Black leaders in food and finance spoke on the challenges Black entrepreneurs face at a discussion organized by the Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.) Collaborative and Food Funded. The event, “All Checks on Deck for Racial Equality,” emphasized the need to create a regenerative economy that amplifies Black voices.
The event was divided into three conversations. Kelly Carlisle of Acta Non Verba and Common Future’s Rodney Foxworth began with an overview of systemic oppression. A discussion on Black entrepreneurship, moderated by Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen, featured entrepreneurs Kai Nortey of Kube Nice Cream and Chef GW Chew of Something Better Foods. And Leslie Lindo of Candide Group, Tiffany Brown from Chordata Capital, and Jenna Nicholas from Impact Experience & Illumen Capital spoke on investor strategy tools.
“Wealth and power go hand in hand,” says Foxworth. “What [Common Future] tries to do is recognize that what there really is, is a power gap, there’s not an intellectual gap or a talent gap. One of the things we talk about when shifting capital is doing it in a way that enables greater power building for communities.”
The panelists agree, but report that it is difficult for Black organizations or companies to accumulate this wealth, when they must regularly prove their capabilities in business. According to a study by Kauffman Foundation, Black entrepreneurs are the most reliant on personal credit to fund new business endeavors compared to their white counterparts.
“People of color, Black, and Indigenous folks, we lose so much time and money constantly proving our worth to those with power,” says Holland. “We don’t get the investment to increase capacity or infrastructure until we prove that we can do the work without the investment and capital infrastructure.”
Adding to that sentiment, Chew says, “Sometimes as a Black founder of a Black business you have to build the ladder before you can actually start climbing it.”
Nortey emphasizes that finding investors who align with their values is a challenge. She says that Black entrepreneurs are constantly looking for reliable and long-lasting relationships with investors.
Investors have the power to further push people on what racial justice looks like within economic systems, says Brown. She continues, “Investment has been a very individualistic endeavor, but when we think about the role of collective action and drawing on the principles of grassroots organizing, we can bring those over into finance.”
“Why do investors get to determine what success looks like in a community that they are not a part of?” asks Foxworth. Entrepreneurs must challenge investors to create those lasting relationships. Rather than think of their own wealth and power, they should “ instead share that power, redistribute it.”
In the hope of bridging this wealth and power gap at a young age, Carlisle also believes in the importance of helping people early on. Acta Non Verba creates savings accounts for youth in their urban gardening program, empowering students by “giving our kids a sense of agency, worth, and future possibilities.” says Carsisle.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash, Adeolu Eletu