Women of color are still underrepresented as business owners, partly due to lack of funding and ongoing mentorship from investors. Richelieu Dennis, founder of SheaMoisture hair and skincare products, recognized this hole in the market and launched the $100 million New Voices Fund this month to support female entrepreneurs of color.
Dennis announced the fund at the Essence Festival in New Orleans on July 5. The fund, originally supported with $50 million from Unilever and Sundial, was increased to $100 million after Dennis realized the emmensenes of the opportunity.
“Over the past six months, we have already invested in or committed to over $30 million in black women entrepreneurs,” said Dennis during the Essence Festival press conference.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, females owned 32 percent of all U.S. business in 2014, a number that rose 15 percent over the past nearly 20 years. While this number continues to rapidly grow, women owned and led companies have historically received minimal startup funding. Female entrepreneurs of color often receive even less.
In 2017, VCs poured $84 billion into startups. Of this $84 billion, 2.7 percent went to women-led companies. In turn, two percent of this small slice of the pie supported African American women founders.
In order to address the second half of the equation when it comes to supporting female minority business owners, Dennis hopes to “leverage the businesses that [they’ve] built” as a starting point for providing women with the resources they need as entrepreneurs to successfully grow and scale a business over time. More than just a pot of money, Dennis created a community of “voices” where women can connect with other female entrepreneurs, industry leaders, potential partners and supporters for expert council and guidance.
Through the New Vision Fund, Dennis is further moving a needle that is slowly shifting. A recent report led by digitalundivided, JP Morgan Chase, the Case Foundation, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, showed that in the past two years, the number of African American women who raised more than $1 million in VC money tripled. As more funding pours in, there has also been 2.5 times more women of color starting their own businesses.
Female entrepreneurs of color can apply for funding, training and other resources by joining the New Voices community today.