Considering what we know about equity, representation, and the other perpetual inequities facing people of color in the United States, it's no surprise that Black and Brown individuals lag behind their white counterparts on just about every metric. This is why Black Girl Ventures Created the BGV Connect Incubator. The BGV Connect Incubator is for Black and Brown women-identifying entrepreneurs and business leaders who are innovating and dedicated to leveling up their vision, idea, or business.
In our BGV Connect Member series, we’re highlighting Marquita Jamarillo.
Marquita Jaramillo, Program Director at NuLeaf Project
I'm the *program manager at Portland Incubator Experiment. We support founders by using our network of mentors to help them talk through business development stuff, whether it's product development, how to start a partnership with a particular partner or entity.
It's a variety of things that the mentors can help with, but most of it is focused on the technology space. So we typically highlight early-stage founders in manufacturing or early-stage founders and the software as a service space. They can also have a manufactured product that has a digital or technical component to it, but that's not always the case.
We're also supporting growth-stage founders in the consumer product space. So all that means is just like we have mentorship strongly connected in each of those areas. And so that's where we try and focus our resources to support founders on building out what they need in the early stages until they experience further growth.
My focus is more so—I like to take more of like a holistic founder approach, making sure like, you know, the mental is good. You kind of have some sort of action, whether it's just like one actionable step for the week to move forward or whatnot. Just to kind of help people stay focused and on task, because we can throw a lot at you at one time. And sometimes, it's just a bit much to try and figure out what's for you and what's not.
Why is collaboration important in business?
I think collaboration is essential for any business. You feel like you need collaboration in different ways. Like it can be a mentorship, it could be a friendship. It could be with, you know, a corporate partner or a government partner. I think these collaborations can help grow a business out of the early stages and breathe life back into the community.
Whether it's in terms of resources or just, I mean, for me specifically, I really want to push founders of color. Especially specifically Black founders to be their best selves in business because it's an opportunity for them to create generational wealth in the industry I'm in. It's an opportunity for them to create lasting and meaningful relationships to help them learn and grow as individuals and as business owners or founders. I feel like collaborations can open up a lot more opportunities than you could achieve on your own.
What barriers have you seen when it comes to collaboration?
A lot of times, I mean, my own personal barrier, I felt like in collaboration is just the lack of confidence that people have, especially when you're new coming into a space—and you feel like you don't know all the right questions to ask. Or things just make you feel uncertain. And so, a lot of times, I feel like people are getting in their own way versus taking the leap and putting themselves out there, taking more risks.
Many people are risk-averse, so that keeps them from even approaching the conversation to see if it's a possibility. And a lot of times, I mean, the worst that can happen is someone can say no to you. So I guess that's kind of like my thing. I don't mind getting a no, so I will start the conversation. Relationship building—If you're not building relationships, you need to fine-tune that skill because, at the end of the day, that's how you're going to get to those collaborative experiences or moments when you know how to build those relationships with other people.
What's a myth about collaboration in the Black & Brown community?
Black people don't want to help other Black people.
I am a Black person. I have now been here for 36 years. All I have been doing is helping other Black people in one way, shape or form, whether it be family, friends, associates, I just want to see Black people win like we have been held down for way too long. There is way too much talent out there. We need to join together. Collectively use our resources and make some things happen. We are undervaluing our own, worst by not collaborating with one another and not supporting one another.
What have you collaborated on? What have been the outcomes so far, and what benefits have you seen?
Well, with BGV, I've worked through the Jet Pack experience, which has been pretty cool. And it's helped me kind of fine-tune a strategy, get better at my relationship-building strategies, knowing my customer, or helping me know my customer more so I can just make sure I am meeting their needs. Through PI, I've had community members reach out in the past couple of months that have resources for some of our manufacturing startups.
Marquita is also working with other BGV Connect members in the tech space, but she's not at liberty to discuss it yet. She has also worked with another founder and was on her webinar discussing how to leverage social capital.
I mean, the one with Rashaun was great because it really helped me kind of get my feet wet in the whole public speaking stuff. I did, I think, like one panel through work before that, but it wasn't as interactive, so it was really nice to do that. Just having the opportunity, not just to collaborate with folks, but to collaborate with folks who get it, who aren't judging you, because you don't have all the right words or all the answers to whatever it is that you think that you need to know.
I just appreciate being in a space with so many, like powerful, smart, beautiful Black women that are like they're on it, you know, and even if they're not on it, they know that BGV is the space for them to come to figure that out. And the community is there to support them in that.
Whether it's like a specific collaboration I'm working on or just showing up to Wednesdays at the coworking space, I'm like, I'm all for it because I felt like that in itself is a collaborative space where folks come. Sometimes people have questions, or sometimes new people need help. But sometimes you just show up, maybe you're just there, just want to be a part of the energy that's happening in the space.
How has BGV helped eliminate those barriers, and how has being a part of the BGV Connect Incubator community made collaboration a bit easier?
I don't know how you guys have done it personally, but when COVID hit, I really had no idea where to turn for people that look like me that are like in this tech space. And trying to do all these things and figure it out and just are like, oh my God, I'm in over my head. But I felt like when I stepped into y'all space, it really—I immediately felt at home.
And I don't know if it's like the energy you guys gave off or how you presented the coworking space or how you—I don't know what it was specifically if it was just one thing or just a combination of things that I really felt like I was where I needed to be. And I, I didn't always speak in the beginning, and I don't always speak now either, but like I really liked to listen to how, how folks interact with one another because everyone's not always on the same page,
Everyone doesn't always have the same ideas, but at the end of the day, there's some sort of like resolution or outcome that helps people get to that next step. And so, for me, it's all about just feeling supported and feeling like I have a community of people to turn to should I need additional support. And I feel like BGV has been that for me, whether it be professionally or personally.
But you gotta go back to your corporate job. You gotta be on, on, on, on. Oh, and then I was like, where can I get to be myself and talk business at the same time?
Marquita is now the *Program Director of the NuLeaf Project. NuLeaf Project's mission is to build intergenerational wealth via the legal cannabis industry for the communities disproportionately harmed by cannabis criminalization – Black, Indigenous, and Latina/o/x communities. NLP's programs are designed to increase success outcomes for people of color in the cannabis industry either as business owners or professionals. They've recently received $500k in funding to invest in BIPOC business owners in the cannabis industry.
At BGV Connect Incubator, our goal is to provide the infrastructure and support that every Black and Brown business needs to thrive and contribute to a strong economy.
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