One of the biggest obstacles for any start-up is getting the necessary capital. That becomes even harder for women, especially Black and Latina women. In fact, in 2017, women were awarded less than 3% of all funding from VC firms and women of color received less than 1%. And yet African-American women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S. This complete lack of support from mostly white, male-dominated VC firms is the exact reason that Kathryn Finney decided to launch Digital Undivided. Her company is a social enterprise that supports Black and Latina women in “innovation-focused entrepreneurship.” Our last BCT Partners’ blog focused on a new job platform aimed at increasing diversity in large corporations. In part 2 of our series on workplace diversity, we profile how Digital Undivided is breaking ground with an innovative business model that is also breaking stereotypes.
Kathryn Finney experienced first-hand what it’s like to pitch a concept to a room full of men who don’t seem to understand (or want to understand) a business idea geared towards women of color. After that, she decided that it was time to support other women who had most likely experienced the same thing. Her company acts as an incubator that helps aspiring entrepreneurs develop from an idea to having a fully-formed early-late stage startup. Once they have completed the program the participants will have a business model, product, customer traction, technology, milestones, and company infrastructure. Twenty women are selected to participate for each of two programs held in Atlanta, Georgia and Newark, NJ for 30 weeks. Participants also receive mentorship throughout the course and the chance to pitch investors at the end of the program.
Digital Undivided also publishes propriety research that started with the release of their first study in 2016. The research initiative known as #ProjectDiane, named after civil rights icon Diane Nash, consistently collects information about Black and Latina women startup founders. The first study was called “The Real Unicorns of Tech: Black Women Founders,” That year, there were only 11 black female founders who had raised more than $1 million in funding. Today, there are 27,
Katheryn Finney is clearly on to something and her company has quickly gained traction. Recently, a strategic partnership was announced with TechStars which is a worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Together, they are focusing on increasing the number of diverse women founders in the Techstars Network and entering into their programs, including Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator programs, Techstars Startup Weekends, and Techstars Startup Weeks. As Finney states, "My vision is a world where women of color own their work and become empowered to control their economic destiny." That goal will not only help the women in her program, but it also expands our economy. According to the State of Women-Owned Businesses Report in 2018, women of color account for 47% of all women-owned businesses, an estimated 5.8 million businesses, and generate $386.6 billion in revenues. Obviously, this is a demographic that should no longer be ignored.
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