The table is where bread is broken and deals are made, but sadly, for generations, Black women have been barred from taking their rightful seat. Statistics show that although women of color are starting businesses more than any other demographic, they are also the least funded, proving that even today, we are not only lacking a seat at the table, but a place in the room.
This was a conundrum that didn't sit well with author and entrepreneur Arian Simone, who recently joined forces with Emmy-nominated actress Keshia Knight Pulliam to launch The Fearless Fund, a company that is on a mission to invest $5 million dollars in aggressive, scalable businesses owned by women of color that are seeking pre-seed, seed, or Series A stage funding.
The Fearless Fund aims to invest time, mentorship, and anywhere between $50-250,000 in early-stage, high-growth WOC-led ventures that have established at least $100,000 in revenue. According to Keshia and several other studies that prove that women in business are lit, although venture capitalism can be a gamble, betting on Black women always pays off. "Honestly, we are the sure bet. We are the people we should be betting on because we're having so much success in the space."
This is the reason that Arian, Keshia, and their investment partners have chosen to invest in companies like EnrichHer, a company that recently won the Fearless Fund's pitch competition at Facebook's Headquarters, that is not only profitable but has the potential to sustain a long-term relationship.
Arian, the best-selling author of Fearless Faith + Hustle: 21 Day Devotionaltold xoNecole that as an entrepreneur at heart for the past 20 years, spearheading The Fearless Fund was a destiny that, for her, was both necessary and inevitable. Today, the serial entrepreneur has now become a boss in her own right but says she'll never forget the lessons she learned when she was a broke college student.
"I promised myself then, 'Arian, one day you need to be the investor that you're looking for," Arian shared. "Women of color are starting businesses more than anybody else, but they're the least funded. Women right now are getting 2% of venture capital funds and women of color are getting less than 1% and there's no need for that."
Historically, the table can be the most important piece of furniture in the whole damn establishment, and since Black women couldn't find a seat, Arian and Keshia built one. The duo recently sat down with xoNecole and spilled the tea on everything you need to know to break into the investors' club the right way.
Here are four things you need to know before seeking investment and giving up equity in your business:
1. Know How It Works
I must admit, Shark Tank is my sh*t, but after my conversation with Arian and Keshia, I discovered that there is a lot I don't know about the world of venture capitalism. Although it may sound great to have a mogul give you a couple hundred stacks to play with, the investment industry is not a game.
Although The Fearless Fund is here for all of the empowerment, the goal of their company is to eventually make their money back with interest. Arian told xoNecole, "The goal, of course, is you want to select companies that cover the cost of the actual fund. And in addition to that, you want them to have a strategy to exit the fund within a certain period of time."
Although seeking an investor may be a viable option for some companies, Arian explained that additional capital is not always needed to maintain a thriving business. "Some businesses do not need venture capital. Some businesses, depending on where they're looking for growth and scale, you need the capital in order to do that."
Ultimately, these bosses agreed that making the decision to give up equity in a company is a decision that each founder has to make individually based on their company's needs. "That's a discussion for each founder, based upon their business and where their own resources lie and what their end goal is. What is their exit strategy? Are they looking to get acquired? A lot of that is based on where you are in your company," Arian shared.
Keshia added, "Depending on what the end strategy is, you need to know how much equity are you leaving on the table for other investors."
2. Vet Your Relationships
Securing an investment from a partner isn't for the faint of heart, it's a long-term commitment that you need to investigate thoroughly before you make any deals. Arian and Keshia warned of the importance of vetting your check because if that investor just so happens to leave the relationship, they leave with the equity you gave up in the initial business deal. Arian explained, "I think something that a lot of people don't realize is that for a company, once you get to the pinnacle, a lot of the times, the founder of the company only really has maybe 20 to 25% ownership in that company."
It is for this reason, Arian says, that you should make sure you're getting in bed with one helluva partner. She continued, "With that being said, you want to make sure that they're aware this is a long-term relationship, that this is a good marriage."
Nothing in this world is free, especially not money, and it's important to keep this in mind when you're giving up ownership of your company. So when it's time to give some equity in your business in exchange for capital, make sure you think before you let it go, sis.
3. Invest In You First, Sis
Along with being aware of your strengths and weaknesses, Arian and Keshia also noted the importance of putting your money where your mouth is. To this dynamic duo, one of the most attractive traits of a potential investment is being able to see that they invested in themselves, first. Keshia said bluntly, "You can't expect people to believe and put all of their money and efforts behind your business if you're not."
Arian agreed with this sentiment and affirmed that it's hard to believe in someone who doesn't believe enough in herself. "That's really important because you're going out here and asking people to invest in your dream, but how invested are you in your dreams? And I feel me that's a telltale sign, because someone who's truly invested, truly dedicated and has already shown that they put in the work and the sweat equity, is important."
4. Pay It Forward
Fruit doesn't grow from the vine to be eaten by the tree. Let that sink in for a minute. One of the most telling signs of a boss is her need to put others on, and Arian and Keshia think it's time for you to boss up too, sis. According to these ladies, the most effective way to level up your life is to pour into someone else's. Keshia stated, "We are a collective, and Arian and I both operate from a space of abundance and knowing that there is enough for everybody. And when you've been poured into, even though yes, it's an investment that we expect a return on, there are so many other layers that are poured that are shared."
Even though these women are at a place in their lives where they can easily kick their feet up and relax, they've chosen to dedicate their lives to creating a table where we can all thrive together. "Empowerment will happen. When you are in the place where you can then pay it forward to ensure that you do it too."
Featured image by @dewaynerogers.
- Funding Resources For Black Women Entrepreneurs - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- How To Get An Investor For Your Business - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- Here's How Women Can Get Funding for Their Business - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- The Fearless Podcast with Arian Simone on Apple Podcasts ›
- Keisha Knight Pulliam & Arian Simone Are Investing $5 Million ... ›
- Fearless Fund Launches $5 Million Dollar VC Fund Fueling Women ... ›
- Keisha Knight Pulliam Launches Venture Capital Fund For Black ... ›
- Arian Simone and Keshia Knight Pulliam Launched a $5 Million ... ›
- Kesha Knight Pulliam & Arian Simone to Invest $5 Million in Black ... ›
- Entertainer-Endorsed VC 'The Fearless Fund' Will Provide Capital ... ›
- Arian Simone and Keshia Knight Pulliam Launch Venture Capital ... ›
- Keshia Knight Pulliam And Arian Simone Launch Venture Capital ... ›
- Keisha Knight Pulliam & Arian Simone Are Investing $5 Million ... ›
Taylor "Pretty" Honore is a spiritually centered and equally provocative rapper from Baton Rouge, Louisiana with a love for people and storytelling. You can probably find me planting herbs in your local community garden, blasting "Back That Thang Up" from my mini speaker. Let's get to know each other: @prettyhonore.
This post is in partnership with Amgen.
The seemingly simple task of taking a breath is something most of us don’t think twice about. But for people who live with severe asthma, breathing does not always come easily. Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition that inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs, affects millions of people worldwide – 5-10% of which live with severe asthma. Severe asthma is a chronic and lifelong condition that is unpredictable and can be difficult to manage. Though often invisible to the rest of the world, severe asthma is a not-so-silent companion for those who live with it, often interrupting schedules and impacting day-to-day life.
Among the many individuals who battle severe asthma, Black women face a unique set of challenges. It's not uncommon for us to go years without a proper diagnosis, and finding the right treatment often requires some trial and error. Thankfully, all hope is not lost for those who may be fighting to get their severe asthma under control. We spoke with Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq. and Jania Watson, two inspiring Black women who have been living with severe asthma and have found strength, resilience, and a sense of purpose in their journeys.
Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq.
Juanita Ingram has a resume that would make anyone’s jaw drop. On top of being recently crowned Mrs. Universe, she’s also an accomplished attorney, filmmaker, and philanthropist. From the outside, it seems there’s nothing this talented woman won’t try, and likely succeed at. In her everyday life, however, Juanita exercises a lot more caution. From a young age, Juanita has struggled with severe asthma. Her symptoms were always exacerbated by common illnesses like a cold or flu. “I've heard these stories of my breathing struggles, but I remember distinctly when I was younger not being able to breathe every time I got a virus,” says Ingram. “I remember missing a lot of school and crying a lot because asthma is painful. I [was taken] to see my doctor often if I got sick with anything so I was hypervigilant as a child, and I still am.”
Today, Juanita says her symptoms are best managed when she’s working closely with her care team, avoiding getting sick and staying ahead of any symptoms. Ingram said she’s been blessed with skilled doctors who are just as vigilant of her symptoms as she is. While competing in the Mrs. Universe competition, Juanita took extra care to stay clear of other competitors to ensure she didn’t catch a cold or virus that would trigger her severe asthma. “I would stand off to the side and sometimes that could be taken as ‘oh, she thinks she's better than everybody else.’ But if I get sick during a pageant, I'm done. I had to compete with that in mind because my sickness doesn't look like everybody else's sickness.”
Even when her symptoms are under control, living with severe asthma still presents challenges. Juanita relies on her strong support system to overcome the hurdles caused by a lack of understanding from the public, “I think that there's a lot of lack of awareness about how serious severe asthma is. I would [also] tell women to advocate and to trust their intuition and not to allow someone to dismiss what you're experiencing.”
Jania, a content creator from Atlanta, Georgia, has been living with severe asthma for many years. Thanks to early testing by asthma specialists, Jania was diagnosed with severe asthma as a child after experiencing frequent flare-ups and challenges in her day-to-day life. “I specifically remember, I was starting school, and we were moving into a new house. One of the triggers for me and my younger sister at the time were certain types of carpets. We had just moved into this new house and within weeks of us being there, my parents literally had to pay for all new carpet in the house.”
As Jania grew older, she was suffering from fewer flare-ups and thought her asthma was well under control. However, a trip back to her doctor during high school revealed that her severe asthma was affecting her more than she realized. “That was the first time in a long time I had to do a breathing test,” she describes. “The doctor had me take a deep breath in and blow into a machine to test my breathing. They told me to blow as hard as I could. And I was doing it. I was giving everything I got. [My dad and the doctor] were looking at me like ‘girl, stop playing.’ And at that point [it confirmed] I still have severe asthma because I've given it all I got. It doesn't really go away, but I just learned how to help manage it better.”
Jania recognizes that people who aren’t living with asthma, may not understand the disease and mistake it for something less serious. Or there could be others who think their symptoms are minor, and not worth bringing up. So, for Jania, communicating with others about her diagnosis is key. “Having severe asthma [flare-ups] in some cases looks very similar to being out of shape,” she said. “But this is a chronic illness that I was born with. This is just something that I live with that I've been dealing with. And I think it's important for people to know because that determines the next steps. [They might ask] ‘Do you need a bottle of water, or do you need an inhaler? Do you need to take a break, or do we need to take you to the hospital?’ So, I think letting the people around you know what's going on, just in case anything were to happen plays a lot into it as well.”
Like Juanita, Jania’s journey has been marked by ups and downs, but she remains an unwavering advocate for asthma awareness and support within the Black community. She hopes that her story can be an inspiration to other women with asthma who may not yet have their symptoms under control. “There's still life to be lived outside of having severe asthma. It is always going to be there, but it's not meant to stop you from living your life. That’s why learning how to manage it and also having that support system around you, is so important.”
By sharing their journeys, Juanita and Jania hope to encourage others to embrace their conditions, obtain a proper management plan from a doctor or asthma specialist like a pulmonologist or allergist, and contribute to the improvement of asthma awareness and support, not only within the Black community, but for all individuals living with severe asthma.
Read more stories from others like Juanita and Jania on Amgen.com, or visit Uncontrolled Asthma In Black Women | BREAK THE CYCLE to find support and resources.
If there’s one thing that I’ve pretty much become an expert in without really wanting to be, it’s how to get through certain things when it comes to learning more about natural hair. Take that wretched growing-out phase, for instance. When you’re ready to go from uber short to something that’s, say, past your chin, getting from Point A to Point B can feel like your own personal hell — if you don’t know what you’re doing.
If you’re looking at the monitor (or phone screen) and are aggressively nodding your head up and down because that is exactly where you find yourself these days, help is on the way. I’ve got 12 things that you can do to make growing out your hair not feel like pure torture; things that I can personally vouch for because I’ve tried it and succeeded with each and every one of ‘em.
1. Stop Watching the “Stove”
Pretty much all of us have heard some elder in our family say that a watched pot never boils water. With the kind of personality I have, I’ve tested that theory (LOL). For me, it’s not watching water heat up that drives me up the wall, it’s opening the oven over and over again while baking something that drives me batty. And here’s the thing — how counterproductive is it to do that anyway, since opening the oven lets heat out, making it even more challenging for whatever is trying to bake…finish?
I’m pretty sure you can see where I am going with this, right? Listen, the reality is that your hair is pretty much only going to grow between ¼” – ½” a month. That’s it. The goal is to do all that you can to retain the length as it comes in. So, if you’re about to embark on growing your hair out and you think that playing a game of stare-down with it is going to accomplish something — all that’s gonna do is piss you off, and stress does nothing helpful when you’re trying to have healthy hair. Stop watching the stove, sis. Stop watching the freakin’ stove.
2. Do Consistent Scalp Massages
The reason why I’ve pitched and written articles about scalp care (check out “10 Things Your Scalp Has BEEN Waiting For You To Do” and “Treat Your Scalp To A Little Bit Of Detoxing This Weekend”) is because, I basically had to learn the hard way that, since my scalp is my hair’s foundation, I need to be uber proactive about taking good care of it. One way to do that is by giving it weekly massages.
Scalp massages increase blood flow to your hair follicles, help to strengthen and even thicken your hair strands, and lower stress and anxiety levels (including stressing over growing out your hair). And since stress is directly linked to hair loss and gray hair, the more scalp massages, the better, chile.
Some quick tips on how to massage your scalp properly and effectively here.
3. Enjoy Protective Styles. Don’t (Solely) Rely on Them, Tho.
One of my favorite quotes is, “The excess of a virtue is a vice;” I believe that Aristotle originated it. That said, you’ve already peeped the header for this tip, so you already know where I’m going with it, right? As much as I’m a fan of protective hairstyles (check out “This Is Your Summertime Protective Style Cheat Sheet,” “This Is How To Know Your Protective Style Ain't Workin'”) — and wigs qualify, by the way (check out “This Is The Way To Properly Care For Your Hair While Rockin' A Wig”) — I also know that they weren’t supposed to be in our hair for more than 6-8 weeks at a time (tops).
Between the tension of tight braids and twists, our scalp needing some TLC, ends needing to be trimmed, and hair simply needing to REST — whether it’s box braids, crown braids, lace fronts, sew-ins, passion twists, faux locs…whatever you’ve got goin’ on, chile, if your ultimate goal is growth, you can’t be living in a protective style 365 days out of the year. It’s counterproductive at best and damaging at worst. So yeah, find ways to enjoy your hair without constantly relying on protective styling. Sometimes wearing them? Cool. All the time? Not cool.
4. Master How to Naturally Stretch Your Tresses
If your hair is 4-type, congrats! The reason why I say that is because, although you have the tightest curls (which can make it feel like your hair is never growing), you also have the most versatility; especially when it comes to getting through the growing-out phases. Don’t believe me? When you get a chance, go to YouTube and put “stretch 4-type hair” in the search field to have your mind blown (some examples are here, here, and here)!
It really is amazing how many of us can think that, just because our curls aren’t loose, we’re not gaining inches when that typically couldn’t be further from the truth. So, while it really is a good idea to keep hair manipulation down to a minimum, if you want to stretch out your tresses in order to stay motivated, get into braiding, banding, or stretching out your wash ‘n gos AFTER they are dry.
Knowing that there are heatless (meaning less damaging) ways to have longer hair? How liberating is that?
5. Take Wash ‘n Gos Up a Notch
While I was watching a video by a YouTuber by the name of Tiana Michelle talk about how she does her own wash ‘n gos, it reminded me that I need to get more into that (once the weather warms up a bit). If you happen to be on a natural hair journey, wash ‘n goes are great because, not only do they not require a ton of work or upkeep, but they can also teach you how to embrace your hair’s natural curl pattern.
The key is to use the best products — ones that complement your own hair texture. And yes, that can take a bit of trial and error, but it’s ultimately worth it to discover what they are. Some that I know naturalistas are fond of include Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker, Mielle Organics Pomegranate & Honey Coil Sculpting Custard, tgin Honey Whip Hydrating Mousse, Uncle Funky's Daughter Curly Magic Curl Stimulator, and The Doux Bee Girl Honey Curl Custard.
6. Don’t Let Up on Leave-In Conditioning
You’ve probably heard that one of the reasons why it’s easier for other ethnicities to retain length is because it’s easier for their hair to keep moisture in it. Why? Because when strands are straighter, the natural sebum that flows from our scalp is better able to coat our strands from root to tip.
This means that since our hair has a curlier texture, we have to put a bit more effort into keeping it hydrated; one way to do that is by applying a leave-in conditioner.
What I tend to do is apply one as the final move on wash day and then apply more on the ends of my hair before braiding it up; I will also put some on the tips when I’m wearing my hair out. I’ll admit that it’s also a bit of trial and error to figure out which leave-in works best for you. Two that I like a lot are Mielle’s Pomegranate & Honey Leave-In Conditioner (it’s super light and deeply penetrating at the same time) and a chebe powder butter that I found on Etsy (you can cop it here).
Chebe is an article all on its own. What I’ll say for now is, that if you’re looking for something that will strengthen your hair and help to reduce split ends, it totally has you covered.
7. Use Gentle Color Options ONLY
Listen, I know from personal experience that while you’re waiting for your hair to reach ear, chin, or shoulder length, it can be super tempting to switch up the color often in order to keep you patient and distracted. While, in theory, that strategy makes a ton of sense, the challenge is that you can end up drying out your hair, which leads to damage that results in breakage or having to cut it — and since your goal right now is to grow your hair out…how counterproductive would that be?
Honestly, the less color that’s in your hair, the better. However, if you must, go with gentle color options ONLY, like henna, hair color wax, or semi or demi-permanent brands. Bottom line, ammonia is never your hair’s friend yet it’s definitely not when you find yourself smack dab and in the middle of the growing out phase.
8. Be Consistent with Bond Building and Thermal Heat Protectant
I’m someone who doesn’t have any chemicals in my hair; however, I do like to wear my tresses stretched out, and so, on wash days, I will blow my hair out and then keep it stretched by braiding it until the next wash day rolls around (which is every 2-3 weeks for me personally). When I’m sure to apply a protein treatment, deep condition, add a bond builder, and a cream-based thermal heat protectant before applying any heat, it’s all good in the hood. When I skip any of this (well, protein treatments get rotated about every 2-3 wash days), all hell breaks loose — quite literally, too. SMDH.
Protein keeps hair stronger. Deep conditioning adds moisture. Okay, but what gets overlooked a lot is the fact that bond building products are great at “filling in the holes” when it comes to the cuticles of your hair. I’ve been using Marc Anthony’s Repairing Leave In Conditioner Treatment, Repair Bond +Rescuplex, for a little over a year now, and it’s one of the best investments that I’ve made for my hair to date.
9. Stay Up on Hair Accessory Trends
Camouflage. If there’s one thing that has gotten me through my own growing-out phase journey, it’s literal hair camouflage that is otherwise known as hair accessories. That’s actually why hair bonnets in public (yep, I’m THAT girl) irk the mess outta me because there are way too many options out here that look less like “I just rolled outta bed” than that. Turbans, hair wraps, hats, skull caps — the list goes on and on. All of ‘em are super cute and a great way to get through a bad hair day or a day when you’re so sick of waiting on some extra inches that you’re tempted to cut it all off (or all off AGAIN) and start over.
So yeah, definitely see stacking up on some hair accessories as an investment into your long(er) hair goals. Some that will be in style over the next several months include hair ribbons, comb headbands, rhinestone-embellished items, 90s-style hair clips and hair pins, and beanies.
10. Handle Your Hair Like Silk
Silk is both strong and uber fragile at the same time — and that’s basically our hair in a nutshell. That’s why it’s so important to handle your tresses with extreme care, especially when it comes to the oldest parts of your hair, which are your ends. One way to do this is to make sure that you either use your fingers or a detangler brush to style it. Now, I have tried the UNbrush that TikTok was losing their minds about. It’s not half bad. Whatever you do, just don’t be out here ripping through your hair and then wondering why your ends are raggedy. Your hair is silk. Your hair is silk. Your hair, sis…is like fine silk.
11. Expand Your (Big) Earring Collection
Hey, you think I’m playing, but I’m absolutely serious. Although I am totally Team Style-Your-Hair, I know from my own personal experience and looking at other women, both online and off, that when your earring game is on-point, and you’ve got a colorful lip happening, your hair is probably like the fifth thing (after your eyes, your smile and probably your outfit) that folks are gonna notice. So, if you’re a bit paranoid about how awkward the growing out phase may appear, ramp up your earring collection — the bigger, the better!
By the way, if you consider yourself to be a trendsetter, some popular earring looks for 2024 include chandelier styles, big-ass sparkle hoops, and mismatched earrings (they’re always a lot of fun!). Oh, and statement earrings that are only in one ear (think Janet Jackson when she used to wear one key in one earlobe).
12. LEAVE. THE. SHEARS. ALONE.
I’m pretty sure that a lot of y’all have heard that you should trim your hair every 6-8 weeks. Eh. I think the actual “rule” should be that you trim your ends whenever you need to — and you need to if you notice split ends, fairy knots, your hair tangles easily, you notice that your hair isn’t holding or keeping a style or your ends feel rougher than the rest of your locks do. Other than that, keep the shears out of your hair because if you spend a lot of time trying to make sure that your sides are perfectly even or that no strand is “unruly,” — I can tell you again from very up close and personal experience that you’re not going to see any real progress any time soon.
Is the growing out phase easy? C’mon, you know better than that. Yet, can you get through it? If you apply these tips, keep your eyes on the prize, and RELAX…you most certainly can. Hit us back with some pics in the comments in six months to prove it, aight? Awesome.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by katieho Seisa/Getty Images