Tennis legend and global icon Serena Williams recently announced via Instagram she is working with Bumble app founder Whitney Wolfe Herd on creating opportunities for women entrepreneurs of color to pitch to them and receive investment capital for their business ideas via Bumble Fund. Check out her post below – you can apply through the app until this Wednesday, March 27 – or you can click here!
It’s official: Octavia Spencer and LeBron James’ limited series about entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker has landed at Netflix. The streaming outlet made the announcement at its Television Critics Assn. press tour session Sunday.
The project is executive produced by Spencer and James. Spencer will star in the eight-episode series, which is based on the book “On Our Own Ground” by A’Lelia Bundles, Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, who will also serve as a consultant.
The series will recount the untold story of how Walker, a black hair care pioneer and mogul, overcame hostile turn-of-the-century America, epic rivalries, tumultuous marriages and some trifling family to become America’s first black, self-made female millionaire.
Walker, the daughter of slaves, was orphaned at age seven, married at 14, and widowed at 20. She spent two decades laboring as a washerwoman, earning $1.50 a week. Everything changed, though, following Walker’s discovery of a revolutionary hair care formula for black women. By the time she died in 1919, she had built a beauty empire from the ground up, amassing wealth unprecedented among black women.
“Black Nativity” directory Kasi Lemmons will direct the pilot and also executive produce, and Nicole Asher will write. Janine Sherman Barrois and Elle Johnson will also serve as executive producers, along with SpringHill’s Maverick Carter, and Zero Gravity’s Mark Holder and Christine Holder.
The Holders optioned the book from Bundles in early 2016, and Spencer pursued the part aggressively once she learned of it. With the Oscar winner attached, William Morris Endeavor Agency pitched the series to James as his production company’s entryway into prestige TV.
“It’s so exciting for all of us to keep building SpringHill, see it mature, and continue to find its voice. We are really focused on growing with authenticity and substance,” Carter said. “For us, this is totally about great stories and great partners. Partnering with Octavia to tell the story of Madam C.J. Walker is the ideal first project for SpringHill to take an important step into scripted drama.”
On Thursday, SheaMoisture haircare and skincare products founder Richelieu Dennis announced a $100 million fund for women entrepreneurs of color at the 2018 Essence Festival. The announcement surrounds the New Voices Fund that he’s been prepping for the past year.
“About six months ago, we announced that we were launching the new voices fund,” Dennis told the audience at the press conference during the Essence Festival. “I’m proud to say that we get to officially launch the $100 million New Voices Fund for women of color entrepreneurs here at Essence Festival this weekend. Over the past six months, we have already either invested in or committed to, over $30 million in black women entrepreneurs.”
As reported previously, Dennis sold SheaMoisture to Unilever in 2017. As part of the deal, he vowed to use the capital to create an investment fund for minority entrepreneurs, specifically women of color. Unilever and Sundial Brands, creators of SheaMoisture, agreed to contribute an initial investment of $50 million to the fund.
In addition to creating the fund to provide investment opportunities, Dennis wants to equip entrepreneurs with other resources to help contribute to the success of their companies. “We are going to leverage the businesses that we’ve built—many of you know, Shea Moisture, Nubian Heritage, Madame CJ Walker,” he said.
Recently, Arlan Hamilton, founder and managing partner of the venture fund Backstage Capital, announced that her new $36 million fund will invest exclusively in black women-led startups.
“When you talk to a group of white, affluent male investors and tell them you’re investing in women of color, the first thing that comes out is, `Oh, that’s really nice of you. That’s a great mission.’ They immediately correlate us to needing a helping hand,” Hamilton said in an interview with Fortune several months ago. “This is not that.”
Yet, women of color have been making progress in landing business funding. A recent study shows that more black women have gained access to venture capital since 2016. According to the new report, which was conducted in collaboration with digitalundivided, JPMorgan Chase, the Case Foundation, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the number of black women who have raised upwards of $1 million from VC firms has more than tripled from 11 to 34. The number of startups founded by black women has also increased 2.5 times from 2016 to 2018, jumping from 84 to 227.
The New Voices Fund provides a way for women of color entrepreneurs to approach Dennis for capital infusion. Because of the parameters of the fund, he is likely looking at businesses that are looking to scale and not just an idea on a sheet of paper.
All of the information is located on the site. If you think you’re ready, log on and apply.
According to Allure, Target has partnered with the Black-owned beauty brand, The Lip Bar, and will launch their line of vegan and cruelty-free products this spring. Melissa Butler, a former Wall Street financial analyst, is the founder of the brand after spending years frustrated and dissatisfied with the lack of representation for black women in the beauty industry.
Butler states, “Everyone deserves to have representation. Without it, we are left seeking validation.”
Butler also states in the initial stages of her building her brand, The Lip Bar, she pitched it to Shark Tank. The sharks decided to pass on what is now a business she says is worth nearly half a million dollars.
The 30-year old Detroit native’s brand has skyrocketed since starting The Lip Bar in 2012 out of her own kitchen in Brooklyn, NY. Fast forward to 2018 and the entire line is already available in 44 Target stores and will be available in 100 more stores this May.
Target launched the line with two exclusive shades: Unimpressed, a liquid matte lip color, and Baddie, a lip gloss. Lipstick lovers can also choose from The Lip Bar’s Cream Lipstick ($12), which is full of moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, avocado oil and vitamin E or the Liquid Matte Collection ($13) with almond oil to keep your pucker moist.
Finally, there’s the line of lip glosses ($14) which are organic, nourishing and provide a slight glaze for a touch of glamour.
Butler pledges: “Everything we do at The Lip Bar is about empowering women to be their best selves. We give representation to the underserved so that every girl has the privilege of being socially accepted as beautiful. And in in my free time, I mentor young women in the inner city of Detroit (my hometown) to show them that they are better than their surroundings and to prove that they don’t have to be a product of their environment.”
#AskMe Tees are the brainchild of Washington D.C. entrepreneur Ayanna Smith. Ayanna has created a timely remix of the slogan tee – and we love it! These T-shirts encourage people, friends and strangers alike, to talk to each other by offering intriguing questions as conversation starters.
It’s a clever concept. #AskMe Tees promote listening and discussion in an age where it has become increasingly common for people to dismiss each other or make unfounded assumptions. The #AskMe Tees (and other #AskMe accessories) are emblazoned with light-hearted questions such as #AskMe who made the potato salad and #AskMe about my superpowers to other more provocative and socially-conscious questions like #AskMe Why Black Lives Matter, #AskMe why I voted for him, and #AskMe about autism… don’t assume. Whichever #AskMe Tee you choose, remember to be ready for a conversation!
This interview with Mahisha Dellinger, chief executive of Curls, a maker of hair care products, has been edited for space and clarity.
Q. What were your early years like?
A. I grew up in California, in an area called Meadowview, which was dubbed Danger Island. There was a lot of crime: drug activity, gang activity, home invasions, drive-by shootings. I was my mother’s star child because I never gave her any trouble.But my brother was in a gang, so he got into a lot of trouble starting from 15 on. Our house actually got shot up because another gang came to retaliate. No one was hurt, but my environment was very much one of fear. I had to learn how to take care of myself at an early age. My mother worked a lot, and she was often gone. So from the age of 7 on, I got myself breakfast, made my lunch, went to school, came back home, did my homework, and then she would come home after 7. In that kind of neighborhood and environment, you can go either way. You can either become a leader and control your destiny because you’re forced to, or you can go in the opposite direction. I had to become a leader of my life, and it started there, at a young age.I think I have an innate strength about me because of where I came from. I’ve seen it all. And I had a desire to change my life. I didn’t want to live the way I was living. That pushed me to finish my education and ultimately go on to higher education, and change my legacy.
Given that you had to take care of yourself, were you able to be involved in things outside of school?
My mom changed her lifestyle. She used to party a lot on the weekend. My brother would babysit me, and take care of us both while she was gone. But in sixth grade, she gave her life to God, and that’s when our lives really changed for the better. From that point, it became all about church, all week. Church was my life. I didn’t have really a lot outside of that. It was a very strict environment from sixth grade on. I loved it. I had a sense of belonging.
Tell me about your decision to become an entrepreneur.
I reached a point where I decided I’m never going to work for anyone else again. I’m going to own my destiny, and I’m going to determine how far I can go. When I turned the switch on my website in April 2002, I was so happy when I had eight orders. It was the best thing ever, that first day. Initially, it was e-commerce only. The big change in my business really happened in 2009, when Target called and wanted to carry my products. That gave us the exposure we needed.
What have been some key leadership lessons for you?
I learned to soften my approach. Because I am a Type A, there’s not a lot of room for fluff, typically. That’s my personality, but I had to soften myself with certain people and adapt to different personalities and give each one what they need individually. I have four kids, and they’re all different. I feel like my employees are the same way. Some need more from me in some areas, some need less, and I had to change that so I could retain my key people. That was an important personal development for me.
Next May, entrepreneur, television producer and former supermodel Tyra Banks will be teaching students at Stanford University how to grow their brand and manage their own businesses. Banks will be a guest lecturer at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, and she will co-teach 25 MBA students in the course about the ups and downs of the business world, which will require students to present their brands across platforms including YouTube, Facebook Live, and local television.
Banks told the Wall Street Journal that she expects her students to work hard, saying, “If I see somebody not paying attention, I’m gonna call on them.”
Most kids are happy to earn a few dollars selling lemonade on the sidewalk. But not 11-year-old Mikaila Ulmer. The pre-teen entreprenuer is making a name for herself in the world of business by landing an $11 million deal with upscale grocery chain Whole Foods for her natural lemonade, which she calls BeeSweet.
Ulmer and her lemonade first came to national attention when she appeared on Shark Tank, taking home $60,000 in venture capital for her BeeSweet business. Her company’s main priority, other than making delicious lemonade, is to help save the global bee population by utilizing honey as sweetener instead of sugar.
Her Shark Tank deal is pocket change compared to what Whole Foods is offering: $11 million and shelf space in 55 Whole Foods stores across the nation. On top of that, she also has a deal with United Natural Foods to help expand her business.
But that’s still not enough for Mikaila. In addition to running her business — she does have a little help from her mother — and staying on top of her school work, Ulmer wants to visit South Africa to teach girls about entrepreneurship and starting their own businesses.
Most beauty pageants claim they’re about celebrating brains and beauty. But the beauty (and body) part often gets a majority of the shine while the brains get whittled to one or two questions on stage.
That’s what best friends Maureen A. Ochola and Jessica E. Boyd hope to change. The two created the Miss Naturally Crowned Carolinapageant, a natural hair celebration also focused on business that’s been disrupting the Southern pageant scene since its 2013 debut in their hometown of Columbia, S.C. It has proven to be a success, so much so that they’re putting on their third exhibition on April 16.
“I had a high-level overview of pageants when we started, and they all seemed to be focused on the just physical aspect,” Ochola said. “What I like about what we’re doing is we’re highlighting natural hair. We take that confidence and add on the business element because that’s really what you need to be successful in business. Confidence.”
The pageant focuses on the beauty of natural hair and the beauty of Black female business owners. Miss Naturally Crowned Carolina started as a program to grow interest and a customer base for the co-founders’ original business idea: a brick-and-mortar natural haircare beauty supply store. They started social media accounts to test their idea first, and the accounts gained popularity.
“The money that it takes to start a store, we really didn’t have,” Boyd said. “We thought: How can we stay relevant and make people continue to be excited until we can get the store open?”
The two chose to think outside the box and celebrate two things they love: natural hair and business. “We thought about a pageant,” Boyd said. “In December of 2013, we announced we would have it.”
The organic success of the pageant was a pleasant surprise to Boyd and Ochola. It gave them the initiative to explore the pageant as a legitimate extension of their original idea. It was clear that such celebrations were needed and gaining quite the following.
“After the first pageant, it kind of took off. We sold out of tickets,” Boyd said. “The impact it had on the girls and the community, in general, took on a life of its own. It wasn’t a question. We had to bring it back and do it bigger and better.”
It’s not a surprise that creativity in business is also one of the pageant’s key themes. Miss Naturally Crowned Carolina contestants learn firsthand about entrepreneurship and small business.
“Last year we added a twist: a business pitch idea because that’s essentially what we’re doing,” Ochola said. “Why not introduce that to these girls as well?”