the community's needs, this is how I am overcoming these challenges," Sephus said. 

Sephus said construction on the tech hub would begin this fall. Over the next year, she hopes to launch the first building of the Jackson Tech District, which will house Bean Path's headquarters. Sephus also wants to get back to hosting more events. 

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