Nashlie Sephus, 35, is planning on transforming her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi into a Tech Hub. The Amazon Scientist's $25 million plan includes creating a tech hub out of 12 abandoned acres of vacant lots in Jackson.
Over the past four years, Sephus has worked in Atlanta, Georgia as an applied science manager for Amazon's artificial intelligence initiative while splitting her time in her hometown. After the company acquired the visual recognition technology startup, Partpic, in 2016, Sephus became chief technology officer. Years later, in 2018, the 35-year-old founded Bean Path, a Jackson technology consulting nonprofit that she claims has "helped more than 400 local businesses and individuals with their tech needs."
Through Sephus's developing plans for the Jackson Tech District, she hopes to bring technological advancements and investments to a community that is not known as a tech hub.
"It's clear that people don't expect anything good to come from Jackson," she says. "So it's up to us to build something for our hometown, something for the people coming behind us."
The plan entails developing seven buildings, about 500,000 square feet of workspace. Sephus hopes to develop the area into a maker's space, an electronics lab, apartments, a photography studio, restaurants, and a grocery store over the course of three to five years. The purpose of the space will be to help entrepreneurs learn technology skills.
The plan has already accumulated investors, including Toni Cooley, a business owner.
"I'm inspired by the fact that she is from Jackson and it's very easy to leave and not come back. She is not that individual," Cooley said. "She's one who believes in adding value at an early age, and that impressed me about her."
Amazon also helped Sephus through its Amazon Future Engineer program, which aids teachers interested in improving their technological literacy through scholarships and instruction. An Amazon program devoted to helping marginalized communities gain access to technology, We Power Tech, will also help the hub through workshops once it opens.
Sephus plans to break ground this spring, and says she is already talking with a popular chain restaurant and grocery store. She says she hopes the Jackson Tech Hub becomes "a place where you can be around like-minded people, grow your business, and learn how to create technology that helps improve the world.