September 23, 2019

Alumna Combines Entrepreneurship, Tech, and Equity to Win Biz Competition

Renee Allums BA ’18 won the fifth annual PitchBlack business competition with her idea #tag that aims to highlight and compensate digital content creators who have previously gone unrecognized and uncompensated.

by Yancee Gordon BA ’21

Renee Allums BA ?18 captivates the crowd. Renee Allums BA ’18 captivates the crowd. Credit: Alex Knowbody (

Renee Allums BA ’18 won this year’s PitchBlack business competition, an annual event to support Portland’s Black business community by providing entrepreneurs with the opportunity to pitch their ideas and receive funding. 

Allums’s idea, called #tag, aims to give digital content creators the credit they deserve. Currently, the main contributors of social media content are going unrecognized and unpaid despite the popularity of their work. Allums hopes to provide protection and fair compensation for creators by using cryptocurrency to represent digital ownership over concepts, ideas, and designs. 

“I was seeing independent creators and designers being exploited by brands and corporations. These are the individuals who help create culture—Black culture—and online companies were stealing from them. So I started to question how these creators could be fairly compensated and recognized for an exchange that we are all unwittingly a part of in this digital age.”

As a rhetoric and media studies major, Allums focused much of her academic career on answering how identities, relationships, and communities are affected by social media. After coming up with #tag, Allums looked for a way to make it a reality.

Allums had heard of PitchBlack from the organizer, Stephen Green, but had no plans to enter until next year. With three days to go and a few openings left, she was convinced by a friend that this was her chance.   

“I have this bad habit of talking myself out of things, yet I found it difficult to separate myself from this opportunity. It was transformative, liberating, and empowering. My pitch deck and speech practically wrote itself.”

While at Lewis & Clark, Allums pushed herself to participate in opportunities inside and out of the classroom. As president of the Entrepreneurship Club and an avid participant in Winterim, she spent her time developing the skills necessary to thrive once she graduated.

Chrys Hutchings, associate director of the Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership, first met Allums as a sophomore and followed her success through her senior year. Hutchings noticed the growth Allums demonstrated throughout the years, especially after her Overseas and Off-Campus program to East Africa. 

“Something happened when she returned from her program overseas,” Hutchings said. “She became a leader during her senior year. We watched her push herself past safe boundaries and put herself out there. Her enthusiasm is contagious and people respect her quiet confidence and happy inclusivity.”

Allums published her reflections on her overseas experience for the website On She Goes, titled “Discovering the Meaning of Home in Tanzania.” As an ethnic studies minor, she took the readings and lessons of the classroom and applied them to critically think through her own self-discovery.

“She is unafraid to try,” said Kundai Chirindo, associate professor of rhetoric and media studies and director of ethnic studies. “She is creative and innovative, and she was always entrepreneurial-minded.” 

Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership

Rhetoric and Media Studies

Overseas and Off Campus Programs