ICYMI: NSBW Panel Unlocking The Doors To Access Capital For Black-owned Businesses Sponsored by VISA
Updated: Dec 9, 2021
Shelly Omilàdè Bell
Founder & CEO of Black Girl Ventures. Black Girl Ventures transforms entrepreneurship by reimagining the way black and brown women founders get access to financial and social capital. Named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Business by Entrepreneur Magazine. She has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Yahoo Finance, and Inc Magazine. She is on the board of Malikah and Color of Chrons and Chronic Illness and the founder of Raisify.com. Omilàdè’s podcast, A Dose of Disruption, helps leaders resist the urge to be average by disrupting their thought patterns and self-talk.
Founder & CEO of First Boulevard, an affinity neobank. As a serial entrepreneur, Donald has the goal of cultivating solutions that truly help the masses. With First Boulevard, Donald is empowering underserved communities to take control of their money while building positive financial behaviors.
Founder & CEO of SweetKiwi. A CPG company that makes the best tasting, low calorie yet nutrient-dense treats. Ehime is a Visa grant recipient, a Sara Blakely X Spanx Grant Recipient, Acumen 2021 Fellow, the winner of the Black Girls Venture DC pitch competition, and many other awards. Ehime is also a Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women scholar and ambassador.
Dana Todd Pope
Founder & CEO of Fearlessly Hue. She’s a self-taught multi-disciplinary artist, author, illustrator, model, actress, and fashion designer from the South Side of Chicago. Prominent Exhibitions include Essence Magazine, The DuSable Museum- A Smithsonian Affiliate, the Museum of Contemporary Art via Common Ground Foundation, Afropunk Paris, the Richard, and Tina Knowles Lawson Wearable Art Auction. She’s the recent recipient of the 2021 VISA She's Next Grant in Partnership with IFundWomen.
SVP, Head of Unsecured Lending & Merchant Services, Consumer Products & Partnership Origination, Regions Bank. Troy has over 25 years of experience in the financial service industry. He has held leadership positions that include US Head of Product and Operations. Troy developed the payment network strategy to expand product capabilities based on customer needs. He was responsible for leading the launch of American Express for Elan (US Bank). Troy also held several leadership roles with JP Morgan Chase leading acquisition and product development for Mass, Cobrand, and Affluent customer segments.
National Small Business Week Panel: Unlocking The Doors To Access Capital For Black-owned Businesses Sponsored by VISA
The event brought together funders and founders to share their real-life stories on what it means to fund and seek capital. There's often this idea that money is everywhere, and those who aren't finding it only need to put themselves out there. However, the big question posed by the facilitator, Shelly Omilàdè Bell, Founder, and CEO of Black Girl Ventures, how are those doors to accessing capital any different for Black and Brown founders? Despite this idea that capital is everywhere, the stats remain staggering.
Black and Latinx founders received just 2.6% of total venture funding. ProjectDiane found that just .27% of investment went to Black women founders, and .37% went to Latina founders. Another recent small business study conducted by Visa earlier this year showed some stark differences. It indicated that 24% of minority-owned businesses versus non-minorities are more likely to say they want guidance on loans to help their companies cope with financial challenges versus 9% of all others. They're also significantly more likely to want tools to help their business budget or manage cash flow.
How Do We Get The Banks To Lend
The lingering question is, how do we get the banks to lend? Currently, traditional finance rules still stand, which have historically excluded Black communities creating barriers to engagement. Troy Daniels shared some critical elements on the panel about how to build those relationships.
He stated, "I think a lot of times minority business owners don't view bank relationships as partners. And in theory, we are truly here to partner with the small business. And so, establishing that close relationship with your local branch, small business banker, and SBA is a really critical first step. Sometimes we view financial institutions and banks as almost a negative versus our counterparts, view that as a, hey, this is a partnership. I need your help. I need you to help lend me money."
Troy further shared from a banker's perspective that the focus remains money. He said, "Banking is really basic. It's around the stability, ability, and willingness to pay." When banks are reviewing the financials of a small business owner, they want to see stable transactions. Do you have the basic accounts established for your business, what loans do you currently have or had, can you show your ability to pay, and can you show (or have you shown) your willingness to pay?
Donald Hawkins encouraged entrepreneurs not to skip the basics. He recommends small business owners be clear about the financial plan for their business. He said, "If you know you're going to need a loan initially, you can reverse engineer that, but you can talk to a banker today and say, hey, I want a loan eventually for $200,000, what do you need to see? And the bankers will tell you, well, we're going to need to see your business operating for at least XYZ, months, or years. And you're going to need to be bringing in at least XYZ in monthly recurring revenue. You can plan towards that."
Per Donald, entrepreneurs have to know when to pivot and adjust their business models to create more stability or more opportunities. He said, "You gotta make those moves. Like, don't fall in love with the baby. Always be willing to change."
The same Visa study also showed that minority-owned businesses often seek help from their financial institutions or other financial experts, stating that 86% say they've used any resource compared to 50% of non-minority counterparts.
Ehime Eigbe shared her journey of accessing capital. Like many Black and Brown founders, Ehime couldn't obtain the funds from her family and didn't know the elements of crowdfunding when she first started. Instead, Ehime used her 401k to launch her business.
Many Black and Brown entrepreneurs resort to this method of funding.
Ehime shared, "With my community, I stayed trying to tell people about what I'm doing. I try to be very vocal about my vision, where I'm going, and what I need, just so that sometimes the people that you meet can have a piece that you're looking for or can have information about how to either get more funding or just get enough money." Through her community and communities like Black Girl Ventures, she learned critical knowledge that helped her understand the language she needed to obtain capital.
Ehime stated, "That's the impact of the community pushing you to access more resources because in that conversation and in the meeting that Shelly set up for me, I was able to get better coaching and a better understanding of how to show up at the actual pitch." SweetKiwi recently landed a deal with Walmart to be in 250-500 stores. All through building relationships and connections with people in and out of her circle.
Dana Todd Pope is a self-taught artist and creator who has experienced several barriers to accessing capital as a non-traditional business owner. Dana shared, "A lot of people don't view me as an entrepreneur, even though I'm an independent artist. I've had to prove myself and position myself in a way that makes me worthy of financial support." Being a part of a community has provided Dana with access to capital.
Dana said, "I just went into the community, and because Black Girl Ventures is a place where you can be very vulnerable and open about what you're going through and your struggles as a Black woman founder, people just understand where you're coming from automatically. I was able to find out information and just even listening to other people's conversations and see how they were strategizing for their businesses. I just found out so much information about ways to get funded as an artist." Since December of 2020, Dana has received $34k in grants.
Unlocking capital has a lot to do with social capital. Donald shared, “Relationships are the key to all of this. My hope is that we continue as a panel, as a community, to increase our bandwidth in our own network. So when you reach out to anybody on this panel, we can also open up an innumerable number of doors, but everybody has to rise, you know to that level.”
Accelerators and Always Be Learning
Accelerators were other essential avenues for Ehime and Dana's growth as entrepreneurs. They also found different ways to either strengthen their weaknesses or partner with those who can fill in the gaps. Ehime was accepted into The Real California Milk Accelerator. She said, "All the things that I'm learning now, I'm just like, wow—mind-blowing. Like there's never a thing that comes along where I feel like, oh, I'm too advanced for this, or I don't need this. You never know what you're going to pick up, and you never know what you're going to learn. So always take the position of I'm new to this. 'Cause, there's always something to learn."
Entrepreneurship is a much harder road for Black and Brown women founders. Ehime and Dana have shown us that persistence in the face of uncertainty, roadblocks, and failures in business can become a success story. Dana shared, "I don't really view failure as failure anymore. I view it as an opportunity to learn what I was missing, to refine it, and move to the place I was trying to go. So a failure is definitely not a failure. Don't feel bad saying, so they told me, no, let me figure out why. Let me keep learning."
There are multiple factors and moving parts to unlock capital for Black and Brown women founders. Omilàdè mentioned, "I'm hearing relationship building and reputation management. Your payments that you paid, that's your reputation. Your no's also count. You don't have to say yes to everything, right? So what you say yes to also counts. When you say no to accelerators, no to trainers, no to incubators, no to going into the bank to talk to a banker, you're also maybe saying yes to your financial fears and yes to not wanting to look at your credit, so you gotta think about what you're saying yes and no to. And what chances you're willing to take when you want someone else to take a chance on you."
Thank you to Visa and the panelists for such a rich discussion on how communities, individuals, and systems can do their part in increasing opportunities for Black and Brown women founders.