Shawn Rochester, who authored the spellbinding book “The Black Tax: The Cost of Being Black in America,” and Robin Watkins, a highly regarded financial and operations accountant, have made Wall Street history.
And the two are poised to break through more barriers in the financial world.
Their latest venture, Minority Equality Opportunities Acquisitions Inc. (MEOA), has raised $126.5 million they’ve earmarked to help minority businesses and enterprises grow and prosper through mergers and acquisitions.
“It’s amazing to be a part of this,” said Watkins, a Drexel University graduate.
While Rochester serves as CEO of MEOA, Watkins counts as the company’s CFO.
“I come from a family of entrepreneurs,” Watkins remarked during an appearance on PBS-TV and PBS-World’s “The Chavis Chronicles” with National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
The interview took place inside the new state-of-the-art NNPA television studios in Washington, D.C.
Because her grandfather owned a trucking company and café in Lawrenceville, Virginia, and her father and other family members were entrepreneurs, Watkins leaped at this latest opportunity.
“It’s historic, and it’s amazing,” Watkins said.
MEOA raised the money after its initial public offering in August and now counts as the first special purpose acquisition company – or SPAC – headed by African Americans.
“We are trading now on the Nasdaq under MEOAU,” said Rochester, who earned a master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with a focus in accounting, finance and entrepreneurship.
MEOA will target MBEs and Black-owned businesses nationwide.
“We’re really a blank check company that’s funded through an IPO,” Watkins said. “The funds are held in trust to acquire another company. In this case, we are looking at minority business enterprises to take them public through our IPO. We are the only SPAC that is targeting minority business enterprises.”
According to financial experts, SPACs generally have two years to complete an acquisition.
If they fail, the company must return the money raised to its investors.
For Rochester and Watkins, failure isn’t an option.
Rochester said they are looking at companies with enterprise values between $250 million and $500 million with recurring and predictable revenues.
The criteria include having a history of being able to generate sustainable free cash flow.
“There is unprecedented demand for diverse suppliers, but many minority firms don’t have the resources to meet the demand,” Rochester said. “That’s where MEOA, and the decades of combined experience that our team has in operations, strategy, business development, and acquisitions enter the picture for the right business, to help accelerate growth.”
Further demonstrating a commitment to racial equity and economic inclusion, MEOA engaged the Industrial Bank of Washington, one of the country’s preeminent Black-owned institutions, for its working capital banking needs during the SPAC and IPO process.
The company’s directors are majority-minority, including Julianne Malveaux, MIT economist and dean of California State University, Los Angeles’ College of Ethnic Studies, Ronald Busby Sr., president and CEO of US Black Chamber, Inc., and Patrick Linehan, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson.
“The mission and purpose of MEOA will help to catapult minority enterprise in this country,” Rochester said. “As a SPAC, we have the opportunity to not only help drive significant change and unleash superior performance but to also signal to the broader marketplace that there is tremendous value in companies and teams that have long been ignored.”