“A world where all women of color own their work.”
We pack a lot into our vision, and honestly, it is a grand statement that we use with intention. After all, we are working on behalf of women born of grand declarations and grand survival in order to break past deep-seeded patterns of exclusion.
I pen this note in the season of liberation festivals, including Pride Month, Juneteenth, and the Fourth of July. I find myself centered in conversations on what it means to boldly declare a new course forward. This charge takes on special meaning in the face of events like the recent Supreme Court stance on affirmative action, another event in a national trend toward fortifying systems built upon race and gender-based inequity and exclusion.
I write to you as much more than a dedicated member of our digitalundivided community — a circle of supporters, founders, investors, partners and advisors of shared commitment. You are my fellow visionaries in the movement for an equitable America built upon entrepreneurship. We are building an ecosystem where great talent excels regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or class. With the rising temperature of summer, we find that the significance of our commitment to an environment that equalizes economic access for Latina and Black women also escalates.
In the spring, the digitalundivided team celebrated two cohorts of founders. Our BIG Extension program gathered a focused group from our 2022 BIG cohort. Five companies were selected to each receive $5,000 grants, furnished by MetLife Foundation and focus on a deep dive, five-month refinement of their business strategies. Then with Breakthrough, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase’s Advancing Black Pathways, we provided an additional cohort of founders with a deeper understanding of their customers, startup funding, growth marketing strategies, and networking opportunities to scale their ventures.
Between the two programs, we worked with 22 Latina and Black women to hone their business visions, increase their access to mentors and resources, and improve their odds for scaling their ventures long-term. We achieved all this inspired by the impact of just sharing their work and their faces.
Additionally, we hosted InvestHer Atlanta, in partnership with the Nasdaq Foundation, engaging a room full of professionals committed to propelling the success of Latina and Black women entrepreneurs as new investors. One of the highlights of the afternoon was this quote from Farah Allen, CEO and Founder of The Labz: “If you approach [fundraising] in a way where you expect everyone to invest in you, you will probably give up. You have to find people who want to invest in people like you, and who have proven to do that.”
Farah’s absolutely right. Making connections with and building relationships with like-minded people is the key to long-standing success. I want to reiterate this in light of anti-equity advocates who would seek to exclude our founders from any and all opportunities to advance. Equality is aspirational, but cannot be achieved without first creating an equitable environment. Spaces like ours and Fearless Fund do just that. We cannot and will not apologize for that, nor should you. We will continue to build relationships because we know that we are stronger together than apart.
Recently, Aisha Bowe announced that her company, STEMBoard, an engineering firm specializing in professional advisory services for elite organizations received a nine-figure contract from the Department of Defense. We are blown away by her work in achieving this contract, and consider this milestone as we at digitalundivided consider successful founder journeys. Adequately serving visionary minds requires active, robust investigation into the paths and resources that are current and fitting for our founders as they build viable, scalable ventures. And the lanes outside of venture capital, or those that compliment it, are worth further upliftment.
We have the power to build an economic ecosystem that serves women of color that expands our vision of relevant investment and revenue opportunities. We’re closing out our summer of radical reimagination at digitalundivided with many inputs. Our team operates from a constant state of design thinking when it comes to our vision. So as we mine the templates of success uplifted throughout Black Business Month, we dive into two key questions. How can we propel a broader vision for our founders? How can we anchor bold vision in a world of changing hurdles?
Brittany S. Hale
digitalundivided Interim CEO