5 Realities Facing Minority Business Owners No One Tells You About

5 Realities Facing Minority

Business Owners No One Tells You About

Photo Courtesy of American Express

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As a new mom and National Sales Director at Coca-Cola, I didn’t give much thought to food allergies. However, when my daughter Vivienne started eating solid foods, it became clear that she was allergic to tree nuts, bananas and corn. In addition, she has a rare condition called FPIES that causes a severe reaction to eggs. I was surprised and frustrated to learn that there was nothing on the market that met her dietary needs and my health standards. With determination and a belief that you can’t wait around for someone else to solve your problems, I set out on a path to create a new line of healthy, convenient allergy-friendly snacks for my daughter and everyone to enjoy – Partake Foods. As a minority and a woman starting a new business, I discovered a few challenging realities that are rarely talked about.

1. Access to Capital

African-American women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the US with over 1.5M businesses that generate over $44B in annual revenue. However, out of the 10,238 venture deals between 2012 and 2014, just 24 of those involved Black women. Statistically, that is zero!

Only 11 startups led by Black women have raised more than $1M in funding. When you think about access to capital – having angels in your personal network, having business ideas that are relatable to the VCs you are pitching, and looking like the people you are pitching to, minority women are at a definite disadvantage.

2. Mentors

In speaking to successful founders, I’m repeatedly told that one of the most important contributors to success will be my network of advisors and mentors. However, there aren’t a ton of minority entrepreneurs, particularly in the consumer products space where I operate, making it’s difficult to find others with similar struggles, drivers and challenges.

Denise Woodard.
3. People Discount Your Business

I can’t count on my hands the number of times I’ve walked into a room – whether to pitch, at a trade show, or a meeting with vendors – and been with a white female or male counterpart and been totally ignored. People turn to my non-minority counterpart and assume they are the business leader.

When that’s the natural thought, it’s hard to convey to people how serious you are about your business and get them to believe in you, since they’ve discounted you and your business ability from the minute they saw you.

4. Lack of Support from Community/Culture

I have an amazingly supportive network of friends and family, but I may scream if I hear the question again, “Are you sure?” and “Why would you ever leave your corporate job?” It’s unfathomable to many of my friends and family that I would leave the security of a 6 figure 9-5 to embark on a journey of entrepreneurship. “Side hustles” are a huge thing in our community and speak to the ability of managing a full-time job, as well as an entrepreneurial venture, but it’s often taboo to make the leap to becoming a full-time entrepreneur.

5. There is a Ton of Opportunity

The time is ripe to be both a female and minority entrepreneur. Investors and large corporations are awakening to the disparity that exists in funding and opportunity, as well as realizing the great bets that they are missing out on.

Because of this, funds that are specifically interested in investing in female and minority founders are popping up, and programs like Project Entrepreneur and CODE2040 are committed to changing the current statistics. While there’s still a gap, there are so many amazing founders and business leaders working to trail blaze a chance.

Denise Woodard

Denise Woodard was inspired to launch PartakeFoods in June 2016 after struggling to find healthy, convenient and allergy-friendly meals and snacks for her 2-year old daughter Vivienne who suffers from several food allergies.

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