For the ESSENCE Best & Black Owned series, Work & Money Editor Marquita K. Harris and her team learn about the ups, downs, and in-betweens of running a business.
The lack of diversity in the multibillion-dollar technology world is more than evident. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission more than 60 percent of the tech industry is white and that unbalanced demographic plays a huge part in the outcome of the overall industry.
Tech veteran, marketing consultant, app entrepreneur, and publicist Amanda Spann is keenly aware of the industry’s shortcomings. For that reason, she’s been the catalyst for creating a number of new opportunities for people of color navigating Silicon Valley.
To date, Spann is the mastermind behind companies like TipHub, an impact driven innovation community for Africa-based entrepreneurs and Afridate a dating app connecting eligible Black singles by nationality and ethnicity. Though, she’s widely known for creating Happii, the app and business development company which not only assists young entrepreneurs in the early stages of their career but helps them gain the necessary promotion to make their business a success.
With a plethora of successful business-related ventures, Spann has mastered the art of creating quality companies that satisfy the needs of society, with an emphasis in helping minorities step and succeed in the world of tech. Ahead she shares her journey and offers up some evergreen advice for Black women who aspire to work in tech.
ESSENCE: Was a career in tech always in the cards for you?
SPANN: I always knew I was interested in tech but I initially felt like I couldn’t be involved in the industry if I wasn’t coding and for a while I let that fear impede me from making progress. My career began to take off in tech when I fully accepted that I was as competent and capable of being in the industry as any other professional, regardless of what I did or did not know at the time.
ESSENCE: What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
SPANN: I think I’ve always innately been an entrepreneur. I was born with a knack for solving problems or approaching solutions creatively in addition to coming from a family of entrepreneurs and side hustlers. The hardest part has been bootstrapping all of my own projects, staying focused and discerning which ideas and products I want to allocate my time to. But seeing how something I built or information I provided impacts someone’s life is the real rewarding part.
ESSENCE: Can you tell us about your various business ventures?
SPANN: I run Happii, a startup studio that works with aspiring founders as well as enterprise-level companies to build and brands tech products. The company is divided into a few different business verticals including:
- Number one is products. We have TipOff App. TipOff is a word-guessing game for the culture. It’s just like the board game Taboo, but for you. [There’s also] CultureCrush App. CultureCrush helps Black daters make cultural connections. From Rio de Janeiro to Richmond, users can search for potential mates of their nationality, ethnicity, or tribe in any city on the globe. [Lastly, there is] DubbleTap.com. DubbleTap helps you grow and manage your Instagram following with ease. Auto post, schedule and manage your content to your feed or stories from the convenience of your desktop.
- Number two is one-on-one coaching for aspiring & emerging founders and enterprise Consulting.
- Number three is online learning through marketing and product development workbooks and courses for entrepreneurs.
ESSENCE: Since Happii was the platform that launched a number of your businesses, take us through how you got started in developing Happii?
SPANN: After I created my first app I was approached by dozens of people daily who wanted to build an app or a product but didn’t know where to start. While I couldn’t work directly with everyone I recognized there was an opportunity and a need to providing content, products and services for those who were truly committed but we’re simply experiencing a learning curve. I created Happii to fill this gap and provide them with accessible tools, resources, and insights to help them go from concept to creation.
ESSENCE: How can the tech industry do better? What are they currently excelling in?
SPANN: The tech community treats inclusion as a trendy after-thought, as opposed to a mandatory and essential component of business development. There needs to be self-imposed pressure from executives, investors and entrepreneurs to mirror, match and diversify the type of consumers or stakeholders they service, as well as intentional efforts to build and seek out a pipeline of new talent and ideas to disrupt and elevate the industry as whole.
We as a community however must hold ourselves accountable for eliminating the innovation deserts in our own neighborhoods, schools and colleges, providing our youth with early exposure to technology programming and education, encouraging entrepreneurship and the development and cultivation of our own ideas as well as viewing ourselves as producers first and not just consumers.
ESSENCE: What do you think we should expect for diversifying the future of tech?
SPANN: What I expect is a number of small-scale programming, partnership and funding initiatives that superficially put a bandaid on a bullet wound.
What I hope for is a larger understanding and commitment to knowing and treating diversity as a bottomline. It should be treated as a best practice and business standard for a healthier and more robust ecosystem. I would like to see us take the reigns and building out our own products, programs, curriculum and proposals for working with, along side and in competition to the companies we aspire to integrate into as I have little faith in most of their proactiveness to change the current state of affairs.
ESSENCE: What would be your one piece of advice to young Black women looking to enter a career in tech?
SPANN: Start where you are and use what you have. When people talk about transitioning into the tech industry they often think very narrowly about the role they can play and the tend to undervalue the power of their existing skills and network. The tech industry at its core is just a collection of businesses – and all businesses need support on a variety of different levels, accounting, legal services, operations, marketing, digital, communications, HR – take inventory of the skills you have an start thinking strategically about how you can transfer them as a professional or apply what you already know or aspire to know to create solutions to problems as a founder.