Black women are the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs. The number of businesses owned by Black women grew by 322 percent between 1997 – 2015, reported American Express in its “2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.” Yet, when it comes to venture capital, this is the least funded segment.
Fortune reports that women of color raised less than one percent of the $85 billion invested by venture capitalists in 2017. Even more dire, according to Digitalundivide’s “ProjectDiane: The State of Black Women Founders” report, Black women have only raised 0.0006 percent — $289 million — of the $424.7 billion total tech venture funding raised since 2009.
SheaMoisture founder Richelieu Dennis is looking to help even the playing field with a groundbreaking New Voices Fund for women of color entrepreneurs. On July 5, he officially launched the fund which is set to provide women of color access to $100 million in capital to help jumpstart or accelerate their businesses.
Dennis teamed with Unilever to create the fund after selling his Sundial Brands portfolio, which includes leading hair care lines SheaMoisture, Madam C.J. Walker Beauty and Nubian Heritage, to the consumer product giant. Dennis now serves as CEO and Executive Chairman of the standalone unit within Unilever. Both companies pooled $50 million in seed monies to start the fund and secured the remaining funds through investments.
“I’ve always wanted Sundial Brands to be an inspiration to other minority-owned companies of how a business against all odds can achieve excellence, have significant social impact in our communities and be successful on a world stage,” said Richelieu Dennis in a statement. “I am excited Sundial and Unilever have created this partnership, rooted in a purpose-driven ethos, that represents an incredible opportunity to take our Community Commerce economic empowerment and impact model to another level.”
First announced in November 2017, Dennis said the fund has already begun its work to empower women of color entrepreneurship. “Over the past six months, we have already either invested in or committed to, over $30 million in black women entrepreneurs,” he said.
The New Voices Fund will support businesses in four key categories, including consumer-centered business (including beauty, personal care and health and wellness), fashion, tech, and media and entertainment. Along with capital, it will provide women with access and expertise to build their businesses and transform communities.
Applications are set to open later this summer. Business owners are encouraged to create profiles now to share their stories and funding needs.
For more information, visit newvoicesfund.com.
Stephenetta Harmon is a Black beauty editor, curator, and digital media and communications expert who builds platforms to celebrate the power, impact, and business of Black beauty. She is the former EIC for Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (2018-19) and current hosts of MSR Forefront, a bi-weekly digital roundtable series. She is founder of Sadiaa Black Beauty Guide, the premier directory dedicated to Black-owned hair and beauty businesses. Find her at stephenetta.com.