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lateral networking University Of Dope card game A.V. Perkins entrepreneurs network

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Many entrepreneurs trip themselves up on the road to success by believing they must constantly “network up” to get their ideas to the next level. A.V. Perkins’ story offers unique insight into how collaborating with the community around you can be just as beneficial.

She and close friend, Marian Andoh-Clarke, created University of Dope — a hip-hop party game for the masses. The two creators met on a hip-hop dance team in college and joined forces post-grad to capitalize on their love of the genre and its widespread influence. As Perkins recalled while speaking with MadameNoire, the seed of their card game — which is now sold in Target — was planted when she asked Andoh-Clarke to name all Wu-Tang Clan’s members during a drunken but ultimately fruitful moment. 

As the duo’s friendship turned them into business partners, the “organic origins” of their lateral networking resulted in them leveling up professionally.


Perkins emphasized that being authentic when networking is the best way to contribute to your future success, whether laterally or otherwise. She noted that passing out business cards like you’re passing out mixtapes may leave you wondering why you didn’t get the connections you sought. That said, Perkins reiterated that it’s essential to go into any potential networking space with the confidence of a rapper pushing their mixtapes on the street, because you need to proudly voice your ideas like they’re the shit. 


Strategy, fearlessness and authenticity is what helped Perkins get the grounded connections she and her partner needed to get University of Dope to new heights.

“I feel like with networking, you really have to build a friendship and relationship with people,” Perkins told MN. “When you go through life and you meet like-minded people, there will be a point in time that opportunity can present itself. And as long as you keep doing what you have to do to stay at the top of someone’s mind, they will circle back.”


Perkins shared that her deeply rooted confidence in herself and her ideas is ingrained in her innately — as well as by those close to her. While people might fear what their haters will say or whether their dreams may seem unrealistic, the card game co-creator shared that her experience continues to be one of lateral support and encouragement. 

“I have racked my brain trying to find that one person who might have said [something negative] to me. So I can say, ‘Hey, I’ll show you.’ But I don’t even know, I don’t know who these haters are,” she stated. “I just stay focused and I know whatever I say I’m going to do is going to happen. And I think at this point, I’ve trained everyone around me to believe the same thing about me. It’s almost like you get people rooting for you before the idea even comes to fruition.”

The University of Dope creator emphasized that lateral connections helped her and Andoh-Clarke’s brand go far. Perkins recalled friend, author and media host June Archer asking questions from the game during celebrity interviews amid quarantine. That, in addition to those sharing the brand and connecting the founders outward, are things Perkins continues to do now for others as she pays forward their ideas too.

“I pay [things] forward by speaking life into them as well, because you need that. I meet so many people and they’re like, ‘Hey, yeah, I’m working on my little business, or I got this little project going.’ And I have to stop them right there. If you’re introducing whatever you’re doing to someone, even if it’s in jest or in passing, if you’re describing it as little, how is someone going to revere it?”

“When rappers bring you their mixtape, it’s the hottest thing out. You can’t tell them otherwise. You can’t tell them they’re not Drake or Jay-Z. So you have to have that same confidence and zeal with your brand and your product.”


For those clueless regarding where to start when it comes to lateral networking and turning their idea into something big, Perkins provided tips.

The card game founder said you shouldn’t underestimate the power of your current connections just “because you don’t have Oprah in your network.” You never know who you’re two or three degrees separated from, so use those close to you, authentically, as an advantage. 

Also, going to relevant meetups and using social media to get resources and build relationships can be extremely helpful. “And if [someone you meet] may not be able to immediately help you, they may know someone who can.”

“You build relationship and you build community, but you also have to be supportive of other people’s endeavors too. You can’t just take. So it’s literally like putting coins in the piggy bank or the slot machine of a relationship. You can’t just cash out on the first coin.”

Shop University of Dope via their website, or at Target.

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