August is National Black Business Month, a month to recognize Black-owned businesses across the country. Entrepreneurs face multiple barriers when it comes to starting and growing successful businesses. But as a Black or minority-owned business, those barriers are compounded by institutional and racial barriers. Our ecosystems and economies will not thrive if we continue to leave out Black entrepreneurs from narratives, funding efforts, programs, and initiatives. A healthy ecosystem is one that removes barriers for all and celebrates the voices of every entrepreneur. Innovation does not come from sameness, it comes from diverse perspectives.
As ecosystem builders, it's important to match words to actions around diversity and inclusion. Here are some great organizations that seek to support Black entrepreneurs both nationally, and within their ecosystems.
Forward Cities is a national capacity-building and learning network working within and between cities and micropolitans to create more inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem development. Forward Cities currently works within the Cleveland, Detroit, New Orleans, and Durham ecosystems to accelerate inclusive innovation, and foster shared learning and collaboration between cities. We’re proud to have Fay Horwitt, their Vice President of Community Innovation as a member of SCN.
Code2040 is a national nonprofit that seeks to activate, connect, and mobilize the largest racial equity community in tech to dismantle the structural barriers that prevent the full participation and leadership of Black and Latinx technologists. Through events, trainings, early-career programs, and knowledge sharing, Code2040 equips Black and Latinx technologists and their allies with the tools, connections, and the care they need to advocate for and achieve racial equity in the tech industry. Check out their programs here.
NewME is an entrepreneurship education program, serving early stage business founders and their teams through mentorship, specialized curriculums, and capital investment. Their program enables founders to completely re-evaluate product, sales, and marketing strategies, prepare for investment pitches, and connect to a network of partners. As the first underrepresented founder focused program in the United States, NewMe has led founders to more than $47 MM in funding.
Code Fever is based out of Miami, Florida and focuses on shifting the way Black communities engage and create value within the innovation sector. The organization brings resources, training, networks, funding, and inclusive policies to the Black community to build an asset and talent-filled space where innovation can thrive. Code fever runs the following programs in order to do so.
Coding, digital literacy and startup bootcamps
Monthly office hours with industry professionals
Space Called Tribe Co-Work and Urban Innovation Lab
Blacktech Week - a national annual conference held in Miami and a national 6 City Tour aimed at increasing exposure, workforce opportunities and deal flow by getting black startup founder access to VC's, advanced education, and networking opportunities
Reports and Content creation - collecting data and telling the stories of innovators of color and increasing the resource magnetism of the black community.
We’re also proud to have Code Fever founder Felecia Hatcher as a member of SCN.
Black Girl Ventures
The Black Girl Ventures Foundation is dedicated to offering comprehensive education and advisory services that outline a road map for the growth and success of minority and/or veteran women entrepreneurs. Their vision is to create a society where Black and Brown women founders have equitable access to social and financial capital to grow their businesses.
They host crowdfunded pitch competitions in DC, Baltimore, Austin, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, and New York. In the future, they plan to move beyond pitch competitions and create five Chapters called Venture Boards in Birmingham, Houston, Miami, Durham, and Philadelphia. These chapters will create access to capital, connections, and resources for the Black/Brown women in their local community. Black Girl Ventures was founded by another SCN Member, Shelly Bell.
Black Founders is creating an ecosystem that stimulates tech entrepreneurship and fosters economic growth. They develop global programs that equip entrepreneurs, inspire innovation, and share resources. They host networking and educational events in San Francisco as well as cities like Atlanta, New York, and Austin. They also host HBU Hackathons and conferences.
Backstage Capital invests in underrepresented founders through funding and accelerator programs.
The Black upStart
The Black upStart teaches aspiring Black entrepreneurs how to start a successful and profitable business through an intense, culturally-relevant popup school. Their learning experience prepares Black innovators to compete by training them to:
THINK BLACK: Learn how to brainstorm a profitable business idea
BUILD BLACK: Learn how to build your first prototype
PLAN BLACK: Learn how to craft a business model canvas
TEST BLACK: Learn how to validate your business idea
BLNDED Media’s goal is to change the narrative of who can be, and what it looks like to be, a person of diverse background in business and tech. They were founded on the belief that media should be used as an instrument of change to inform, connect, and empower individuals to make a positive impact on their community. As the leading media platform for diverse founders in Austin, Texas, they work to provide a voice for underrepresented entrepreneurs in tech and highlight organizations that support diversity, in order to build a more inclusive startup ecosystem. SCN member Naji Kelley is the founder. You can read his story here.
The mission of Techstars is to develop and support underrepresented entrepreneurs by providing non-profit organizations with grants and access to the Techstars Network.
MORTAR’s mission is to enable under-served entrepreneurs and businesses in the Cincinnati area by creating opportunities to build communities through entrepreneurship.
“When neighborhoods are growing, a lot of planning goes into renovating historic buildings and creating magnificent green spaces that look awesome in the background of social media selfies – while little attention is paid to the existing residents of these now flourishing areas. In the same way that these locations have the potential to become booming communities, MORTAR believes that the neighborhood’s residents have the potential to create booming enterprises – just footsteps from their homes.”
MORTAR focuses on those who are often ignored in underserved and redeveloping communities and offers non-traditional entrepreneurs the opportunity to use their inherent talents to not just make a dollar, but to positively participate in the rise of their ecosystem. Co-founder Derrick Braziel is also a member of SCN.
Opportunity Hub (OHUB) is an early stage investment and wealth creating platform to ensure that everyone, everywhere has early exposure to the tech, startup and venture ecosystem; access to in-demand technology education, training and talent placement; an onramp to startup entrepreneurship programming, resources and capital and vetted investment literacy and opportunities for multi-generational wealth creation with no reliance on pre-existing multi-generational wealth.
After seven years of doing this work, OHUB is scaling by launching 100 citywide initiatives, 500 college chapters, 10 labs, and 1 academy to ensure that at least 10,000 of the nation's leading Black & Latinx students, young professionals, seasoned executives and startup entrepreneurs receive new technical (software engineering), technical sales and high growth company building skills, paid summer internships and full time roles; startup entrepreneurship resources and early capital; and, access to vetted investment opportunities, wealth building tools and more. As apart of this expansion, they will take 500 of the top students (undergraduate and graduate) from top US colleges and universities, which include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to their signature conference, OHUBxSXSW, the official diversity and inclusion initiative of SXSW.
Vertical404 is an Atlanta-based Accelerator and Pre-Seed Venture Fund – providing the education, mentorship, network, and capital required for Black & Latinx entrepreneurs to lead successful startups. They’ve cultivated an ecosystem suited to address the unique challenges founders of color face – offering programs that successfully guide founders through the sequential process of validation, launch, and scale. SCN Member Charlton Cunningham is their Director of Partnerships.
Ways to Support Black-Owned Businesses
As you can see, there are lots of ways to support Black-owned businesses in your entrepreneurial ecosystem. But first, you need to identify them. Can you name 10 Black-owned businesses in your ecosystem? We challenge you to start there. Seek them out and then highlight them out on social media for National Black Business Month. Here are some other ways you can support Black-owned businesses:
Spotlight Black-owned businesses in your ecosystem
Connect them to customers in their market
Make introductions to investors
Advocate through words and actions, not just introductions
Be more intentional about the diversity of your events and programs
Develop a panel pledge
Show up and support diverse events in your community
Give them space to talk about themselves
Find ways for Black voices to be heard and speak for themselves.
Seek out and engage Black entrepreneurs
Reach beyond high growth business to understand the needs of people starting any type of business
Be intentional about the narratives you create around Black entrepreneurs
You can also take a page from any one of these programs or organizations who are doing the work to support ALL entrepreneurs in their communities.
How do you support Black-owned businesses in your communities?