Stirring up ‘Code Fever’ in South Florida

STEM advocate, entrepreneur Felecia Hatcher works to bring tech education to underprivileged communities.

Candice Helfand-Rogers By Candice Helfand-Rogers

Editor’s Note: This is part of our ongoing look at the lack of female representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. See all posts here.

IMG_2833Felecia Hatcher is an entrepreneur, an author and a White House Champion of Change. The latter descriptor is an honor bestowed upon her by the United States government this past February in recognition of her staunch advocacy for tech literacy in underserved communities.

Last year, in her native South Florida, Hatcher founded the STEM-focused initiative Code Fever, “giving students and parents on the other side of the tracks the skills and resources they need to launch tech startups.” She hopes to create 10,000 African-American startups through the effort.

The aptly named Code Fever hosts workshops and courses of varying lengths on coding and tech entrepreneurship. The lessons imparted in them are practical in nature — she stresses that in low-income and minority communities, it’s important not only to foster interest, but to highlight what one can do with such skill sets.

“[These people are] underrepresented. They’re underexposed. But they’re not uninterested,” she says. “There’s real genius in these communities — [these subjects] just need to be introduced in the right way.”

For a former “C” student who was told by college scouts not to bother pursuing higher education, the mission of encouraging discouraged populations is a personal one.

That negative feedback, given to her at a crucial time in her high school career, only served to motivate Hatcher — she wound up securing over $100k in scholarship funding for herself, which she put toward her education at Lynn University in Boca Raton. “That experience shaped my entrepreneurial standpoint moving forward,” she says.

Hatcher started early as a business owner, founding her first during her freshman year of college. Then, after graduation in 2005, she shifted gears and spent several years working on marketing campaigns for companies like Sony and Nintendo.

Hatcher speaks at a Code Fever event. (Credit: Facebook.com)

Hatcher speaks at a Code Fever event. (Credit: Facebook.com)

What ultimately brought her back to entrepreneurship was a fated fall — literally. Hatcher says she took a tumble while chasing an ice cream truck in heels, and was inspired in that moment to form Feverish Ice Cream LLC in 2008.

Feverish sells all-natural ice pops and provides a catering service, making use of smaller, more eco-friendly vehicles to sell its healthy frozen sweets. A socially conscious business, a portion of the company’s proceeds is donated to Code Fever, to further fund the organization’s education efforts.

While running her ventures, Hatcher also speaks publicly on building tech-enabled businesses, branding, entrepreneurship and more. And, in addition to being named as a Champion of Change, Hatcher has also been recognized as an Essence Magazine Tech Master and Stiletto Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013, among other accolades.

She attributes her success to her team, professional partners and investors, and the inspiration she receives from her husband, Derick, and their young daughter — who she vows will be able to code by age 2.

And Hatcher has big dreams going forward. “Our next step is expanding Code Fever outside of south Florida. We’re having an event to launch in Tampa in October, and we’re also going to be doing more work in the Caribbean,” she says.

Her earlier struggles — and the help she received from others in working past them — continue to motivate her today.

“A lot of [mine and my husband’s] success came from people pouring into us, directly or indirectly. They showed us what the possibilities are outside of our block, our neighborhood, our state,” she says. “These children just need that chance, that exposure. And we all have a responsibility to bring it to them.”

For a list of project posts: The Story Exchange on STEM Entrepreneurship

Posted: October 22, 2014

Candice Helfand-RogersStirring up ‘Code Fever’ in South Florida