Danielle Deavens ’16 and Doug Spencer ’16 harnessed lessons learned at Elon to launch a niche business with a deeper purpose.
An entrepreneurial journey was the last thing on the minds of Danielle Deavens ’16 and Doug Spencer ’16 when they arrived on campus in the fall of 2012. Fast forward to today, however, and the pair are not only successful business owners, but also champions for other budding entrepreneurs looking to share their products with the world.
Deavens and Spencer are the co-founders of Bold Xchange, a gifting platform and marketplace that sources all its products from Black-owned businesses. Starting as a straight-to-consumer company, Bold Xchange has pivoted to B2B sales in recent years, partnering with blue-chip brands such as Home Depot, CarMax and Capital One to create gift boxes for company celebrations and new hires.
“The more recognizable the brand from a corporate perspective, the easier it is for us to build our network of Black-owned companies,” Spencer says. “We love being that conduit for small businesses to help them grow.”
Deavens, a journalism major at Elon, seemingly got her dream job working in magazines in New York City as an editorial assistant. Spencer, a business administration major, also had sights set on the Big Apple on the cusp of starting law school. But neither felt confident they were on their destined paths. Motivated by their shared larger ambitions, the couple took a leap of faith and ventured on their own.
The classroom experience but also other experiences outside the classroom — that’s what got me from point A to point B to point C to whatever point on the journey in life this is. I credit Elon for that.
— Doug Spencer ’16
They thought they would be met with apprehension by their families and friends, but instead their personal support systems became their first pool of customers. Even more encouraging, both discovered that their time at Elon had prepared them well for life in an unpredictable world: Both held leadership roles on campus, studied abroad, engaged in meaningful service experiences and completed fulfilling internships before graduation.
“I came here as an 18-year-old boy and left as a 22-year-old young man who was capable of so many things,” says Spencer, who in May 2021 completed his goal of earning a law degree from Georgetown University. “The classroom experience but also other experiences outside the classroom — that’s what got me from point A to point B to point C to whatever point on the journey in life this is. I credit Elon for that.”
Deavens agrees. “I grew up in a family where my siblings and parents made me feel like there was never a room I could not walk into or something that I couldn’t do. I feel like Elon just continued that in their absence in my four years there.”
That deep sense of purpose was even more important when faced with adversity. The first iteration of the business, which focused on apparel and accessories, failed. Undeterred, the couple took a year off to find how they could best address customers’ needs.
They relaunched the current version of Bold Xchange at the end of 2019. With a retailer approach, holding inventory in their small living room in Charlotte, North Carolina, a stronger foundation for Bold Xchange was in place.
Today, the business works with dozens of Black-owned businesses and operates out of a 12,000-square-foot warehouse in St. Louis, a move the couple made after receiving the prestigious and competitive Arch Grant for startup businesses. Validating the work of other entrepreneurs is what motivated them from the start and is what continues to motivate them. “It means everything. Our success is hand-in-hand with the success of other Black entrepreneurs,” Spencer says.
Focusing on that will always be the couple’s goal. “There are a lot of platforms that have lists of Black-owned businesses to try and roundups of products,” Deavens says. “But we want to have skin in the game. Knowing that we’ve contributed to even a fraction of their revenue is so special.”
Danielle Deavens ’16 // Doug Spencer ’16
Co-Founder of Bold Xchange & Leadership Fellow // Co-Founder of Bold Xchange & Honors Fellow
Projects & Activities
Ciesielski, C., Deavens, D., Dunn, K., Shegda, C., Foard, M. and Siwak, M. (2016, April 16). The Framing of the Civil Rights Movement Through Jet Magazine Event Coverage. 23rd Annual Spring Undergraduate Research Forum, Elon, NC.
Deavens, D. (2016). Checking the Other Box: Exploring Multiracial Identity in the Black Lives Matter Era. Multimedia project, Elon, NC.
Deavens, D. (Fall 2015). Editorial intern. Four Seasons Magazine, Pace Communications. Greensboro, NC.
Deavens, D. (Summer 2015). American Society of Magazine Editors intern. Essence Magazine. New York, NY.
Deavens, D. (Winter 2014). Communications intern. Mental Health Foundation. London, England.
Deavens, D. (Summer 2014). Editorial intern. Hartford Magazine, Life Publications. Hartford, CT.
Spencer, D. (2016-18). Youth trustee. Elon University Board of Trustees.
Spencer, D. (Winter 2016). Executive Intern. Office of University Advancement. Elon, NC.
Spencer, D. (Summer 2014). Sales and marketing intern. CenturyLink. Arlington, VA.
Spencer, D. (Winter 2014). Sales and marketing intern. Omni Local Ltd. London, England.
Spencer, D. (2012-16). Co-leader. Men of Character Program. Burlington, NC.