A 2015 Forbes piece reported that the number of businesses owned by African American women grew 322% since 1997, “making black females the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S.” Further, statistics from the “2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report” by American Express indicate that of the 30% of all businesses owned by women in the U.S., African American women control 14% of these companies (or an estimated 1.3 million businesses).
At the time, Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, reported that her organization saw an increase in membership from Black women entrepreneurs. “We attribute the growth in women-owned firms to the lack of fair pay, fair promotion, and family-friendly policies found in corporate America,” she said.
“It’s important for everyone, not just Black men but white men and everyone in between, to support Black women. They have been underrepresented for so long, but they are the most educated and have the most advanced degrees,” Mike Street, founder of TechFam, told TNJ.com, at a Network Journal tech event back in 2018.
Zanade Mann shares Street’s sentiment. She recently launched Black Women’s Business Collective, a crowdsourcing initiative that was created out of a growing need to provide access and resources to Black and Afro-Latina women business owners who experienced financial challenges in the wake of COVID-19.
I spoke to Mann to find out more about the collective.
TNJ.com: When and why did you launch Black Women’s Business Collective?
Zanade Mann: The Black Women’s Business Collective was created in June 2020 in response to the devastating effects of COVID-19 on small business owners. Government backed loans and grants became less of an option for Black business owners, and I knew it was time to create something that would curate the best tools and resources to help business owners reset.
TNJ.com: How will Black Women’s Collective help Black women entrepreneurs whose businesses have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Zanade Mann: The collective helps Black women business owners in four ways: We will provide financial resources in the form of grants to help new business owners with startup costs. We partner with investors who are interested in funding diverse enterprises. We provide mentorship and accountability partners through our ally network. And, we provide a long term learning platform to teach essential business skills in order to help Black women scale their businesses.
TNJ.com: Overall, what are some of the problems Black women entrepreneurs face in getting their businesses to scale?
Zanade Mann: There are many problems Black women face in scaling their businesses. Some are uncontrollable. However, there are two problems that the Black Women’s Business Collective can solve, access to capital and access to networks.
In order to overcome these challenges Black women business owners must be open to networking, have a willingness to learn, and get their business affairs in order so that they are not only legitimized, but are prepared when opportunities arise. The true key here is to stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready.
TNJ.com: What kinds of access and resources are crucial for businesses to thrive?
Zanade Mann: Businesses need access to the rooms where decisions are made. They need to be in social settings (virtual or not) where people with access can access them. It is also important to have a listening ear and access to good mentors and advisors; this can take a business a long way.
Allies are one of the greatest resources that can help take a business from no sales to sold out in 30 days. We need each other, and this is why The Collective is here: to gather business owners, partners, investors, allies and supporters to keep the entrepreneurial ecosystem going. If Black women can be a trillion dollar spending power, then we deserve several seats at the table.
TNJ.com: Tell me about The Phoenix Fund and how it works.
Zanade Mann: The Phoenix Fund is near and dear to my heart. As someone who has had to bootstrap my businesses in the early years, I understand the financial barriers to entry for some Black women business owners. The fund, named after my youngest daughter, is a testament that no matter the barrier, you can keep going and make your dreams come true.
I would save every penny to pay for my web hosting, knowing there was an end goal. I know how it feels to want to start a business, but can’t afford to do so. And now with the economic downturn, there are many Black women who want to start but cannot. The Phoenix Fund seeks to eliminate financial barriers for startup costs such as LLC formation, domain and web hosting, and marketing and design.