Editor's note: For Black History Month, Inc. asked notable Black founders who have appeared on its pages, "Who inspires you?"
Since Inc.'s last article about Ron Mitchell's Virgil Holdings, the founder has stepped away from the recruiting software firm, reassuming his role as managing partner at his Chicago-based investment company Low Post Ventures, and is building a venture-backed startup to support women executives and professionals in the health care field. He recently joined the board of The Initiative: Advancing the Blue & Black Partnership, a nonprofit using data-driven insights to help police and communities collaborate. Here's who inspires him. --As told to Cameron Albert-Deitch
It's hard not to say 2021 is the year of the Black woman. At the top of my inspiration list is probably Vice President Kamala Harris. Then there's the activist Stacey Abrams. The work that she's done in Georgia has been transformational for the U.S. She could have run for public office again. She certainly could have gone into the private sector. She chose instead to focus on a very critical issue--voting rights, access, and mobilization--that potentially could change the course of history. Her efforts helped swing the presidential election and two Senate runoffs.
Some people look back on the civil rights movement and say, "I wish we were there. We would have been really active. We would have done some great stuff." But, in reality, we're in that moment now. People are standing up and making real sacrifices. We have to make a choice: We have to decide that we want to make a difference.
The work is not yet finished. We've got to keep pushing, keep fighting, be just as strong and vigilant. Frankly, we've got to be deemed as more of a pain in the ass. People will say, "We just gave you something, and you're still not satisfied." And they're damn right.
Most recently, I've been inspired by Amanda Gorman. This 22-year-old's inauguration poem, "The Hill We Climb," was remarkable. She said, "There is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it. If only we're brave enough to be it." As an entrepreneur, that's what you do. You become the light.
I'm a 50-year-old entrepreneur. I have friends near my age who have had successful careers and now want to be the light. Kayode Owens, for example, just raised a fund called Unseen Capital with a $30 million anchor investment from pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. It's called Unseen Capital because the purpose is to identify underrepresented minority entrepreneurs who are not seen by traditional investors.
Another friend, Tanya Van Court, started a mobile banking app that teaches young people how to save money. Her goal is to have one million Black children saving. The biggest challenge to Black America today is the wealth gap, and that only changes through investment and savings. She just closed a round with money from Robert F. Smith from Vista Equity Partners, NBA stars Kevin Durant and Chris Paul, and Carla Harris from Morgan Stanley.
These are the stories that I think are really inspiring: people seizing the opportunity. If we can empower just a few of these folks, they can validate that investments in diverse entrepreneurs can make a meaningful difference and produce the returns that people expect. They give me resilience and make me want to fight through those barriers--not only for myself, but for others. You can do good, and you can do well at the same time. They're not mutually exclusive.