When the world looks back in the history books, 2020 will undoubtedly be marked by the global pandemic that swept across this nation. But for Olivia Owens, Creator and General Manager at IFundWomen of Color, and Head of Partnerships at IFundWomen, it will be remembered as the year she began empowering women of color, through a newly created platform, to pursue entrepreneurship.
Owens joined IFundWomen, a go-to funding marketplace of sorts for women-owned businesses and the people who want to support them with access to capital, coaching and connections, in 2017. But three years after joining, the Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree carved out a space in the org for women of color to address a funding disparity she saw happening. IFundWomen of Color was born, and through this vehicle, funds raised by women of color grew by 20 percent.
What Owens tapped into was a persistent problem for Black women. In the United States, Black women are the fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs, and yet, face some of the toughest roadblocks in accessing capital to fund their businesses. Banks have historically discriminated against members of the Black community and the venture capital world has also been hard for Black business owners to crack.
According to a report by digitalundivided, firms started by Black women received only .0006 percent of VC funding raised by startups between 2009 and 2017. And newer reports show that little has changed in the last five years. IFundWomen is on a mission to disrupt those statistics, and in celebration of Women’s History Month, they’ve partnered with Caress for its annual WHM Pitch Competition.
Caress initially invested $1M in support of women of color entrepreneurs. And they’ve since recommitted $750k to support IFundWomen of Color and diverse female business owners. As part of this commitment, Caress will fund the grand prize winner and first runner-up of the pitch competition with $20k and $10k business grants. They’re also offering annual coaching memberships to IFWoC.
The pitch competition is open to the public via Zoom. Those interested can RSVP to see women of color bring their entrepreneurial dreams to life.