Zeph France is trying to close the gap he sees between resources and experience.
France is a founder of Knowledge is Wealth, a student organization aiming to promote diversity, equity and inclusion on campus. He recently opened a storefront in the MU Student Center called Black Mizzou Clothing, with some of the revenue supporting the new organization.
“Knowledge is Wealth is an organization that is meant to offer projects to the campus to lessen the gap that minorities feel between resources and experiences,” France said.
France explains that minority students looking to attend college sometimes have to make a decision between the experience they could receive at a historically Black college or university and the resources they could receive at a predominantly white institution.
France is a senior at MU studying business with a management emphasis. He is also the president of ZouSoul, a campus organization that hosts open-mic events with a live band for people to display various art forms, and is a music artist himself.
The Black Mizzou Clothing storefront is a product of a competition held by the Griggs Innovators Nexus in the MU Student Center, which allows students to operate their own retail business venture for the entirety of the school year.
“Zeph is just a persistent, passionate student entrepreneur who comes at things from a different angle,” said Greg Bier, executive director of entrepreneurship programs at MU. “He truly understands Black history and Black culture at Mizzou.”
While Black Mizzou Clothing and Knowledge is Wealth are France’s projects, he has collaborated with other students to bring his ideas into fruition.
“I think Black Mizzou is already powerful [and] has a strong sense of community, but we want to enlighten and kind of highlight when individuals are doing great things,” said Christian McDonald, MU senior and member of the Knowledge is Wealth team.
The product sold by the store are T-shirts labeled “Black Mizzou” and decorated with stars. They are priced at $25 and range from sizes small to extra large.
The sound of live music and bustling conversation extended out of Black Mizzou Clothing and through the line of people gathered in support of its grand opening on Sept. 16.
By the end of the event, Black Mizzou Clothing had nearly sold out of shirts and has since received more to sell.
“We’re not an HBCU, but a lot of us call it Black Mizzou, and so I feel like the Black Mizzou T-shirt kind of embodies what Black Mizzou has been like,” McDonald said.
The event itself was more than just a store opening or the launch of an organization. It also was a showcase for France’s new music project, titled “nJoy”.
“It’s a culmination of songs I made throughout my college experience here,” France said. “A lot of the different songs are about me finding myself.”
France performed some of his music live, with special guest Shun Ann, and with musical artist and friend, A’Sean.
“Zeph is one of my best friends; a lot of times we make music together,” A’Sean said. “We have a lot of plans for business and we have a lot of high aspirations.”
A’Sean noted how France’s passion for music translates into his business.
“It’s all he talks about, he could talk about it for hours,” A’Sean said. “When you find somebody that’s so invested and so passionate about something they curated and started, it’s a beautiful thing, man. It’s like finding a light in a dark place.”