In honor of Black Business Month, entrepreneurs Denise Woodard and Ryan Williams led a conversation to focus on the unique challenges of Black entrepreneurs in the U.S. and how to amplify support of Black Main Street businesses and other Black-owned companies. The wide-ranging discussion also touched on fundraising, financial education, and diversifying the workforce, as well as other related subjects.
Here are a few of the lessons they shared from their own personal experiences during the livestream on Inc.com.
Amplify your story.
Share your founding stories with as many people as possible: retailers, consumers, the press, and investors, said Woodward, who is founder of Partake Foods, a New York-based maker of allergy-friendly cookies. “It’s surprising to me how much consumers care about supporting conscious companies,” she said. “As a woman-owned and Black-owned business, I think oftentimes people think that could be a detriment, but we have found our way to partner with programs that can amplify our story in an effective way.”
Keep pitching to investors.
Like many underrepresented founders who struggle to get capital, Woodard exhausted her 401(k) retirement savings a year after starting her business. Despite launching two successful chains in 2018, she was rejected by 86 investors. Woodard was undeterred. She finally heard a “yes” in 2019, when rapper Jay-Z’s Marcy Venture Partners led a $1 million investment in the company.
While fostering a resilient mindset helps, Woodard said, try also joining a community of other founders of color, or building one yourself. Together, you can support one another and act as sounding boards for ideas. “I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of people pouring [their time and effort] into me, and now I’m able to reciprocate,” Woodard said. “That is part of the joy of it all, and that’s how we uplift one another.”
Partner with business owners of color.
Williams, who founded Cadre, an online platform for investing in commercial real estate, stressed the importance of working with diverse founders and creating programs to train the next generation.
“We partnered with a number of minority operators,” he said. “We formed a partnership with investment management company BlackRock to scale those efforts. We just finished an internship program where 100 percent of our interns were Black.”
He said that Cadre pays close attention to inclusive hiring and he hopes to help other real estate companies to join this conversation.