Press Release

Bunker Hill Community College Entrepreneurship Alumni to Present at 2021 IDEA Conference at Boston University

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) alumni and entrepreneurs Ben Taylor and Charlene Pena will participate in workshops on innovation in the food industry and retail and consumer world at the 2021 IDEA Conference hosted virtually by Boston University on Saturday, February 27, 2021.

Whether it’s through technology, social impact, or arts and culture, this one-day event is designed to inspire college students and recent graduates – locally and globally – to explore innovation and entrepreneurship and aims to ignite students’ passion and purpose to create meaningful impact in their careers and communities. Register and learn more about IDEA Con 2021 at 

“I am incredibly proud of both Charlene and Ben for their business accomplishments,” said Tony Fontes, Professor and Chairperson, BHCC Business Administration Department. “To see them transform a vision and opportunity into thriving, sustainable businesses is what entrepreneurship is all about. I am excited to hear them share their start-up journey at the IDEA Conference.” 

Edible Ideas: Innovation in the Food Industry 

Ben Taylor headshotBHCC Entrepreneurship alumni and founder of Uprise Foods Ben Taylor will participate in the Edible Ideas workshop on innovation in the food industry. The workshop will delve into the challenges and opportunities in the food industry, while also highlighting insights and lessons relevant to all hungry and driven entrepreneurs.

Taylor’s journey began when he realized the positive impact of plant-based foods on health, the environment, and the prevention of unnecessary suffering. Taylor founded Uprise Foods  - America’s first certified fair trade plant cheese company and creators of NOOCH IT! Cashew Grated Cheeze with his wife Gwen Taylor as a solution that can lead to a healthy and sustainable future.

“Positive change begins with what’s at the end of our forks,” says Taylor. “Together we can create a more compassionate, healthy, and equitable world.”

At Uprise Foods, the number one ingredient is transparency. From seed to mouth, the company uses ingredients consumers can trust to create healthy and delicious foods that are certified fair trade, vegan, organic, dairy-free, and non-GMO.

Learn more about Ben Taylor and Uprise foods at

From eCommerce to Brick & Mortar: Innovation in the Consumer World

Charlene Pena headshotEntrepreneurship alumna Charlene Pena will join the From eCommerce to Brick & Mortar panel discussion on what innovation looks like in the retail world. From thinking like a consumer to creating competitive advantage, participants will follow the journey of three young entrepreneurs who’ve been able to thoughtfully pivot and adapt across concept and channel, to innovate their brands. 

Pena is the founder of Woven Royal and the inventor of the Afrona – the only hat of its kind made for curly and voluminous hair like Pena’s. The satin-lined head-wear piece keeps curls and volume intact, by lifting hair up and preventing it from ever going flat. It also protects against damage caused by the cold, UV rays, and humidity

The youngest of six children, Pena’s family migrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic. In 2017, after severely damaging her hair, Pena traveled to the Dominican Republic for three months and created the first-ever Afrona with the help of a seamstress named Fela. 

Through the experience, Pena realized that for people to prosper and flourish, they must feel protected in who they truly are, and supported in who they want to be. Pena vowed to help women in her native country like Fela and returned home to the U.S. where she taught herself to sew, and perfected the design of the Afrona. 

“When we have the freedom to be ourselves and express who we truly are, we are able to connect with the inner part of us that is royal – the part of us that is courageous, worthy, and dignified,” says Pena.

Learn more about Charlene Pena and the Afrona by Woven Royal at

Business Programs at BHCC 

Ready to start your career in business? Train for a career in accounting and finance, entrepreneurship, and management at BHCC. Learn more about Business Programs at BHCC at Business Administration

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About Bunker Hill Community College
With more than 50 years of academic excellence, Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) is Massachusetts' largest community college, annually welcoming a diverse community of around 16,000 students. With campuses in Charlestown and Chelsea, BHCC extends its reach across several locations in Greater Boston. The College offers associate degrees and certificates, early college and dual enrollment, community education, corporate training, and industry-specific training programs. BHCC is celebrated for its diversity, boasting a student body where 65% identify as people of color and more than half are women. The College also embraces a global perspective, with over 600 international students representing 90 countries and conversing in more than 65 languages. Our commitment to diversity is further reflected in BHCC's designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI).