Black Girl Ventures (BGV) supports Black and other women of color to grow their businesses and helps take them to the next level. By providing access to social and financial capital, through crowdfunded pitch competitions and coaching, they are building a community of founders.
“Entrepreneurship is a pathway to stabilize communities and strengthen families,” said BGV’s chief operating officer Dasan Ahanu. “For us, creating a more equitable society is not lofty language. The way that we work means we get to see the impact on these founders.”
What makes BGV’s model unique is their focus and commitment to community – specifically by authentically supporting the communities where their founders live and work. These communities impact both the founders’ businesses and help women of color build generational wealth and legacy – two things BGV sees as the key to sustainable, long-term change.
“We are centering on community, so they can feel seen, so they can feel understood and they know that we are going to consider all of the things that influence the way they work, build and vision,” added Dasan. ”Entrepreneurship, especially for Black and brown women, is about empowerment and self-determination to be able to make choices and decisions about your future and to be affirmed in what you see.”
Founder Shelly Omilade Bell and a member from the audience at the Detroit Pitch competition, 2018
Through their Change Agent Fellowship and BGV Connect Incubator membership program, BGV is helping founders build community by introducing them to other like-minded entrepreneurs and to help build capacity. The nonprofit connects founders with peers who are on the same entrepreneurial journey and are able to share not only encouragement – but also best practices, experiences and their insights. They also provide entrepreneurs with other resources, including guidance with human resources and legal services, all to help them grow and scale their business.
One of the central programs that BGV hosts is their Pitch Program, which flips the traditional pitch experience on its head. The program coaches entrepreneurs and hosts a live crowdfunded pitch competition that allows the audience to vote for the founders whose pitch they favor. Each founder has just three minutes to pitch and another three minutes to respond to questions and answers from the audience. The entrepreneur with the most votes wins. The fun, high-energy competition provides a supportive environment for those on their entrepreneurial journey.
To measure the impact of this transformational work, BGV’s goal is to help 100,000 entrepreneurs – which will create over 20,000 jobs and sustain over 50,000 families. “What excites me the most is we have these amazing Black and brown women founders who are seeking to fill the gaps [within the disparities of the entrepreneur population and make-up] and some of the things that we need in society,” Dasan said.
One example is Vernee Hines, the co-founder of UpBrainery, who is on a mission to disrupt education and provide additional STEM support for Black children. UpBrainery tries to level the playing field through online education that leverages augmented reality. Vernee believes learning should be fun and technology can bridge the gap to reach students, so that every child regardless of their background, has the opportunity to reach their potential.
“I wasn’t seeing enough kids that look like me, that come from the same background as me, that looked like my nieces and nephew,” she explained. “I need to find a way to reach them because they may not necessarily have access to get to a brick and mortar campus or necessarily have those funds to kind of inject into their enrichment education. There has to be a way to provide this to them on their level.”
The businesses BGV supports, led by dynamic women of color, are creating jobs, fueling the economy and enriching their communities. eBay Foundation and eBay employees worldwide are proud that Black Girl Ventures is one of our 49 Global Give 2021 grant winners.
The eBay Foundation remains committed to supporting inclusive entrepreneurship for historically marginalized communities. Learn more about Global Give and the eBay Foundation at ebayinc.com/impact/ebay-foundation.