JPMorgan Chase & Co. recently announced a $600,000 grant award to the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL) to support the Making of Black Angels, a program to increase the number of Black angel investors and the pool of friendly capital available to women of color entrepreneurs.
Jeanique Riche-Druses, Vice-President of Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase & Co., made the grant announcement at the 2021 Women of Color Virtual Summit & Celebration (WOCCON 2021), an IFEL-powered initiative held March 11-25 that connected inclusion-conscious allies, champions, and investors with growth-track entrepreneurs who are women of color.
IFEL CEO Jill Johnson expressed gratitude for the grant, saying it is “indicative of the intentional action that is needed to remove the systemic barriers that prevent access to capital for women of color-led companies.”
“JPMorgan Chase embodies the concept of allyship and has acted in a deliberate manner to support women of color entrepreneurs through the Making of Black Angels program,” Johnson said.
Riche-Druses said the Making of Black Angels program was an innovative program and praised IFEL for recognizing that many Black professionals have the capacity to be angel investors but not necessarily the know-how.
“This isn’t something that we were taught sitting around the kitchen table as children. This isn’t something that our friends are doing. So, it’s really important that (IFEL is) doing this work…they’re teaching us how to be angel investors, so that the businesses that we are all looking to support can have that friendly capital…” Riche-Druses said.
WOCCON 2021 featured a wide range of authentic and often difficult conversations. Attendees heard insights from women of color entrepreneurs who shared the common struggles of their respective journeys.
“You’ve got to somehow suspend disbelief in yourself that they (venture capital firms run by white males) have created because that will kill your business even faster than them not funding you,” said Tanya Van Court, founder & CEO of Goalsetter.
Kobi Wu, founder and CEO of VisuWall, addressed the false perceptions that often disqualify women of color for funding before they even get to the table: “If we had a little bit of fuel to put behind our business, we accelerate nine times faster because we are already more than prepared when we enter the room.”
Investor panelists also spoke about the bias and racism that thwarts the flow of capital to women of color. Andrew Goldner, founding partner of GrowthX told attendees: “Don’t bring feelings to a data fight. The empirical data is clear that diverse companies perform better. So, until funders put their feelings and personal perceptions aside and look at the data and see the impact of the hard work and the intellect that women of color businesses bring to the marketplace each day, then they will always miss out on opportunity.”
Barbara Clarke, president of The Impact Seat said, “Funders have to stop giving women of color startups the impression that they are going to fund them when they really are not. Biased funders will talk about capital inclusion and even invite women of color founders to their events, but at the end of the day they never fund them.”
The sessions on March 25 focused on solutions. Shane Kelly, founder and managing director of Wolverine Angels, was deliberate in his call-to-action.
“I think there are some simple things we can do as investors to make this ecosystem more inclusive…We have to reframe our thinking as investors and understand that building a company to scale before you think about profit is a privilege. If we can craft investment instruments that work for Black women, we’re not only going to unlock the potential of Black women founders, we’re going to unlock the potential of all other founders,” Kelly said.
WOCCON 2021 concluded with the Women of Color Connecting Virtual Benefit Celebration featuring minority business expert James H. Lowry, the first Black consultant at McKinsey; Medina Jett, a successful entrepreneur who sold her financial compliance business in 2020; and an interview with Robert L. Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) who became the first Black billionaire in 2001.
Robert Johnson spoke about the support he received from John Malone in the form of mentorship and a $500,000 investment, calling the investment “friendly capital” since it allowed him to retain 80% ownership of his company. When BET was sold to Viacom in 2001, Malone’s initial $500,000 investment turned into a $780 million windfall.
“Most of that opportunity is in the hands of allies….People who either want to do it [invest], or they don’t want to do it. There’s nobody preventing them from doing it. If they want to do it, they’ll do it,” Johnson said. “Nobody prevented John Malone from giving me half a million dollars. He did it because he wanted to do it. And that’s what needs to be done. People just need to do it.”
The goal of WOCCON 2021 was to motivate people who say that diversity and inclusion is important to play an active role in closing the racial wealth gap through support for women of color entrepreneurs. To learn more about volunteering or investing to help women of color entrepreneurs, go to www.woccon.org.