Access, Mentorship and Funding: Building an Inclusive Entrepreneurship Ecosystem
At Worth’s recent Women & Worth Summit, digitalundivided CEO Lauren Maillian spoke to entrepreneurs and fellows in digitalundivided’s Do You Fellowship Mandy Bowman, Beverly Malbranche and Lisette Scott about their experiences in areas such as funding, mentorship and building confidence as a founder.
The Do You Fellowship is a yearlong program for WOC entrepreneurs that helps them grow their businesses by providing them with funding, as well as resources to help further their companies and careers.
Bowman knows all about raising funds, as she had to do that to build an app for her company, Official Black Wall Street. This app alone cost about $50,000; to gather funds, Bowman launched a Kickstarter and raised funds over 30 days. Over the past year, she has begun to request and receive grants, as one of the most important things for her was to keep as much equity as possible.
On the other hand, Scott—founder of Jam + Rico, a jewelry company that celebrates her Jamaican and Puerto Rican heritage—worked with other entrepreneurs and gathered advice from mentors about raising funds. As she began to pivoting to the fine jewelry sector, Scott received a grant to move into this space in the jewelry industry.
These women also all had profound experiences with mentorship. Malbranche is the founder and CEO of Caribbrew, a coffee company that provides consumers with arabica beans from farmers in Haiti. Some of her main mentors early on were her uncle and her mother, the latter of which started a school In Haiti. Malbranche continued to get guidance from fellowship programs, experts and by sharing resources with her peers.
Likewise, Bowman said that finding mentorship in the beginning of entrepreneurship is certainly difficult, as there is often the question of “how do I get in?” So she began by talking to her friends and family, and her friend’s dad ended up becoming a mentor to her. As Bowman’s journey progressed, she met more people and future mentors and even participated in two-way mentorships.
As for the last section—building confidence—Scott said the fashion industry can be very difficult to be in, due to a large amount of competition, and it can be challenging to get access to resources. However, it is crucial to be confident in yourself and your brand.
Additionally, Malbranche said that one of the major challenges for her was a lack of experience, but COVID showed that she had the grit and persistence needed. And while it can be difficult to get into the industry, there are people willing to invest and there is indeed a market for niche products, even if it can be hard to find.
Overall, The Do You Fellowship is working to give WOC entrepreneurs confidence and hope. All in all, women should be able to work from a place of bravery, knowledge and power, and the Do You Fellowship is helping inspire and empower women to do this.