De’Vonna Pittman, social entrepreneur and founder of Nature’s Syrup, recently sat down with MSR to discuss her new position on the Minnesota Emerging Entrepreneurs Board. Pittman, alongside other entrepreneurs, was recently appointed by Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. Flanagan to represent the point of view of underrepresented business owners.
The board is established at the State level to award grants to nonprofit corporations and to fund loans to businesses owned by minority or low-income persons, women, veterans, and people with disabilities, according to the website.
Board members include the commissioner of employment and economic development; the commissioner of human rights; the chair of the Metropolitan Council; and 12 civilian members.
The responsibility of the board is to also investigate and evaluate methods to enhance urban development, particularly methods related to economic diversification through minority business enterprises and job creation for minority and persons in low-income areas.
Pittman is also an author and community advocate who founded the Minnesota Black Authors Expo in 2017. In 2018, her business Nature’s Syrup, a hair and skin care beauty brand was highlighted in an MSR Black Business Spotlight. Since then, Pittman noted the growth she’s seen in her business, but also in herself as an entrepreneur.
“A lot has happened since 2018. Not only for myself but for other business owners during the pandemic. I think we’ve all recognized our power and our potential, especially Black entrepreneurs.
“[During the pandemic], I felt an immense amount of good energy come into my business and more support than ever. Even our White brothers and sisters were saying, ‘We need to do better, and in some cases they did.”’
She continued, “[So many] organizations connected with us, placing large orders around the holiday and throughout the pandemic. So that really put me in a position to see my business in a different light, and I began to envision Nature’s Syrup as a business that was scalable.”
One such opportunity came by way of Goldman Sachs. Pittman was chosen for the Goldman Sachs 2022 cohort as a part of its “One Million Black Women: Black in Business” initiative.
“Goldman Sachs has committed $10 billion in indirect investment capital to close the racial wealth gap by focusing on Black women and is focusing their efforts on ensuring Black women become employers by creating economic opportunity and providing access to capital, support services, and education.
“After almost a decade of supporting small businesses with their 10,000 Small Businesses program, the One Million Black Women initiative is taking it a step further and promises to unlock growth and wealth for Black women,” Pittman said.
She currently uses her business to celebrate the beauty in the texture of Black hair and textured hair. She praised the Twin Cities Urban League in its advocacy of the CROWN Act legislation that would eliminate hair discrimination in the workplace. This underscores her dedication as a social entrepreneur.
“For me, a social entrepreneur is someone who has a great ideas and products that they share with people in their community, and in return, the community receives something tangible back” she said.
Pittman uses her business to promote products designed for Black hair textures and encourages all people to love their natural hair. Through connecting Nature’s Syrup with a mission, she is able to address larger social issues surrounding Black hair and skin care.
When asked what her goals are for the Emerging Entrepreneur Board, she said, “My first goal is to listen to entrepreneurs to find out what their most pressing needs are, and also get their feedback to the governor and the governor’s staff.
“The gig economy is strong, we realized that during the pandemic. Entrepreneurs drive our communities in more ways than we know, those folks who sell their products and services at pop-ups and farmers markets are equally important as those businesses who have a storefront, and we need to hear from them and advocate for their growth and opportunities as well.
“Those are stories we can learn from, because many of us started there, and often those are the stories we are missing.”
For more on Minnesota Emerging Entrepreneur Board, visit bit.ly/EntrepreneurBoard.
Angela Rose Myers is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.