Black founders, particularly women, are making big strides. Over the past five years, businesses owned by black women grew by 50 percent, according to the American Express 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses report.
But, like everyone else, they need the support of investors to help achieve their goals. During a recent conversation with Shelly Bell, the founder of Black Girl Ventures, we talked about the funding challenges faced by so many brilliant black women business owners I meet. And I meet many. In fact, they make up 30 percent of the users on my company's website.
"When there's oppression, there's ingenuity," says Bell, whose organization helps minority women get funding through its own pitch competitions and through connecting startups to the right investors and fellowships.
While those sources of funding are promising, the numbers show a much greater need for support.
According to the American Express report, non-minority women-owned businesses brought in an average of $198,500 in revenue in 2014; the average increased to $218,800 in 2019. At the same time, minority-owned businesses, which averaged $67,800 in revenue in 2014, actually dropped to $65,800 in 2019. The report cites the explosive growth in smaller minority women-owned startups as a possible reason for lowering the average: They may be too new to generate the big bucks just yet.
I say it's time for all of us to give them a stronger chance to grow, and make sure stellar black-owned businesses are funded quickly. I'm talking about companies like Uncharted Power. Tech entrepreneur Jessica Matthews, who has called herself "the perfect mashup between Bill Nye the Science Guy and Beyoncé," figured out a novel way to help generate power for people she met in Nigeria with little or no access to stable energy sources. In 2011, the Harvard alum created a soccer ball that, after being kicked around for an hour, builds up enough energy to power a lamp. With a $7 million Series A, Matthews became the 13th black female founder ever to raise more than $1 million in outside funding, according to Inc. Uncharted Power is now a global power and data tech company that creates and operates renewable power infrastructures.
And many more startups are aspiring to achieve that kind of success. Bell's Black Girl Ventures has funded 41 minority women-owned businesses since its inception in 2016. But it's not the only one working to get capital to promising startups in this demographic. One of my favorite people in business today is venture capitalist Melissa Bradley, who added digital business platform Ureeka to her busy dance card last November. The goal is to give greater access to underrepresented small-business owners, with the help of a collaborative community, shared best practices, and a specialist marketplace.
She's far from alone in this endeavor. Harlem Capital Partners is a New York City-based fund that has a goal to invest in 1,000 early-stage diverse founders over the next 20 years. I've also got my eye on Kapor Capital, which gets its strong conscience from the fact that it's an arm of the Oakland, California-based Kapor Center for Social Impact. Its portfolio ranges from household names like AngelList to small social companies like Pigeonly, which helps people who are incarcerated connect with their families.
Why does getting funding for minority-owned businesses help the economy as a whole? If black-owned businesses are starting the fastest, they will be the employers of the future. As Bell pointed out to me in our conversation, the world is getting "a little bit browner and a little bit older."
Black business owners have the ideas; what they need is the funding. When you're looking at potential opportunities to fund a minority-owned business, I say you have the chance to be part of creating the success of the future.