We had the good fortune of connecting with Llewellyn Dixon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Llewellyn, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Passport Atlanta is an app that is designed to destroy barriers and ensure that all students experience two fundamental things: Access and Exposure. We believe “that they will be what they see”, so we want them to see everything good that Atlanta has to offer. Many of Atlanta’s students live in bubbles where they are either unaware of what is around them or they may not believe would be welcomed there. As a result, their scope is limited for who/what they can become and achieve to what is within reach.
Imagine a high school sophomore growing up on the west side. She loves animals and is always glued to the screen watching footage of whales and other fish. But for any number of reasons, she’s never seen any up close. She discovers an app that is able to get her a free ride and free access to the Georgia Aquarium on multiple occasions. Her reward for going? She gets to have a personal experience with any wildlife of her choosing. Her diligence grants her an internship and other opportunities over the years. Fast forward to after college – she now works at the Georgia Aquarium as a Marine Biologist.
Our goal is to help break generational cycles of poverty and dead end jobs by helping to activate the imaginations and inspire hope in the students that come across our app. Many of our students will be the first to go to college or achieve middle class status. Some may even be the first to finish high school or start a business. We are impacting the community by making sure that our students know that they are not only capable of achieving such successes but that they are also worthy of them.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I always chuckle a bit when people ask “was it easy”. The short answer is “no, it never is”. Passport Atlanta is an entrepreneurial venture in a lot of ways. We started it from scratch. The idea had to be thought about, tested, second guessed, doubted, tested again, questioned some more, proven, and then have that same cycle repeated until we got to a point where we everyone else believed in it as much as we did.
My story is different. I don’t have a business background. I’m a minister by profession and that is what both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees focused on. The biggest challenge I had to overcome was the initial intimidation of leading in a new world and in a new way. I consider it on the job training. The biggest lesson I learned as a result is “fake it til you make it” is horrible advice if you really want to succeed in the long run. You don’t have to fake it. Instead, I had to be honest with myself and a few trusted individuals to help guide me. I wasn’t afraid to ask for help or for clarity on things and concepts that were new. I also did my own studies to prepare myself for this new stage of life. Saying “I don’t understand” to people who want you to succeed will yield a world of wisdom and results.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Sheesh, It’s funny because when my friends come to visit I always warn them that I’m a homebody and don’t really know too much about what’s happening in the city. My favorite thing to do though is eat. I have a list of restaurants on hand for various occasions. For late night cheese steaks, I go to Woody’s. For wings, American Deli or JR Cricket’s. For a good drink and cigar, Highland Cigar Bar or Burn by Rocky Patel. And of course, what’s Atlanta without a brunch? Atlanta Breakfast Club, Hob Nob, and Le Petite Marche are three places I enjoy…although there are so many more.
For sites, I’d take them to Jackson Street Bridge and of course I’d have to give them a tour of Atlanta’s Black History with Auburn Ave, the King Center, the Atlanta University Center, the Russel Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and more.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I smile when being asked this question because Passport Atlanta has afforded me the opportunity to work with people who are truly amazing. The three main founders of the app are Mayor Andre Dickens, Courtney English, and Jay Bailey. It was their reflections on a rooftop in Washington, DC that led to the idea that is now Passport Atlanta. From there, they began to assemble the board to see if this idea would really work. Since my involvement in 2018, I’ve be able to see it grow from an idea on a business plan to the second version of the app that is currently in beta test mode.
As one of the main founders, Mayor Dickens assumed the role as unpaid CEO and I was the VP of Operations. Upon his decision to run for Mayor of Atlanta, he resigned and trusted me to lead the charge. Having help from our board has been my saving grace through this process.
I always say that Passport is the truest definition of “it take a village to raise a child” because in order for it to be successful, everyone must pitch in. And if Passport Atlanta is successful, the students are successful and the city that they live in thrives from a new generation of leaders and innovators. Who deserves a little credit in our story? Every person who has invested funds, ideas, time, and efforts. The names are too many to list but many are on our website. We are eternally grateful to those partners and people.