“If you build it, they will come.” – quote via Field of Dreams
Inclusivity and its merits are non-existent within most career fields. Tech, STEM, and the start-up world are well-documented spaces where people of color are lacking representation. Diversity programs and dynamic individuals are somewhat helpful in driving change.
However, there is a real problem when it comes to safe spaces to discuss these issues are discussed in a productive manner. Luckily, there are strong collectives and voices that have emerged from across the country. Enter Hustle House. The event, held at this year’s SXSW Interactive conference, was packed with content that called out for tangible solutions to common start-up founder problems.
Aniyia Williams, Hustle House co-creator and Executive Director of Black and Brown Founders, was inspired to create this event by her own experiences as a start-up founder. Her brand Tinsel, is a company that combines eye-catching jewelry design with high quality audio technology.
Given Williams’ varied experiences as a start-up founder, she understands that Black and Latinx entrepreneurs need access to capital, mentorship, strong viable networks, and resources.
“Bringing this experience to SXSW is very important” Williams said at the event. “After coming here on my own, I grew tired of seeing so many founders of color searching for answers on how to truly navigate this space. Hustle House was made to encourage people of color to host their own spaces within SXSW given that our dollars, projects, and services should flow amongst us.”
— Arlan 👊🏾 (@ArlanWasHere) March 12, 2018
Two experienced and rather resourceful Black, female startup founders Regina Gwynn, founder of TresseNoire and Esosa Ighodaro, founder of Co-Sign shared their insights during one of the sessions at this event.
TresseNoire is an on demand beauty and hair-booking platform where customers pay a haircare professional to make an in-home visit. Co-Sign tags products while shopping online and this tool expands into machine learning (AI) in order to identity e-commerce content and consumer habits. Gwynn and Ighodaro’s presentation highlighted items that are crucial to anyone launching a start-up.
These female founders understand that there are barriers when it comes to accessing tech. After noticing an overwhelming demand from Black women in the industry, they created the Black Women Talk Tech Conference in 2017.
“When you think about Black women tech founders, try to keep more than five names in your mind when you mention this to someone else.” Gwynn mentioned. “We are here and the world needs to take notice.”
Gwynn and Ighodaro offered up the following gems to consider for those ready to step into the start-up world:
AWARENESS & PROMOTION
Exposure is a crucial need for Black women and men in tech. Displaying the various ways of “what a tech founder looks like…” expands the reach and desire for new innovators to see each other in the startup world.
DATA & RESEARCH
Research can help founders and investors rise to the next level in business and outreach within the startup community. “Making these items accessible is a need when it comes to our community,” said Gwynn. “What are the resources, and who are the players in the room that allows for us to gain access to opportunities.”
ACCESS TO MENTORS
Overall mentorship tends to be a major issue for female founders. Finding someone willing and ready to support and provide advice needs to be an easier task.
Funding is a crucial point for people of color in the startup space. More needs to be done in order to aide and provide access. As mentioned in the Project Diane report provided by Digital Undivided, Black women have a spending power of over $200 Billion dollars yet fewer than 20 female founders of color have raised $1 Million Dollars.
SUSTAINING A PIPELINE
“Investors are finally looking for untapped markets so how do we connect them all together along with money and funding?” askes Ighodaro. “How can one run a business while raising funding? We need more stories like this in order to show that it’s all possible on a larger scale.”