These change agents dare to lead. They have the tenacity to take on multiple challenges and the creativity to make a difference. These innovative leaders are committed to changing their communities and beyond. They embrace technology, pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones and social justice. Their dedication inspires others. They are catalysts for social change in their communities, cities, states, sectors—and across the globe. These incredible change agents embrace change with passion, excitement, and innovation.
Shelly Bell’s Opening Statement
Shelly Bell, Founder of Back Girl Ventures, kicked us off with an opening statement that electrified us. Her powerful vision in 2019, to create a model in which communities support their local businesses that translated to the motto that says, “Each one, teach one to fund one.” Shelly knew she had to scale Black Girl Ventures. She questioned how to get more women on the ground. She wanted more women to deepen their understanding of the impact that BGV is creating. Shelly desired to show them how to disrupt and change the ecosystem for their communities, eventually impacting hyper-locally.
With the help of The Kauffman grant, this became the catalyst to create the vision for the Change Agent program. These graduating change agents didn’t know each other but came together to figure out how they would change the world together alongside Black Girl Ventures. These change agents are the epitome of what it means to be a part of the BGV ecosystem’s pillars: community, capital, and capacity. Since the launch of the Change Agent program, BGV has funded 60+ women across Philadelphia, Miami, Durham, Birmingham, and Houston. We celebrate these powerful women and their impact on not only us but also on their communities.
Remarks From Kristina Francis, BGV Board Member.
Kristina emphasized that this was a historical moment, and these change agents were now a part of history. She affectionately called them community warriors. The first graduating class are ecosystem builders and leaders creating opportunities to change millions of lives. She further expressed the impact of catalyzing locally to make long-lasting changes in their communities.
“Change agents play a critical role in building our communities, our local areas, they’re changing narratives, and they’re changing the game,” shared Kristina. Being a change agent means for Black women leaders to be placed at decision-making tables to create opportunities for others to grow and lead.
Referencing Maggie Kuhn, Kristina said, “Speak your mind even when your voice shakes. Continue to show, grow, and lead. Continue to show up and let your presence be known. We tend to operate at the edge of need and comfort, but we’re asking change agents now to operate at the front of your genius. Ask yourself what unique contributions can you make in your city, state, community, and the world.”
Takeaways From The Change Agent Fellows
Tanya Morris Change Agent Graduate Philly Chapter
“We all need reassurance and people in our corner, cheering, clapping, rooting, and flexing for us. This is what BGV has created.”
LaToya Stirrup Change Agent Graduate Miami Chapter
“I learned what it takes to lead and grow a mission-based business. I received amazing opportunities by being a part of the BGV ecosystem.”
Carmen Mays, Change Agent Graduate Birmingham Chapter
“I learned that my expertise is valid, and it’s valuable. I can do whatever it is I believe I can do, and I can charge whatever it is that I want to charge. Thank you for inspiring me, validating me, and encouraging me.”
Sharita Humphrey Change Agent Graduate Houston Chapter
“I learned that my voice matters. As a former introvert, I play the back, but you need to come to the front, step up, and say what you have to say because your genius and talents, your gifts, and skillsets could be the impact your community needs. You could be the solution.”
Benita Gordon Change Agent Graduate Miami Chapter
“I learned in order to progress in business, and personal life is through collaboration. You cannot do this alone. I’m appreciative of my sponsors, mentors, advisors, sisters, and BGV for being able to be in a space that’s safe. I can ask questions, obtain knowledge, and push me to my excellence. Being able to ask and get services paid for, or trade-offs—collaborative I can help a founder, and they help me. It increases my bottom line.”
Neferteri Strickland Change Agent Graduate Philadelphia Chapter
“Luck. It strikes, and when it does, that preparedness and opportunity feels really good, that tribe that community is everything, what I took away is the power of collaboration.”
Remarks From Our Valedictorian Sharita Humphrey
Sharita is an award-winning financial educator who shared her powerful story from being homeless to becoming a global change agent that speaks globally for the U.S. Embassy. She said, “Shelly asked me to face my biggest fears.” She didn’t understand how she had the power to change the world, and becoming a change agent helped her discover the trailblazer in her. She never thought her life would evolve the way it did and that she’s no longer a statistic. “I found my extended family. I found my passion,” she said.
Lastly, don’t forget to sign up for BGV Connect Incubator to watch the Change Agent Breakout Sessions:
Entrepreneur Roundtable led by the Miami Chapter
We Mean Business One Year Later led by the Birmingham Chapter
We Outside Supplier Diversity and Tourism led by the Philadelphia Chapter
Houston Cares: The Community, The Impact, and What’s Next led by the Houston Chapter
BGV congratulates these remarkable women for their dedication and the work that they’ve