On Thursday, February 8, The Network Journal, TechFam, Black Women Talk Tech and Metallic Ventures partnered to present Breakfast, with Love! to showcase and support Black female founders.
Held at Civic Hall, the event featured presenters Regina Gwynn, co-founder and CEO of TressNoire; Esosa Ighodaro, founder of Cosign; Nicole Valentine, founder of Winly Playbook; and Sirita Wright, chief marketing officer of EstroHaze, who shared their unique stories of launching and sustaining a business in 2018.
Mike Street, founder of TechFam, kicked off the event with welcome remarks and shared TechFam’s mission of “maintaining a platform where bloggers, designers, mobile techies, webmasters, database marketers, project managers, networkers or anybody in the tech space can commune to discuss, organize, and activate their passion for all things tech.”
A freelance marketing consultant with Burrell Communications, Street has spent 15 years in the digital space as a consultant. His work has resulted in helping minorities gain access to tech jobs, as well as helping entrepreneurs to get startups off the ground. Currently, TechFam has over 4000 members.
Breakfast, with Love! was presented as the second offering in a lineup of free Black History Month events that Tamika Taylor, director of events at Civic Hall, constructed. Within Civic Hall, Taylor started an event series called ‘Part of the Conversation’ to introduce people of color to conversations that are happening about systematic racism as opposed to us just being the topic of conversation. “We want a seat at the table to put our hands into solving these situations. And it’s not just talking about it; it’s about gaining access to resources and education, and getting into rooms like Civic Hall and different city tech organizations so that you have these occasional free resources to get things done,” she shares.
It provided the perfect setting for the Breakfast, with Love! partnership designed for Black History Month to celebrate the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S.: Black women. According to a 2015 article published by Fortune, the number of businesses owned by African American women grew 322% since 1997.
“Women now own 30% of all businesses in the U.S., accounting for some 9.4 million firms. And African American women control 14% of these companies, or an estimated 1.3 million businesses. That figure is larger than the total number of firms owned by all minority women in 1997, “ the article states.
Gwynn, Ighodaro, Valentine, Wright and so many others represent just a fraction of these women who have started dynamic companies (in many cases without the investment dollars often reserved for young white males) at different stages of development that are holding their own in the marketplace at large. TressNoire delivers in-home hair styling services to women-on-the-go; Cosign is a social-based business that allows people to easily tag and find product information; Winly serves as a playbook that delivers business strategy to entrepreneurs; and EstroHaze is a multimedia company that connects multicultural women to the cannabis industry.
Check out TNJ.com in March during Women’s History Month to read their individual profiles, and view photos and the video from the event.
For The Network Journal, the presentation served as the second installment of a series of programming dedicated to technology as well as entrepreneurs looking to launch startups of all kinds. After launching our first-ever Tech issue in December 2016, we ramped up our efforts with our first event, “The Art of the VC,” in partnership with Metallic Ventures. Held during tech week in October 2017, the event featured a panel that included Valentine, Rashidi Hendrix, co-founder of Laugh Radio and principal of Metallic Ventures, and John Henry, managing partner of Harlem Capital Partners, who gathered to discuss venture capital. Street served as event moderator. (Pick up a copy of TNJ’s December 2017 issue to view the photo review.)
Regarding Black female founders, the Fortune piece quoted Margot Dorfman, CEO of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce: “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. “Women of color, when you look at the statistics, are impacted more significantly by all of the negative factors that women face. It’s not surprising that they have chosen to invest in themselves.”