This post is in partnership with Pantene.
You've probably heard the news by now: Black women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the nation!
And to spell it out even further, since 1997, our women are holding it down with entrepreneurial growth rates that are peaking at a whopping 518 percent.
518 percent. Yasss, queens.
This is all good news for us, right? Well…
According to a 2018 State Of Women-Owned Businesses report, there is a huge revenue gap and Black women-owned businesses averaged revenue of just $24,000 versus $142,900 by all women-owned businesses. Furthermore, 88 percent of women-owned businesses are reportedly making less than $100,000 per year, and only 1.8 percent of women-owned businesses are successful in scaling past $1 million dollars in revenue. In 2015, only 2 percent of venture funding went to women founders and less than 1 percent went to black women.
Ladies, we are securing less than 1 percent of the pie.
When reflecting on my own entrepreneurial journey, I realized how fortunate I was to have reached an acquisition that came with a set of business development advisors and helped propel my brand to accomplish things I could only dream of.
But for those of us who aren't privy to the basics of acquisitions, or optimizing investment funds and shareholders, the question for me has become, how can we better educate women on how grossly imbalanced our entrepreneurial growth rates are to capital access? I knew that I needed to be present in spaces that allowed me to provide more. I knew we needed more bridges, more ladders, and more step stools.
My solution: get involved.
In December, I was invited to West Hollywood to join an expert panel for The Wing's Inaugural Pitch Perfect event in partnership with Pantene. In addition to myself, the panel also included Maris Croswell of Pantene, Susan Lyne of BBG Ventures and Lauren Kassam of The Wing.
During the inspiring evening, five finalists pitched their businesses in front of a live audience—with the ultimate prize being a chance to explore future investment opportunities with BBG Ventures (who has actually recently invested in two black women-owned brands, Mented Cosmetics and RadSwan).
The purpose of Pitch Perfect was for each brand to promote and potentially fund their business, while simultaneously bringing an awareness to the lack of diversity of awarded investment opportunities.
Pitch finalists included five innovative brands who were disrupting their respective industries: The Baalm, a membership-based skincare community, Glow Up Games, the self-described 'Fenty Beauty of Interactive Entertainment' gaming firm, Huggable, an organic baby formula alternative for moms transitioning from breastfeeding, Varnish Lane, a non-toxic and waterless nail salon, and Spacey Studios, a direct-to-consumer affordable art collaborator and curator.
"We believe that that is a massive gap in the amount of female-founded new ventures," Croswell of Pantene says. "We really just wanted to have a supportive environment where people could get feedback on their business opportunities and really have that exposure," adds Kassam.
Prior to going on stage, Mandi Nyambi of The Baalm, revealed to me that although this wasn't their first pitch opportunity, they have never pitched a woman before, let alone a black woman.
This moment stood out being that I knew over 90 percent of all capital investments were awarded by white men, to white men. And I knew women who had previously gotten the opportunity to pitch to investors, would have to go the extra mile to prove their worth, as research shows that we are more likely to be asked questions centered around anticipated problems, whereas a white male's questions focus on growth-hacking areas.
So, on the surface, Mandi was grateful for the panel's diversity, but in reality, she was expressing current concerns that so many black women founders know all too well.
As the pitches continued through the evening, we each actively took notes, listened to what each finalist had to say, and threw out questions before convening to make a decision on who would win the ultimate prize.
We took deliberation very seriously—asking ourselves, and each other, the very criteria that a VC investment firm would ask themselves before investing:
- Is the addressable market large enough?
- Are they solving a problem that millions of people share?
- Is their product or service unique enough that it is going to stand out?
- Is it scalable and what kind of capital will it need to get there?
- Are the economics of the business viable?
- Do we have confidence in the founder(s)?
- And in success, do we believe this has a shot to return 10x to the investors?
Business owners, I hope you wrote these down.
Eventually, we decided Glow Up Games were the finalists that stood out the most. They were the team that were going after a huge underserved market, of women and women of color, and they were disrupting a male-dominated gaming industry.
Most importantly, these ladies have a clear understanding of what their business would evolve into over time.
Glow Up Games now has the opportunity to meet directly with BBG Ventures to discuss potential future investments; an opportunity created by simply going after what they've envisioned. As if that wasn't a perfect ending to a night filled with Girl Power, Pantene's Maris Croswell revealed that all of the finalists would be receiving $20K each to go towards their business growth.
"At Pantene we believe that women and people are transforming their communities, their families, the world around them," says Croswell. "We feel that we have a responsibility to lift up those women who are transforming, so we thank you for the opportunity to do so with each of you and your business."
What an end to an inspiring night!
Featured image courtesy of Allison Zaucha/The Wing