Like many other business owners, the pandemic forced me to throw out my existing plans for 2020 and make a new plan. I was frustrated about how difficult it was for women and POC to receive financial support for their businesses. Experts are saying that as many as 42% of Black-owned businesses will close because of COVID-19. The numbers are devastating. From April onward, entrepreneur after entrepreneur started calling me for help.
A part of me thought about closing EnrichHER and returning to a 9-to-5 life. It took more than a year to get my startup through regulatory compliance before we could even start helping people. At the time of the nationwide shutdown, the EnrichHER Funding platform had only been up and running for a year. During that year, I learned that many people who said they supported women-led businesses or Black-owned businesses wouldn't put any actual dollars behind their public proclamations. It's a reality that continues to frustrate me.
I focus on founders who belong to underrepresented and underinvested groups in their respective industries.
Not gonna lie, going back to the easy life of a regular paycheck, especially during a pandemic, sounded amazing. I'm qualified to do a range of roles — COO, program manager, engineer, developer, accountant, consultant, etc. — so I wasn't worried about finding a job. In fact, I kind of mentioned during a Zoom call that I might look for a job and immediately received two offers. Regardless, I've known for more than a decade that my motivation was helping people find their economic power. If not me, then who? Deep down, I knew that I couldn't give up on EnrichHER.
Instead, I asked myself how EnrichHER could continue to support businesses with women in leadership positions. How could we support all kinds of businesses, not just startups, and not just tech companies? Did our existing funding model need tweaking? After months of work, I am ready to unveil All Rise Factory, our new program for funders who want to support vetted New Majority founders whose businesses are underinvested.
All Rise Factory companies have been in business for at least a year. EnrichHER, in general, does not currently accept early-stage startups. Who knows, I may choose to create a specific program for that kind of company at a future date, perhaps for founders who are college students and recent graduates, but for now, I am focused primarily on businesses that already have at least $150K in yearly revenue. Our first cohort of All Rise companies grossed between $75K and $4M in 2019. I focus on founders who belong to underrepresented and underinvested groups in their respective industries.
Experts are saying that as many as 42% of Black-owned businesses will close because of COVID-19.
For example, a study revealed that Black women received 0.0006% of venture capital investment between 2009 and 2017. Despite Black women being the mosteducated people in the country and starting businesses in greaternumbers than any other racial demographic, Silicon Valley doesn't trust the entrepreneurial skills of women like me, apparently, who has two bachelor's degrees, a master's degree in information technology, and a Ph.D. in systems engineering. This is exactly why I founded EnrichHER in 2018 and launched it in 2019. My vision is to use EnrichHER to support 100,000 businesses with women founders, women CEOs, and women in leadership positions. And to make funding those businesses accessible for all kinds of investors, not just the wealthy.
Let me introduce you to our first All Rise Factory cohort of companies!
WRITTEN BYRoshawnna Novellus