An analysis by the Brooking Institute reports that hundreds of thousands of Blacks who count as entrepreneurs can achieve success if both government agencies and large firms make significant investments in their businesses.
But for many of them, securing capital to operate online and tech-focused businesses can prove even more daunting.
“When a guy like me, a bigger Black dude is walking into a venture capitalist’s office, I don’t really look like the people they invest in, especially when I’m asking them for tens of millions of dollars to fund my vision,” said Gerome Sapp, a former NFL player for six years who received an MBA from Harvard University. “For a lot of them, they never dealt with, never talked to, they never had to trust someone like me that’s not in their day-to-day life.”
Sapp, the founder and CEO of RARES, an app that allows people to invest in sneakers, joined four other tech professionals Friday during the National Urban League’s virtual conference.
The nearly one-hour discussion focused on the Black entrepreneurs using technology to solve community solutions.
Evita Turquoise Robinson, founder and CEO of NOMADNESS Travel Tribe, a social community specifically for travelers of color, said the pandemic allowed her 10-year business to collaborate with others during the coronavirus pandemic.
Robinson worked with www.hopin.com to host events supporting both her and Sapp’s businesses.
“We come from a space of community,” she said. “For anyone who doesn’t have that, try to figure out what community looks like within your space and scope of business.”
The pandemic allowed Koereyelle DuBose to expand and not depend on just one source of income through her WERK University, an online trade school for Black women established in November 2019.
“The best year in business was 2020 because WERK University is all about Black women creating multiple strings of income,” said DuBose, a former elementary school teacher. “Everything is uncertain. Even the best of jobs can’t be guaranteed.”
Isaac Hayes III, son of the late soul singer Isaac Hayes and founder of tech startup called “Fanbase,” said his app allows users to monetize their posts and “make money” based on a community-driven platform.
Hayes, who worked as a songwriter and producer for two decades, raised nearly $3 million through small donations rather than seeking major investors so as to “not have a crazy board and people that can vote me out, depending on what they feel like and what they want to do like and sell the company today.”
Each summarized advice for future entrepreneurs that include trying to raise capital through the crowdfunding platform called “Start Engine,” understand financial literacy, focus on the culture and “try everything.”
“They [the four business owners] built a product. They built a community around it and that gives them leverage . . . to decide who they wanted to partner with,” said Cedric Rogers, CEO and founder of Los Angeles-based Culture Genesis, who moderated the discussion. “Work hard and never give up on things that are a real passion.”