When it comes to Black women founders receiving the kind of capital necessary to flourish, the funding gap is real. During week two of the ESSENCE Festival of Culture, a savvy group of boss women sat down to talk business and the state of Black women entrepreneurs.
The group—moderated by Deborah Owens, founder and CEO WealthyU also included Beatrice Dixon, founder of The Honey Pot Company, Arian Simone co-founder of Fearless Fund, Shelly Bell founder of Black Girl Ventures, and wellness guru Chef Akhi—didn’t hold back.
When it came to whether or not a business should be launched during such a perilous period, Bell, who has helped numerous Black women launch businesses, remained optimistic.
“I think so if you have a product or a service that can scale or pivot to helping people virtually. We’ve seen a lot of event planners move toward being consultants and creating digital experiences,” Bell explained. “We’re seeing makeup artists turn into consultants for groups of people at a distance. We’re just getting creative right now.”
As for the founders whose businesses revolve around selling physical products, Dixon got real about her own personal experiences in recent months.
“We’re doing the best we can. We’re over-communicating with our retailers,” she said. “With our business, we were hit the hardest with our supply chain. So we’re focusing on the things that we can control. Like making sure that 98 percent of our inventory is going to our retailers because sales continue to improve.”
As for Chef Ahki, a celebrity chef and natural food activist, who already had an e-commerce business in place when the world shut down, business is booming.
“My business is e-commerce mostly,” she said. “The wellness space has just boomed in the last four months for me. It’s been better than ever because everyone wants to figure out how to be well and how to make sure they’re safe and their children are healthy.”
When asked about the current investment climate, which in recent months has been harshly impacted by the global pandemic, a recession and civil unrest, Simone offered a fresh perspective as it relates to Black women founders.
“Typically just to raise about $5 million it may take about 300 meetings for somebody who’s Black and out here raising and that’s just the reality,” Simone said, also noting that someone who is white may only need 20 meetings to raise even more capital.
Simone continued, “With a lot of attention on the Black Lives Matter movement currently, I would definitely say that a lot more meetings have been happening in the past few weeks. Corporations have reached out, they’ve been taking meetings. The head of diversity is like, ‘Oh we need to figure this out.’ Which is wonderful because at the end of the day Black women are the most founded and the least funded.”