Meet Leigh-Ann Buchanan, founder and president of aīre ventures and former Girl Guide
Editor's Note: This Q&A originally ran in The New Tropic.
What’s your favorite Girl Scout cookie?
I am gluten and dairy-free now. But if I could eat them, I would say Samoas because I love coconut.
If there was a Miami badge for Girl Scouts, what three tasks would need to be completed to earn the badge?
First, explore neighborhoods you have never been to. Visit Lemon City, Overtown, Miami Gardens, and check out what they have to offer. Next, engage in something environmental like a beach cleanup or learning about manatees or mangroves and what makes Florida’s environment special or reading about what we’re doing about sea-level rise. Finally, connect with someone outside of your regular sphere of influence.
Tell us about your work — your job and/or any volunteer work.
I work at the four square intersection of innovation, tech, equity and social change. I focus on many areas so I wear different hats. I am known most in the community as the founder and president of aīre ventures. aīre ventures is a social impact venture studio that scales technology and innovation solutions to systemic gaps in access, opportunity, and racial equity. We have a portfolio of various social impact organizations, including the organization that I founded, Nyah Project. Nyah Project aims to bridge systemic gaps and access for high potential youth from underserved backgrounds through experiential leadership training, fellowships abroad, and tech enabled college strategy coaching to increase their access to college. In a nutshell, I love to design things that accelerate social change and disrupt the systems that perpetuate inequities.
What’s your favorite Miami memory?
The first New World Symphony Wallcast I attended. This idea of Miamians gathering in a public park with picnic blankets and fancy snacks to listen to classical music was really exciting for me. As someone who studied music for most of her life (classical piano), I had never seen something so innovative that brought people together across so many different backgrounds to enjoy classical music – something that I love.
Pick a favorite local outdoor experience. What is it? What’re we doing? Who’s going with ya?
I went jet skiing for the first time last year. Despite enjoying water sports as a child in Canada, I was so nervous and didn’t want to drive so my friend did. I ended up having so much fun. Only in Miami can you get to really enjoy outdoor water activities like jet skiing or boating year-round. And, I am a Pisces, so I love the water.
What’s your favorite local Instagram or TikTok account and why?
Two people I like to follow on Instagram are Carl Juste, Miami Herald photographer, and my friend Charles Webber, who’s always up to something cool and interesting. Also, my core projects, aīre ventures and Nyah Project.
If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Red Rooster in Overtown. I’m there once a week for their coastal catch fish dish and cornbread.
What’s a project you’re working on (big or small) and how can our readers help you with it?
In April, aīre ventures, along with JPMorgan Chase, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Miami Foundation, announced the launch of Tech Equity Miami.
Tech Equity Miami is a first of its kind funding consortium that aims to deploy $100 million in philanthropic funding over five years into initiatives that remove entry barriers into the tech industry and that will create opportunities for underrepresented groups, including youth and small businesses. To measure community impact, all projects that receive a Tech Equity Miami designation will contribute information and statistics to a public database that tracks progress towards the initiative’s outcomes and impact goals.
Our vision for Tech Equity Miami is to effectively direct resources to projects and initiatives that use tech to improve quality of life for individuals, families, and business owners across the economic spectrum. Widening disparity, coupled with the national spotlight on Miami as a tech hub of the future, makes this a pivotal moment to drive outcomes-driven systemic change. We believe a model of collective investment and impact reporting can achieve just that.
You can get connected or submit a project idea by filling out this brief form. The Miami Foundation has also set up a philanthropic fund for people who may want to give at smaller levels. Follow @TechEquityMiami across all major social channels to stay up to date.
What are you looking forward to this year?
I always look forward to my summer experiences with the Nyah Project Fellows. This summer, we have two fellowship cohorts participating in leadership training in Ghana, West Africa as we are playing catch up from the pandemic since we missed a year. I’ll be working with 24 amazing young people and helping them get clarity on their leadership identity.