In February 2020, just before COVID-19 halted in-person events, honors business major Jeurys Santiago launched his networking and marketing company, Minds With Purpose, by holding a “Music Monday” at El Taller, a cafe and performance space in his hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Local musicians, some performing for the first time, competed for prizes, including cash and free studio time, in front of an audience, who voted for their favorite acts on Instagram.
Eighteen months later, with pandemic restrictions eased, Minds With Purpose organized another pair of Music Mondays: one in Manchester, New Hampshire, that drew more than 100 people, followed by another in Lawrence that drew 300. A charitable basketball tournament and creative show in a city park, complete with a school backpack giveaway, drew a large family crowd.
Minds With Purpose also was hired to provide marketing services for a series of pop-up events held during summer 2021 by Imagina Essex, a nonprofit that aims to revitalize downtown Lawrence.
Santiago is happy to just break even on such community events, which often include fundraising for local nonprofits. His focus is on building a community of creative and business people who can help each other thrive economically.
“I love to meet people. I love to challenge them and help them grow, and I enjoy bringing people together to have a good time,” Santiago says. “I started learning more about entrepreneurship and networking so I could create opportunities for small businesses and creatives to connect.”
That’s one side of Minds With Purpose. The other side is a marketing business led by Santiago, who has expertise in social media marketing. He works with a team of experienced photographers, videographers and graphic artists.
Santiago was inspired to start Minds With Purpose while studying business at Northern Essex Community College, where he found a job as a sports marketing intern, publicizing the school’s teams on social media.
A leadership program there and a presentation by another student helped him crystallize his business idea: to help young people make creative and business connections while having fun at little or no cost.
“I thought, ‘How can I create opportunities for young people to have a good time and be productive at the same time?’” he says. “I wanted to create networking events, but not old school.”
His course work and a series of entrepreneurship experiences helped him craft a business plan. A native of the Dominican Republic, he attended the Spanish-language business accelerator program at Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) during summer 2019.
“When I went to EforAll ... my business idea was all over the place,” he says.
Supported by an Oprah Winfrey Scholarship – he was nominated by his advisors and professors at Northern Essex – he transferred to UMass Lowell in fall 2020 as a business major with concentrations in marketing and international business. He joined the Honors College, and he also set out to earn a River Hawk Experience Distinction (RHED) in Entrepreneurship.
The RHED program links two courses with two real-world experiences. Santiago took classes in Global Marketing and New Product and Service Management, and he competed in the DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge. Although he didn’t win a prize, he found the process helpful, especially during the pandemic, when he introduced a branded MWP clothing line.
His second RHED experience was leading an international team during the summer 2021 Global Entrepreneurship Exchange (GE2) program. He worked virtually with students in India, Cambodia and China on a potential plan to expand Minds With Purpose to the Dominican Republic.
“It taught me a lot about working with people in different cultures and different time zones,” he says of the 10-day program, which brings together students from more than a dozen countries.
Now, Minds With Purpose is providing marketing services to a growing list of clients, including New York rapper Jay Critch, who hired Santiago and his creative team to create a launch package for a new album.
“That was a very cool experience,” Santiago says.