Page 1

RETURN ON RACIAL EQUITY: THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE

CONSCIOUS

20

DIVERSITY AS A COMPETITIVE DIFFERENTIATOR HOW TO CLOSE THE RACIAL WEALTH GAP

GAME-CHANGING

FOUNDERS OF COLOR HOW FREDERICK HUTSON BUILT A MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR BUSINESS AFTER FOUR YEARS IN PRISON

LEADERSHIP | WORKPLACE | SUSTAINABILITY | ENTREPRENEURSHIP


TABLE OF CONTENTS Q2 / SPRING 2019 | ISSUE 22

THE FUTURE REFLECTIONS THE FINDINGS

8 THE GREAT DIVIDE* HOW A POLARIZING RACIAL WEALTH GAP HAS GROWN IN THE UNITED STATES IN THE PAST THREE DECADES — AND HOW TO FIX IT

14 RETURN ON EQUITY* A LOOK AT THE LINEAR RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN A COMPANY’S RACIAL AND ETHNIC DIVERSITY AND BETTER FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE

16 WHAT IS YOUR WHITE-PRIVILEGE FOOTPRINT? CAN WE MAKE MORE PROGRESS ON INSTITUTIONAL RACISM BY TREATING IT LIKE CLIMATE CHANGE?

24 THE BIOLOGY OF BELONGING WE ARE ALL WIRED WITH A DESIRE TO FEEL CONNECTED. SO HOW DOES IT SOMETIMES GO WRONG?

29 20 GAME-CHANGING FOUNDERS OF COLOR* INSPIRING ENTREPRENEURS COMMITTED TO ADDRESSING SOCIAL AND GLOBAL ISSUES RELATED TO RACIAL EQUITY

52 THE AWESOME POTENTIAL OF REFUGEES WORKING TO HELP GLOBAL REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS FIND DIGNIFIED LIVELIHOODS MAKES ECONOMIC SENSE

58 CAN INVESTMENT CAPITAL END RACISM, SEXISM, AND CLASSISM?* AN INTERVIEW WITH RODNEY FOXWORTH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE BUSINESS ALLIANCE FOR LOCAL LIVING ECONOMIES

*Cover story

LOOK FOR THESE NOTIFICATIONS THROUGHOUT THE ISSUE:

SEE See this leader speak at the 2019 Conscious Company Leaders Forum consciouscompanyleadersforum.com

HEAR Listen to our interview with this leader on the World-Changing Women Podcast worldchangingwomenpodcast.com


EDITOR’S NOTE: THE CASE FOR CAPITALIZATION One of my favorite tasks as editor is selecting articles for the magazine and watching as the big picture of each issue materializes — a collection of perspectives and ideas that is greater than the sum of its parts. This edition of Conscious Company is devoted to racial equity — in the workplace, in society, in the global economy, and as the crux of a company’s mission. I’m encouraged by the stories featured here and am dedicated to continuing the conversation in issues to come. In particular, I’m excited to share our first-ever list of Game-Changing Founders of Color (page 29). These entrepreneurs have not only created successful businesses despite our nation’s polarizing racial wealth gap (more about that on page 8), but they’re also committed to narrowing that gap with their business models. Other thought-provoking reads in the following pages include a look at the linear relationship between a company’s racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance (page 14), the neuroscience and psychology of inclusion and exclusion (page 24), the potential that refugees and migrants have in the global workforce (page 52), and an interview with a conscious business leader who believes investment capital has the power to end racism, sexism, and classism (page 58). When subjecting this issue to multiple rounds of edits, an important discussion arose: should the adjectives black and white be capitalized in the context of racial identity, similar to other modifiers like Latinx and Native? This was more than a question of mechanics; this was about presenting black and white in the most respectful, authentic, and appropriate way possible. What was the conscious choice for the Conscious Company Media Style Guide? The more I engaged in vigorous research and debate, the more I felt torn. As the Diversity Style Guide says, most style guides for journalism, like those for the Associated Press and

The New York Times, call for putting both black and white in lowercase letters. Lori L. Tharps, an associate professor of journalism at Temple University, points out in her op-ed “The Case for Black With a Capital B” in The New York Times, “Ironically, The Associated Press also decrees that the proper names of ‘nationalities, peoples, races, tribes’ should be capitalized. What are Black people, then?” Fair question. The Diversity Style Guide adds that “other [style guides], like ‘The Chicago Manual of Style,’ allow capitalization if an author or publication prefers. Essence and Ebony magazines, The Chicago Defender, and many other publications serving African-American communities capitalize Black; some, but not all, capitalize White. The National Association of Black Journalists does not capitalize Black in its publications, including the NABJ Style Guide. After much research and consideration, the editor of The Diversity Style Guide elected to capitalize Black and White when used in a racial context, but most would say it’s not incorrect to lowercase those words.” But, as Tharps writes, “claiming the uppercase as a choice, rather than the rule, feels inadequate. Black should always be written with a capital B. We are indeed a people, a race, a tribe. It’s only correct.” For me, the decision to capitalize Black was easy; the decision to capitalize White was not. Our fabulous copy editors and I debated this subject at length. One view was that the typographical inequality between Black and white was glaring and potentially represented treating white people as exceptional. Another posed the question, “Isn’t the exception the point here; that achieving equality takes a little extra given by the privileged until things are more equal?” The latter approach is akin to the distinction between equity versus equality presented on page 16 — and it almost pushed me over the edge to uppercase Black, lowercase white.

And then I read an article, “Capitalizing for Equality,” written by Conscious Style Guide founder Karen Yin and originally published in the newsletter Copyediting, which says, “When words labeling an entire people are at the root of a language dispute, that’s reason enough to seek direction outside of our usual resources, especially if the resources are outdated. If your editorial directive is to call people what they want to be called — including names, pronouns, and labels — then look to Black media outlets like Ebony and Essence for accepted usage and avoid overriding their terminology. By capitalizing Black and White, we also make necessary distinctions between color and race — black hair and Black hair — similar to distinguishing between native and Native. Don’t wait for your style guide to catch up, because it’s waiting for you to demonstrate sufficient usage.” Yin’s point about necessary distinctions was solid enough for us to conclude our discussion with the decision to capitalize both Black and White. And her ending argument echoes a familiar theme in conscious business: don’t wait for the institutions you rely on to catch up. We are writing our own style guide of sorts — relying not only on instinct but also on perspectives outside of our own. If this issue of the magazine instigates critical dialogue for you as much as this question of capitalization did for me, I’ll consider it a step in the right direction. Happy reading, Vanessa Editorial Director


an

company

Q2 / SPRING 2019 | Issue 22

CONSCIOUS COMPANY EDITORIAL TEAM

CONSCIOUS COMPANY MEDIA

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Vanessa Childers

CEO & CO-FOUNDER Meghan French Dunbar

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THE FINDINGS

THE


GREAT

By Dedrick Asante-Muhammad & Chuck Collins

The enormous racial wealth divide in the United States is pulling down median wealth for all Americans.

HOW CAN WE FIX IT? CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE

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THE FINDINGS

F

our decades’ worth of growing inequality in income, wealth, and opportunity — and the contraction of the middle-class standard of living — has serious implications for the health of the US economy. While the unemployment rate is low, a closer look reveals a number of troubling indicators, especially a yawning racial divide between White people and people of color. These two trends — the racial wealth divide and growing economic inequality — are often analyzed as separate and merely concurrent. In fact, they are mutually reinforcing outcomes of a larger economic picture. If the racial wealth divide continues, the economic constraints on Black and Latinx households will drag down America’s overall median wealth for generations. African-Americans and Latinxs already comprise more than 25 percent of the US population. As our country diversifies even further, the systemic obstacles to their wealth-building will result in steadily increasing inequality in the overall population.

CONCENTRATION BEYOND COMPREHENSION There are several dimensions to the story of contemporary economic inequality. Since the late 1970s, real wages have been stagnant for over half of the US workforce. Meanwhile, the cost of housing, health care, and other basic needs have risen. Starting in 2005, the percentage of households that own a home started to decline. These trends touch people of all races, fueling some of the discontent of both regressive and progressive populism. The 2008 economic meltdown accelerated these trends. Most of the income and wealth gains of the decade since the recession have flowed to the richest one-tenth of the 1 percent, leaving the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans with more wealth than that of the bottom 90 percent of the population combined. The extent of America’s wealth concentration is difficult to comprehend — or to exaggerate. The 400 wealthiest billionaires in the US now have a combined wealth equal to that of nearly two-thirds of the US population. Just three of those billionaires — Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates — have as much wealth as the entire bottom half of US households combined.

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WHERE PAST MEETS PRESENT Inequality is often measured in income, or what people take home from their paychecks. But wealth — the total measure of what you own minus your debts — is a more accurate indicator of a household’s long-term financial stability and wellbeing. Families with more wealth can cover emergencies without going into debt and take advantage of economic opportunity, such as buying a home or saving for college. Wealth is also where the past shows up in the present. Nationally, measures of wealth reflect the multi-generational story of White advantage and racial discrimination in asset-building. The disparities are nothing short of dramatic. The median White family now has 41 times more wealth than the median Black family, and 22 times more wealth than the median Latinx family. These are among our findings in “Dreams Deferred,” a new study on the racial wealth divide that we co-authored for the Institute for Policy Studies. Since the early 1980s, median wealth among Black and Latinx families has been stalled at less than $10,000. In fact, the median Black family today owns just $3,600 — that’s 2 percent of the $147,000 the median White family owns. The median Latinx family does little better at $6,600 — just 4 percent of the median White family. These enormous disparities are key to understanding the decline in median wealth for all US households, which has gone down by 3 percent since 1983. Over this same period, the median Black family saw their wealth drop by more than half. If the trajectory of the past three decades continues, by 2050 the median White family will have $174,000 of wealth, while the median Latinx family’s wealth will be just $8,600 — and the median Black family wealth will head downward to $600. Alarmingly, the median Black family is on track to reach zero wealth by 2082. While the middle class stagnates and the very richest leave everyone else behind, there’s also growing precariousness at the bottom end of the spectrum. A growing number of households are “underwater” when it comes to wealth. The proportion of all US households of any race with zero or “negative” wealth (meaning their debts exceed the value of their assets) has grown from


one in six in 1983 to one in five households today. Families of color are much likelier to be in this precarious financial situation: 37 percent of Black families and 33 percent of Latinx families have zero or negative wealth, compared with 15.5 percent of White families. By 2060, the combined Black and Latinx percentage of the population is expected to rise to 42.5 percent. Low levels of Black and Latinx wealth, combined with their growing proportion in the population, are a significant contributor to the overall decline in American median household wealth. Plainly, these racial wealth divisions are damaging to the economy as a whole.

HOW THIS HAPPENED This disturbing inequity was no accident. It’s the result of systemic factors and deliberate government policies — both past and present. In the overall economy, the growing shift of financial rewards to capital investors, and away from workers, is a key culprit. This creates an increasingly regressive economy that leaves those with few assets further and further behind. The racial wealth divide, of course, has its own deeply rooted causes. Historically, the divide was maintained even when the economy was going strong and we had progressive investments in lower-income and working-class people. This racial divide was maintained by excluding African-Americans and other communities of color from public investments. For example, a generation of White families were able to purchase their first home between 1946 and 1966 with government-subsidized mortgages such as those provided by the Farmers Home Administration, Veterans Administration, and Federal Housing Administration insurance programs. People of color were almost entirely excluded from these mortgage programs — and so lost a generation or more of opportunity to build wealth. Past discriminatory housing policies continue to fuel an enormous racial divide in homeownership rates. Meanwhile, an upside-down tax system helps the wealthiest households (who are overwhelmingly White) get wealthier while providing the lowest-income families (who are disproportionately people of color) with almost nothing.

The 400 wealthiest Americans now have a combined wealth equal to that of nearly two-thirds of the US population. Just three of those billionaires — Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates — have as much wealth as the entire bottom half of US households combined.

The median White family now has 41 times more wealth than the median Black family, and 22 times more wealth than the median Latinx family.

WHAT CAN BE DONE Building an inclusive middle class hinges on our ability to adopt targeted and effective programs that address the specific needs of low-wealth communities. This approach will strengthen the American middle class as a whole and make our middle class much more racially and ethnically inclusive. Such policies could include the expansion of first-time homeownership initiatives for those who were denied access

The median Black family is on track to reach zero wealth by 2082.

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THE FINDINGS

to home mortgage financing in the decades after World War II and up to the present. These could include low-interest loans and down-payment assistance. Additional initiatives could remove barriers to higher education, especially when targeting first-generation college students and low- and middle-income households. Student debt now exceeds $1.5 trillion and interferes with younger people being able to save money, build wealth, and purchase homes. These should be accompanied by policies to protect low-wealth families from predatory financial practices, including by strengthening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Predatory auto loans, alongside other forms of predatory debt, are on the rise, fueling potential debt bubbles. Other ideas include generating wealth for all Americans and transferring it to them directly. Senator Cory Booker, for instance, has proposed the creation of a “baby bond” program that would seed an asset account for every newborn. According to one study, had such a program been in place in 1979, the wealth divide between young Latinx and White households would have been entirely closed by now, and the wealth divide between young Black and White households would have shrunk by 82 percent. In addition to programs specifically geared towards historically excluded communities, we need others that look to turn our overall economy right-side up — so those in the working and middle classes receive the majority of the growth they help our economy produce. We could pay for some of these investments by restoring progressiveness to the US tax system and raising rates on the highest brackets to their post-World War II levels. We could also fix some of the upside-down tax incentives that subsidize the already wealthy and direct investment into opportunities for low-wealth families. Specifically, we should reform the mortgage interest deduction (which can favor people with pricey homes at the expense of ordi-

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CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE

nary people) and other tax expenditures. Add to all these measures common-sense ideas like raising the minimum wage, expanding health care coverage, and taxing the 1 percent to fund education and infrastructure. Together these ideas wouldn’t just close the racial wealth divide — they’d create an economy that works for all Americans, not just the super-rich.

WHAT WE CAN BUILD The creation of a strong American middle class after World War II didn’t happen on its own. It required a healthy, vibrant economy, including significant investments in the ability of Americans to build lasting financial security through homeownership, higher education, and transportation. But these policies were most often intentionally directed at White communities and away from Americans of color. We’re committing economic suicide if we continue to exclude the coming majority of the country from opportunities to invest in the future. In this century, America must come together to build — for the first time — an inclusive middle-class economy.

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad is the Chief of Equity and Inclusion at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. Chuck Collins directs the IPS Program on Inequality. They’re co-authors of the report “Dreams Deferred: How Enriching the 1 Percent Widens the Racial Wealth Divide.”


THE FINDINGS

RETURN ON EQUITY The numbers don’t lie: diversity is a competitive differentiator. MICHAEL WHELCHEL

W

hile talent is equally distributed by race, gender, and sexual orientation, access to capital is not. This creates an excellent investment opportunity, a potential competitive advantage in identifying and funding talent, ideas, experience, and knowledge that the majority of the venture capital community has discounted and overlooked. Let’s take a look at the factors that contribute to this opportunity.

NON-WHITE TALENT IS DISPROPORTIONATELY OVERLOOKED There is an enormous racial disparity in who is receiving venture capital, the fire-starter of our economy. According to ProjectDi-

ane2018, a biennial demographic study authored by digitalundivided, Black-women–led startups have raised 0.0006 percent of the $424.7 billion in total tech-venture funding raised since 2009. But Black women today comprise the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the US, with over 1.5 million businesses — a 322 percent increase since 1997. These businesses generate over $44 billion a year in revenue. There is a similar disparity regarding gender. Out of the $60 billion that venture capitalists invested in 2017, $1.5 billion went to women-run companies, which is roughly 2 percent of all venture capital invested last year. Studies show that women CEOs in the Fortune 1000 drive three times the returns of S&P 500 enterprises run predominantly by men.

RACIAL EQUITY = RETURN ON EQUITY Global management consulting firm McKinsey assembled a report, “Diversity Matters,” which included a dataset of more than 1,000 companies and measured the effect of ethnic and racial diversity on profitability (in terms of earnings before interest and taxes, or EBIT). Here are the findings: Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. More simply: diverse companies outperform their non-diverse counterparts and competitors. Companies in the bottom quartile for the category of gender and the category of ethnicity and race are


COMPANY

COMPANY WITH 20% IMPROVEMENT

ANNUAL SALES

$50 million

$50 million

PROFIT MARGIN (EBIT MARGIN)

10%

11.6%

1.6%

PROFIT (EBIT)

$5 million

$5.8 million

$800,000

ENTERPRISE VALUATION (5X)

$25 million

$29 million

$4 million

ENTERPRISE VALUATION (10X)

$50 million

$58 million

$8 million

IMPROVEMENT FROM INCREASED DIVERSITY

What investor, owner, or CEO would not take notice if they were told they could improve their company’s valuation by $8 million?

statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns than the average companies in the dataset. More simply: non-diverse companies are lagging rather than merely not leading like their diverse counterparts. The unequal performance of companies in the same industry implies that diversity is a competitive differentiator shifting market share toward more diverse companies. The data show a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance: for every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, EBIT rises 0.8 percent. While all of these findings are profound, the last finding — a mathematical correlation — has astounding financial implications. The table above illustrates an example of a company that has $50 million in annual revenue and a 10 percent profit margin (or EBIT margin). Based on McKinsey’s study, if the company’s racial and ethnic diversity increased from 20 percent to 40 percent, its

EBIT margin would go from 10 percent to 11.6 percent. Its profit would go from $5 million to $5.8 million — an $800,000 improvement. Let’s take a look at how this improvement in diversity affects valuation. A company’s valuation can be estimated using a multiple of EBIT. Depending on a number of factors, including sales, profit margins, industry, and growth rates, a company’s valuation estimate can range from 5 times EBIT to 10 times EBIT. Both scenarios are shown above. In the 5x scenario, the company’s valuation improves $4 million, from $25 million to $29 million. In the 10x scenario, the company’s valuation improves $8 million, from $50 million to $58 million. What investor, owner, or CEO would not take notice if they were told they could improve their company’s valuation by $8 million? A growing number of investors are asking the question, “What great founder is not being funded?” This inquiry is leading them to great possibilities in their financial returns by

identifying untapped genius — namely non-White, non-male entrepreneurs — who haven’t had access to the fuel needed to bring about untold innovation. These stories of racial equity driving return on equity will eventually change the investing status quo. As an investment community we will come to the natural conclusion that also rings true in biology: any system that is predominantly homogenous is vulnerable, while more diversity optimizes and makes the system more resilient. Resilient organizations and investments will both outlast and outperform their peers. As a fiduciary, I can promise you, this is the smartest money there is.

Michael Whelchel is co-founder and managing partner of Big Path Capital, a leading boutique impact investment bank focused on providing corporate finance, M&A, and placement agent services to impact companies and funds globally. Securities offered through Growth Capital Services, member FINRA and SIPC.

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REFLECTIONS

WHAT IS YOUR

WHITE-PRIVILEGE

FOOTPRINT

We might make more progress on institutional racism by treating it like another overwhelming problem: climate change. BY BRIAN SHERWIN

M

any conscious business leaders are committed to fighting climate change. What these leaders recognize is that companies, through their business activities, contribute to carbon emissions that harm the environment. In fact, we all continue to learn how our collective human activities systemically contribute to climate change and harm the environment — and many of the world’s most vulnerable people. Here’s the difference between fighting climate change and fighting institutional racism: we seem to be much less defensive about our role in perpetuating climate change. Sure, some Americans complain that they don’t want to be made to feel “guilty” about their individual choices (the car they drive, etc.), but many of us are willing to consider that while we are “good” people, we may be making decisions that are harmful

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to the environment. And so instead of being paralyzed by guilt, many of us have decided to change our behaviors. Why can’t White people regard systemic racism in a similar way? That is, why can’t we recognize that well-intentioned people happen to participate in racist systems that bring harm to others? While we’re addressing our carbon footprint, we could also start addressing any “White-privilege footprint.” But before we can consider this approach, we need to recognize that institutional racism is a problem that even conscious, intelligent White people have trouble acknowledging.

THE GREAT CONSCIOUSNESS GAP As a progressive entrepreneur, I have been devoted to conscious business and leadership practices

CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE

since the moment I learned about them. But, as a White person, one of the most challenging awareness efforts I’ve ever undertaken is to become conscious of institutional racism and White privilege. I’ve worked in complex IT environments for about 20 years. I spend time with lots of people who are far smarter than I am. But when I ask my smart White colleagues why there are so few Black and Latinx people in most IT departments, I get blank stares. While many of my White co-workers understand intricate computer systems, they seem completely baffled by the dynamics of racism. And they typically get defensive when I bring up the subject. For White people, White privilege is one of our greatest consciousness gaps. And the challenge for most intelligent, progressive White people is that we can concoct highly sophisticated concepts to avoid confronting our participa-


tion in, and perpetuation of, racism. This is especially true in very entrepreneurial — and very White — communities like Silicon Valley and Boulder, Colorado (my former home, and home of Conscious Company Media), where conscious business thrives.

THE GREAT WEALTH AND OPPORTUNITY GAP America is still depressingly segregated, and since many White folks like me live in mostly White communities and work in companies with few Black co-workers, it can be relatively easy for us to keep up the illusion that we’re not individually racist. Here’s an example. A friend of mine who lives in Boulder had a great idea for a new product. This friend walked to his neighbor, a few doors down — who just happened to be a venture capitalist — and pitched his idea. He came away with valuable guidance and a potential seed-funding commitment. But what happens when a Black

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REFLECTIONS

person, for example, living in a mostly Black community, comes up with a really great idea? What is the likelihood that he or she could walk down the street and find potential seed funding? Keep in mind that 82 percent of businesses start with individual savings or family-and-friends funding. Then consider this shocking fact: median White family wealth is about 12 times higher than median Black family wealth in America. As of 2016, the net worth of the median White family in the US was $140,000, while the median Black family had a net

worth of $3,400. A neighborhood of Black families is therefore likely to have proportionately less in resources for helping new businesses. Black entrepreneurs do succeed in spite of all this, but how many great ideas die because of the persistent racial wealth divide in America? I ask my White friends how they would explain the racial wealth gap, and that’s usually where the conversation ends. The truth is that 50 years after Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, racial inequity, by

EQUALITY

numerous measures, does not seem to be getting better. Here’s the important connection: the great racial wealth and opportunity gap is perpetuated by White people’s great consciousness gap. We White folks talk about these problems as “racial inequity.” But inequity doesn’t appear out of nowhere. To say that one racial group is disadvantaged, don’t we have to admit that another racial group is advantaged? Speaking in a language that people in business can understand, every day in the country, dreams and great ideas

EQUALITY VS. EQUITY Equity is not the same as equality, and getting clear about the differences is tricky but important. This illustration (left) is a great place to start. In the first illustration, there are two communities: one is struggling (broken windows) and the other is thriving. In this equality scenario, the collective resources of both communities are divided equally, but notice that this is not enough to bring the struggling community out of poverty. Ironically, the end result of an equal distribution of resources is not equality; it is a separate and unequal situation (more below). In the second illustration, however, the struggling community gets more of the collective resources so that people in that community are able to build a better place to live. And in the end, we have two thriving communities. This is equity (which, incidentally, results in truer equality).

EQUITY

HISTORY: THE CRITICAL ELEMENT If all racial groups were starting from the same level of wealth and opportunity, then it would be appropriate to focus on an equal distribution of resources. But we are far from racial equality in this country when, today, White families have 12 times the median wealth of Black families. This is because Black people were blocked out of many historical wealth-building opportunities (e.g., Black workers were mostly excluded from New Deal benefits). Given this historical inequality accumulated over hundreds of years, we need to consider that resources that were withheld from communities of color now need to be funneled back into those communities, as per the equity approach in the illustration to the left. If done well, we could finally achieve greater equality of opportunity and then we could phase out the equity approach. But the proof is in the results ― equality of opportunity will result in more equal outcomes than we see now.

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©2016 by Matt Kinshella. Used with permission. Q1 / WINTER 2019 | CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE


are dying because the people who have them are not White. How can we compete, as a nation, when we’re holding back a whole segment of our society based on race?

WHITE DEFENSIVENESS Facing such stark evidence about systemic racism, White folks, including myself, are prone to throw up our hands and retreat into our blissful privilege. We go home to our White neighborhoods and leave racism as a problem for someone else to fix. As educator and author of “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” Robin DiAngelo points out, one of the reasons White people get so defensive stems from the way we define racism. When White people talk about racism, we’re generally talking about individual racist behavior — individual White supremacists or individual racist police officers. Racists are “bad” people, and since we don’t consider ourselves bad (we’re conscious and spiritual!), we get defensive about the idea that we might think and behave in racist ways. This defensiveness is what’s called “White fragility.” If you’re a White person, I invite you — in the spirit of conscious self-awareness — to pause, take a couple of deep breaths, and notice if you’re feeling defensive while reading this article. If so, I invite you to consider that this discomfort is an opportunity for personal growth. If we’re going to make any real progress on racial inequity in this country, White people are going to need to start getting more comfortable with being uncomfortable. At the same time, we could also potentially reduce our defensiveness by expanding our definition of racism to include the institutional racism that well-intentioned people participate in.

WHAT WOULD A WHITE-PRIVILEGE FOOTPRINT LOOK LIKE? So, let’s step back from individual acts of racism and consider the bigger

picture. As an example, let’s look at Google, a powerful, affluent company with broad social influence. The tech giant is in the process of opening a new campus in Boulder, Colorado, because the city offers a population of highly educated people and a lifestyle these people enjoy. Seems like a smart business decision, right? We can be certain that in building its Boulder campus, Google had to carry out various environmental impact studies and there were significant costs involved. Google is committed to

Google has created new job opportunities in such a way that these jobs are more likely to go to White folks for whom taking them is probably convenient than to Black folks for whom taking them is probably inconvenient. Google’s unofficial motto, “Don’t be evil,” still appears in its employee literature. Given the company’s commitment to decreasing its carbon footprint, it isn’t unreasonable to conclude that “Don’t participate in systems that do evil” is included in that motto. So does opening its Boulder campus

“To say that one racial group is disadvantaged, don’t we have to admit that another racial group is advantaged?” environmental sustainability. In 2017, Google reached its goal of 100 percent renewable energy for operations, an admirable achievement. But let’s look at this new office through the lens of racial inequity. Google — a wealthy company with an employee population that is only 2 percent Black (as of 2017) — is coming to Boulder — a wealthy city that is only 0.9 percent Black. No individual racist behavior seems to be overtly involved in this event, but by making a critical yet subtle shift from personal to institutional racism, how might our perspective change? Consider that by opening a new office in this city, it will be harder to recruit Black employees both because few live nearby and because those who don’t live nearby might not want to relocate to such a place. In other words,

inflate or decrease Google’s maintenance of White privilege? If we conclude that this event expands the company’s White-privilege footprint, then what could Google potentially do to fix or offset it? This is not to imply that Google is “evil” — this is about asking powerful companies like Google to bring the same commitment to fighting institutional racism that they currently bring to fighting climate change. “Wait just a minute,” you — and Google — might say. “When did it become Google’s responsibility to take on the burden of fixing structural racism in America? Isn’t that the government’s job? After all, Google follows fair hiring practices; plus the company recently gave $11.5 million to organizations fighting racial injustice and inequity.” As Anand Giridharadas recently

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pointed out (in a talk at Google), corporate philanthropy often creates a smoke screen that hides the ways corporations perpetuate social inequities from which they benefit. For example, companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon lobby our government for tax breaks and use tax loopholes (that their lobbying helped promote) to avoid paying taxes altogether. This handicaps the government’s ability to address big, vexing issues like racial inequity. A White-privilege-footprint approach challenges companies to address deep, structural issues that cause racial inequity. Currently, tech companies like Google claim they want to increase their low count of Black employees, especially in higher-paid technical positions (Apple’s diversity numbers look better because of hiring for lower-paid retail positions), but they haven’t been able to break the code. If Google can create self-driving cars and artificial intelligence, then surely it can figure out how to measure and address its White-privilege footprint. It’s a matter of will.

NEXT STEPS Here’s a sequence of ideas for how Google and other tech companies can truly reduce their White-privilege footprint. It begins by asking, in earnest, how we can get more underrepresented groups into high-paying positions, and then requires a willingness to unravel the multilayered problem of institutional racism. 1. Open IT offices in neighborhoods of color and commit to staff these offices with workforces of color. Can’t find enough qualified candidates of color? Well, that’s the common excuse used by companies who aren’t committed to racial sustainability. Companies that do care recognize that the lack of available high-tech candidates of color is an outcome of institutional racism.

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2. Open low-cost/no-cost, high-quality adult technical schools in the same neighborhoods. A solid solution to the lack of qualified candidates of color is to provide easily accessible training and resources to neighborhoods of color.

Google has already taken some steps in the right direction. For example, the company opened a new office in Detroit last November, a city that is 82 percent Black (and where 48 percent of children live in poverty). As part of the deal, the company pledged

“If we’re going to make any real progress on racial inequity in this country, White people are going to need to start getting more comfortable with being uncomfortable.” 3. Invest in primary and secondary schools in the same neighborhoods. Underfunded, lower-quality schools in neighborhoods of color are an outcome of centuries of institutional racism in the US. Are students having trouble attending school because they experience housing and food insecurity? Well, hopefully more of their parents can find employment at the neighborhood tech company, but if not … 4. Invest in affordable housing in the same neighborhoods. Google’s competitor, Microsoft, just pledged to do this in Seattle, which may not be individually sufficient to address Microsoft’s White-privilege footprint, but it is a good start. Now that you’ve got more Black/Latinx people in your company in managerial and technical positions, it’s high time to … 5. Move beyond standard “diversity” training and get real about encouraging White employees to recognize and work on countering their latent racism and White privilege.

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to donate $1 million to help education initiatives for underprivileged youth. If Google decides to take the idea of a White-privilege footprint seriously, they’ll ask themselves, “If the people in Detroit are underprivileged, then who is over-privileged?” So, when can we expect Google’s first annual Racial Sustainability Report to be published?

Brian Sherwin, MBA, is a smart-grid IT project director with Elpis Squared and co-founder of Inside Feedback, an emotional-intelligence technology company that works with businesses, schools, and therapists.


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THE BIOLOGY OF

BELONGING We are all wired with a desire to feel connected. So how does it sometimes go wrong?

BY RAJKUMARI NEOGY


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s an executive coach to founders, CEOs, and senior executives, I spend my days steeped in dialogue with individuals about team dysfunction, the need to have crucial conversations, and employee stress. Explaining human dynamics in the workplace is what I do best. Inevitably, every conversation finds its way to the concept or concern of belonging, a core issue that is often masked by something that seems much more trivial. Every single one of us on this planet is wired to want to belong. When we have the experience that we belong, we feel safe. When we have the sense that we belong, we are either sharing a moment of closeness with others or feeling welcomed and accepted into a group. In the moment that we do not feel welcomed, we start to anticipate danger. Our nervous system is constantly scanning for threats. According to Stephen Porges, author of “The Polyvagal Theory,” neuroception is defined as a subconscious system for detecting safety and threats. This is the technical term for belonging.

THE OPPOSITE OF BELONGING When our safety is at risk, we move into protection mode. If over time we continue to feel unsafe in a particular situation or with the same individual, our brain codes this type of interaction as a threat. For example, let’s say someone in a meeting interrupts you. Initially, there is some surprise or confusion on your part. The following week this occurs again. Now, instead of being surprised or confused, you find yourself frustrated or angry. Because it’s a weekly meeting, you are now concerned and walk into the meeting ready to fight or decide that it’s not worth it. Maybe

you decide to not speak up and not share your thoughts. Over time, you might dread the meeting and avoid this person altogether. Whichever mode of protection you chose, your brain has coded both this person and the meeting as a threat and has taken you down the road of exclusion. Exclusion is the painful experience when we realize we are not welcomed and accepted for who we are, and therefore we don’t belong. Repeated experiences of exclusion light up the pain centers in the brain and register in the brain as physical injury. So every time you go to this meeting, it’s like being kicked in the shin; it hurts as much. When we don’t believe that we belong, we may feel many emotions, like anger, frustration, disappointment, sadness, despair, hopelessness, confusion, or even numbness. The emotion at the foundation of not belonging is shame. Research professor and author Brené Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging — something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” Over time, this can play out in the belief that “I am not good enough,” or as imposter syndrome, the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.

THE POWER OF SHAME Humans are wired to form relationships. Relationships are designed to keep us safe, protected, and supported. When we attempt to form a relationship from a place of exclusion, we risk infusing it with shame. When we start to infuse shame in a form of communication, we are forming relationships from a place of pain.

Shame is both horrifically devastating and powerfully motivating. Shame is a common denominator that can bring us to our knees. But when harnessed, exacerbated, or spurred, shame can also lead groups to connect, mobilize, and act. It is at this place where people are numb to their shame. When left unchecked, shame wreaks havoc on both the psyche and the nervous system, depleting internal resources and running a constant level of high stress. When the nervous system gets stuck in this place, the individual now sees threat everywhere and with everyone. From this place, cultivating healthy relationships is incredibly difficult. Relationships become a landscape filled with land mines of instability and unpredictability. Erratic, reactive, and impulsive behavior occurs when the nervous system is on full alert.

THE THREAT OF INCLUSION In this hyper-vigilant state, it’s incredibly challenging for a person to be mindful, curious, or compassionate. Listening to another person’s ideas or asking clarifying questions is almost impossible, and neglect becomes part of the relationship equation. Any form of neglect is a core driver of shame. Types of neglect can look like being ignored during a conversation or interrupted, dismissed, shut down, humiliated, ridiculed, or ghosted. When neglect and shame are the core tenets of someone’s relationship toolkit, it’s only natural that relationships very quickly become something to either avoid or control. If your primary relationship style is focused on avoiding others, then you might feel incapable of (or proactively denounce) being flexible, open, adaptable, and curious. This makes engaging in inclusive behaviors both

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a foreign concept and a threat. This is the point where I am often invited to come in and start coaching individuals on the team who might be labeled as bullies, micromanagers, people who never collaborate, or people who don’t listen. We learn our relationship algorithms as children and bring those lessons into adulthood. Depending on our historical data points, opportunities to grow, and willingness to change, we adapt, shift, or mostly stay the same as adults. So how can we change if we don’t like our relationship algorithm — or someone else’s for that matter?

HOW TO SHIFT SHAME Those with avoidant relationship styles act as though they are not interested in inclusion as a defense mechanism because they know that being open to inclusion also makes them vulnerable to exclusion. When we focus on shifting shame, we create an opening to inclusion. In order to shift shame, we must bring our attention back to our

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY SHIFTING SHAME? The nervous system can only handle small changes at a time. In this article, we use the phrase shifting shame to mean making small, manageable changes to how shame influences our approach to inclusion, as opposed to the phrase transforming shame, which might imply dramatic changes.

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neuroception. Everyone’s threshold of belonging may be different, but everyone’s neuroception can be rewired. I define belonging as the ability to create safety for oneself, and as Brené Brown says, “our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” Shifting shame requires a particular skill set, one that can be developed with diligence, patience, and persistence. It requires willingness to look beyond the mask of what is presented as a problem and connect to what a person is actually seeking. Not very long ago, I was coaching the “head of people” at a well-known startup. About two months into our coaching, my client asked me to come speak to the people team as well as the CEO about trust. During the meeting, I was explaining the different stages of the nervous system while writing on the white board. All of a sudden, I heard behind me, “Wow, your hand-writing is really shitty.” Just take a moment to imagine being in the room with all of us. How would you feel hearing that comment? What might you sense in your body? Might you feel some anxiety, discomfort, or curiosity to see how I was going to react? When I heard this comment, I was certainly surprised and caught off guard. I took a deep breath, slowly turned around to face everyone in the room, looked my client in the eye with a smile, and said, “Tell me what’s going on for you right now.” She replied, “Well, I am frustrated because I can’t read your handwriting and I know what you have to say is valuable. I want to make sure that we’re not wasting anyone’s time today.” In that one sentence, she told me everything I needed to know. Her frustration indicated to me that she was triggered, and she was feeling excluded because she did not understand what I was trying to convey.

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She needed a sense of clarity. To be able to shift shame, one must hone the ability to take a trigger, which is usually masked in exclusion behaviors, and gracefully transition focus to the underlying problem, as I did when I took time out to get an explanation from that client. When we start to sort for needs, we get to the core of the issue. These needs are usually emotional ones: respect, trust, connection, and feeling welcomed and accepted. Needs are the roots of our feelings. When our needs are not met in the moment, our feelings become the indicators that let us know something is amiss. As we become masterful in surfacing needs during a conversation, we begin to easily shift shame and create a greater sense of belonging for ourselves and others. This skill set is so powerful that it not only rewires the individual’s neuroception over time, but it also begins to allow for the possibility of inclusion during the conversation. When one’s neuroception is rewired toward inclusion, the nervous system automatically adopts new levels of comfort, ease, and peace. One experiences completely new levels of safety, self-acceptance, and connection within oneself and with others.

Rajkumari Neogy is the creator of the Disruptive Diversity Boot Camp and iRestart, a research-based framework that optimizes team performance by integrating diverse mindsets, as well as the author of “The WIT Factor: Shifting the Workplace Paradigm by Becoming Your Optimal Self.”


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GAME-CHANGING

FOUNDERS OF COLOR

f you still need convincing that power and racism are pebbles in our nation’s economic shoe, then try this on for size: in 2016 the Center for Global Policy Solutions reported that, due to discriminatory financing practices and a bias toward companies primarily operated by White males, the United States is missing out on having 1.1 million new minority-owned businesses and thus forgoing more than 9 million potential jobs and $300 billion in collective national income. Ouch. These numbers illustrate a massive missed opportunity for not only our country’s economic potential but also for the livelihood and

self-determination of those who will comprise the majority of American citizens in as little as just two decades: people of color. On top of the already impressive feat of starting businesses with these odds stacked against them, the tenacious founders of color featured here have committed their lives and businesses to addressing social and global issues related to racial equity, institutional racism, minority entrepreneurship, and access to fundamental resources and care. Without further ado, we present our inaugural list of Game-Changing Founders of Color — just a glimpse of the future economy.

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FREDERICK HUTSON CO-FOUNDER & CEO, PIGEONLY // LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

Frederick Hutson is a born entrepreneur. He launched and sold his first company, a window-tinting business, at the age of 19. At the age of 23, Hutson’s desire to attain the American dream led him down a less-than-stellar path, and he was indicted for distribution of marijuana. It was during his four-year federal prison sentence that he realized a need and an opportunity to impact the lives of people no one else was paying attention to: inmates. In 2011, while Hutson was living in a halfway house in Tampa, Florida, he and co-founder Alfonzo Brooks launched Pigeonly, a low-cost communication platform that makes it easy for people to connect with and support an incarcerated loved one. Its technology cuts the cost of expensive prison calls by 80 percent and allows people to send their inmate photos, greeting cards, and other communication directly from a cellphone, tablet, or computer. After collecting mounds of research and educating themselves, Hutson and Brooks applied to multiple accelerators to nudge Pigeonly into flight but were accepted by only one: NewMe, a Silicon Valley-based accelerator for underrepresented minorities. At the end of that program the duo had successfully raised their first million. With subscribers in over 88 countries, Pigeonly processes roughly 2 million calls a month, more than any other provider, and has saved inmates and their families well over $10 million in phone calls alone. Hutson and Brooks lead a growing team of more than 25 people and have raised more than $5 million in funding. What role should business play in advancing racial equity? “A lot of our issues right now could be addressed by building companies. There’s a whole world of issues that business can address, like simply making poverty less expensive. Whether it’s cashing a check without having to go to a check-cashing spot or finding car insurance that’s actually affordable, there are so many business opportunities that can solve social problems. And people who come from diverse backgrounds could build those businesses — founders who not only understand the problem they’re aiming to solve but who also deeply understand the market they’re serving.” What gives you hope for the future? “One of the things that’s giving me hope is that there are other people building businesses [to serve a market affected by] the criminal justice system. In the beginning, we were like a lone tree, whereas now there are other trees around. Even on the political side across party lines, we’re seeing agreement that the justice system does need reform.” SEE Hutson speak at the Leaders Forum

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Photo courtesy of Frederick Hutson


Photo by Meisha Hall

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ALFONZO BROOKS CO-FOUNDER & CHIEF FULFILLMENT AND LOGISTICS OFFICER, PIGEONLY // LAS VEGAS, NEVADA After serving for six years in the Air Force, Alfonzo Brooks decided it was time to take his leadership skills and do what his father and grandmother had done before him: start his own business. After purchasing a few franchises, Brooks enrolled in college in St. Petersburg, Florida, near his hometown of Tampa. While there, the stars aligned when he reconnected with his friend Frederick Hutson, who had recently been released from prison and was developing a new business idea while living in a Tampa halfway house. With his entrepreneurial spirit ignited, Brooks dropped out of school and teamed up with Hutson to create the inmate-communication platform Pigeonly. He hasn’t looked back since.

“IF I TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EACH DAY, I KNOW I WILL BE FULFILLING MY PURPOSE IN LIFE.”

What is the most important social issue you’re addressing? “The biggest issue we are addressing is recidivism. Offenders are less likely to repeat when they have constant communication with their support system. Pigeonly gives them those communication channels to stay connected. We make it easy to use and very affordable. There are over 2 million people incarcerated at the moment, and the majority of those people will transition back into society. Our products help them make that transition in hopes that they can have quality, fulfilling lives going forward.” Advice for social entrepreneurs of color: “Hustle. Don’t expect anything to come easily. Educate yourself to put yourself in the best possible positions. Remain humble, and take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.” What gives you hope for the future? “Waking up every day being grateful for the opportunity to be a better man and impact the world. If I take advantage of each day, I know I will be fulfilling my purpose in life.”

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KELLY BURTON FOUNDER & PRINCIPAL, NEXUS RESEARCH GROUP FOUNDER & CEO, FOUNDERS OF COLOR // ATLANTA, GEORGIA At a young age, Kelly Burton realized that where you’re born matters. When she was 12, her family moved from Camden, an underinvested community outside of Philadelphia, to the suburbs so that she could attend better schools. She quickly became aware of the gross resource disparity between the two communities and wanted to contribute to improving the conditions and increasing opportunities for other children who didn’t have the same means her family had. After graduating from Emory with a doctorate in political science, Burton did some consulting before taking the leap in 2009 to found Nexus Research Group (NRG), a strategic advisement firm that provides consulting services to corporations, foundations, and government agencies looking to create measurable positive impact on social issues like criminal justice, economic development, affordable housing, youth development, and education reform. NRG addresses these issues with an understanding of the complexity of achieving social change and the ways that issues intersect to create seemingly intractable problems. In 2017, Burton launched Founders of Color, an online platform connecting minority entrepreneurs with high growth potential to the information, relationships, and opportunities they need to scale quickly, while simultaneously connecting those looking to access minority founders with the data, information, and support they need to navigate the minority-entrepreneur landscape. What role should business play in advancing racial equity? “Racial equity is about helping people of color catch up after 300 years of being virtually excluded from mainstream markets. If you’re not talking about dedicating disproportionate resources to Black and Brown people in a way that might enable them to close a gap 300 years in the making, then you’re not talking about equity at all.”

Photo courtesy of Kelly Burton


Photo by Tomas Quiñones-Riegos

“DIVERSE TEAMS OUTPERFORM MORE HOMOGENOUS TEAMS. OUTPERFORMING TEAMS LEAD TO COMPANIES THAT PERFORM BETTER FINANCIALLY.”

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YSCAIRA JIMENEZ FOUNDER & CEO, LABORX // CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS Say hello to a hiring revolution devoted to reducing the stigma of not having a four-year degree. After arriving in the US as the youngest of five children in a Dominican immigrant family, Yscaira Jimenez witnessed her older brother’s struggle to land a stable living-wage job despite his having an important skill set and strong desire to provide for his family. Jimenez decided she would pursue a career in education to help people like her brother graduate from high school and college and go on to find gainful employment. In 2018, she launched an online talent marketplace, LaborX, to connect the nation’s diverse and untapped workforce with innovative employers. In the company’s own words, “It’s the LinkedIn for the linked out.” Jimenez isn’t new to the startup scene and is no stranger to hiring. She founded La Pregunta Arts Cafe in Harlem and worked for three New York-based education startups (Rocket Learning, Learn It Systems, and Platform Learning) in business development, operations, and corporate trainer roles, bringing tutoring to more than 10,000 low-income students across the US. Despite being hired at a time when she did not have an MBA, Jimenez outperformed her colleagues who did, and she kept this in mind when assembling teams of her own, hiring people based on their skills and abilities rather than on where they went to school or whether they had four-year degrees. This approach, along with the fact that almost two-thirds of the American work-

force do not have four-year degrees, was the professional impetus for founding LaborX and is apparent in the company’s mission: to connect companies that are looking to expand their talent pipeline to skilled workforce members who may lack an elite pedigree or strong social capital. LaborX partners with resources like the City and County of San Francisco and the TechSF initiative to find diverse, untapped talent graduating from alternative education sources such as boot camps, vocational partnership programs, and community colleges. What is the business case for tapping into this underrepresented workforce? “Don’t take it from me; the research has been done by McKinsey and Harvard. Diverse teams outperform more homogenous teams. Outperforming teams lead to companies that perform better financially. They also tend to improve morale, which then leads to higher retention, which affects a company’s bottom line. Also, when your company has a diverse client base, you want employees who represent that client base, who might cover someone else’s blind spot when designing products, for example.” What gives you hope for the future? “Being out here in the trenches working with our partners, pushing the vision for apprenticeships not just in traditionally blue-collar industries but in the knowledge economy. It’s going to be a long time before college becomes affordable for all, so these providers and alternatives are supporting low-opportunity but high-potential candidates. Seeing more of those partnerships materialize gives me hope.” CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE

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CORTNI GRANGE FOUNDER, GRANGE ENTERPRISES // ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA

Cortni Grange remembers his aha moment like it was yesterday. He was holding his newborn son after yet another stint at a corporate sales job where he was “crushing it but dead on the inside.” Peering into his son’s eyes, Grange realized he was operating with three mentalities: a fear of the unknown, a lack of faith, and an expectation of finding inspiration in uninspired places. Soon after, he read “The Power of Silence” by Carlos Castaneda and realized his mission: connectivity. He founded Grange Enterprises, a legacy of three generations of Grange family businesses. Grange Enterprises comprises Grange Family Estate (Linstead, Jamaica), Grange Property Management (Hartford, Connecticut), and Grange Strategy (Washington, DC). Through Grange Strategy, Grange has worked with over 5,000 youth, supported over 1,000 young adults in developing their career paths, impacted over 10,000 people through speaking and workshop facilitation, and provided business guidance to the tune of more than $5 million in funding and capital in under five years.

“MAKING MONEY WILL ALWAYS ALLOW YOU TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IF YOUR MORAL COMPASS POINTS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.”

What is the most important social issue you’re addressing? “There are so many Band-Aids for crises; my work is not centered on a specific social issue or cause but more so on the roots to those issues and causes. While in some ways we are more connected than ever [through technology], I deeply believe that our society’s biggest misalignment is a lack of connectivity. Whether someone is starting a business, developing the next great world leaders, searching for balance in their intimate relationships, or looking to build sounder societies, connectivity is the essential ingredient to success, happiness, and fulfillment.” Advice for social entrepreneurs of color: “Do not forget that business is about making money. I made the mistake early of thinking that making a difference would eventually lead to making money, but that is not always the case. Rather, making money will always allow you to make a difference if your moral compass points in the right direction. There’s a TED Talk by Dan Pallotta called ‘The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong.’ I suggest watching it and studying it before you start a social venture.”

any

Photo courtesy of Grange Enterprises

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JESSICA NORWOOD FOUNDER, THE RUNWAY PROJECT // PRICHARD, ALABAMA Jessica Norwood views money as medicine that can heal the wounds communities suffer from disasters or institutional failures. She hails from a small neighborhood three miles north of downtown Mobile, Alabama, colloquially called Africatown because it was formed by a group of West Africans who in 1860 were included in the last known illegal shipment of slaves to the US; Norwood’s father was once the mayor. While she grew up with a deep understanding of systemic racism, it was not until Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005 that she realized how acute a system-wide failure could be for those without financial resources. That experience inspired the former political fundraiser and consultant to create the Emerging ChangeMakers Network, which since 2007 has identified up-and-coming leaders and connected them to issues, ideas, people, and organizations that can make a significant impact in traditionally marginalized communities. Driven by the understanding that investing in Black entrepreneurship is a pivotal way to create resilient, racially equitable communities and a robust economy, Norwood went on to found The Runway Project in 2016. The initiative aims to bridge the $19,000 gap between the net worth of the average Black household and the $30,000 needed to start a business from scratch. The organization partners with values-aligned financial institutions and offers a five-year certificate of deposit to create a dedicated pool of capital for loans to Black business owners, mimicking the friends-and-family preseed money common to most startups and yet so often unavailable to Black entrepreneurs. The loans come with low interest rates and high-touch support like facilitated mentoring and peer-to-peer coaching. In essence, Norwood enables the community to become the entrepreneurs’ friends and family. “While we each may not have a lot,” she says, “together we have plenty.” What makes you most proud of your work? “Inside of the racial wealth gap is the worst thing you can imagine; that gap incorporates and encompasses slavery and prejudice. There is pain and trauma involved in that. When I’m talking to these borrowers who live in a world that doesn’t believe in them, that doesn’t find them valuable or neces-

Photo by Toni Riales

sary — it’s like a therapy session. What we’re doing is making money into medicine, healing, making it so that everybody — no matter where you are, who you are, or what you have — can participate in helping another human out of some of the most traumatic things that have happened in the history of this country.” Advice for social entrepreneurs of color: “Keep pushing for what you know is right. The way this system is currently set up, it will not notice your full value and worth. The system does not honor what your worth is; you have to know your worth and then tell them what your worth is. Do not be discouraged, but take this as an opportunity to never let people who don’t know you or who don’t fully see you tell you what your value is.”

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20 GAME-CHANGING FOUNDERS OF COLOR Photo by Raymond Chee

Heather Fleming is dedicated to promoting local, sustainable, and culturally relevant entrepreneurship in the Navajo Nation. When she left Vanderwagen, New Mexico (a rural community on the border of the Navajo Nation), to attend Stanford University, Fleming quickly became aware of the stark contrast between the two communities. While the entrepreneurial energy in Silicon Valley is palpable, the concept of new business on the reservation is anything but. While in San Francisco, Fleming co-founded Catapult Design, a product and process design firm that supports social entrepreneurs in more than 17 countries, and served as the company’s CEO for 10 years. In 2013, inspired by her work at Catapult and her upbringing on the reservation, Fleming secured her first National Endowment for the Arts grant to run an entrepreneurship and innovation event in the Navajo Nation. She was introduced to Jessica Stago, who at the time was helping the Grand Canyon Trust (GCT) establish a virtual business incubator for Native small businesses, and the duo joined forces to co-found Change Labs. With the help of the GCT, what began as a multi-year event has evolved into a nonprofit organization that supports and addresses the unique challenges faced by Navajo entrepreneurs. In late 2019, Change Labs will open its 4,000-square-foot co-working space and business incubator in Tuba City, Arizona, dedicated to enabling Native American-owned startups and small businesses to thrive. What are the unique challenges faced by Navajo entrepreneurs?

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HEATHER FLEMING CO-FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CHANGE LABS PRINCIPAL, CATAPULT DESIGN // TUBA CITY, NAVAJO NATION

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“The Economist called the Navajo Nation ‘capitalism’s last frontier,’ and I completely agree. You just can’t find a place with a more caustic business regulatory environment than on Navajo. Every dollar that’s earned on the reservation is most often being spent in our border towns, which are entirely prosperous, but because the Navajo Nation lacks small businesses and any sort of local and sustainable economy, you just don’t see change happening there. It’s extremely bureaucratic, and when the tribe thinks about economic development, their solutions are casinos or coal-fired power plants. Yes, they’re creating a handful of jobs, but those jobs do nothing to address the severe brain drain that’s happening on the reservation. I do not want to use my Stanford education to work at a casino or employ people at a coal plant. I feel like the tribe is missing its mark and disabling itself by creating processes and policies that stifle change. We have an estimated 50 percent unemployment rate, and that’s because most of our transactions on the reservation happen in the informal economy. We have a thriving flea market culture, but those are informal businesses; they’re not registered because of all the hurdles Native entrepreneurs based on tribal land have to deal with. These hurdles can be relatively minor, like access to Wi-Fi, a computer, or a printer, which anyone


Photo by Raymond Chee

in an urban area can take for granted because they probably have a library or somewhere they can go to access these things. To add insult to injury, only 18 percent of our roads are paved and Navajo doesn’t have any retail infrastructure for people to create brickand-mortar businesses. Almost everybody is forced to run their businesses from their homes. Since tribal government doesn’t own tribal land — the federal government leases it — each household on the reservation gets a one-acre allotment of land called a home-site lease. To own a registered home-run business, you have to go through the steps to convert your home-site lease to a business-site lease. Once you convert your home-site lease to a business-site lease, there’s no guarantee that you can necessarily reverse it. So if you forfeit your business, you may forfeit your land. It is an extremely scary risk for any entrepreneur: in order to create your business (and your livelihood), you may one day have to forfeit the only bit of land that you own. For anyone who wants to get a business-site lease off of their home-site lease, while the tribe says it’s a one-year process, what we’ve witnessed from the entrepreneurs that we work with is that it’s a two- to three-year process. I can’t imagine being told, when I was creating Catapult Design, that I could start the process now but I wouldn’t have a business until three years from now. When I registered Catapult, I did it within two days at a downtown office in San Francisco. On Navajo, it’s a 30-day registration and a multi-year business-valuation process, and the business site leasing process includes around 63 steps. It requires a number of fees and even a signature from the president of the Navajo Nation — it’s pretty insane what they expect an entrepreneur from a small community to be able to do in order to start a business. Most of Catapult’s clients in East Africa and India are doing work in extremely resource-constrained communities that one could compare to the Navajo nation, and yet I feel like an entrepreneur in the middle of rural Kenya could probably create, fund, and run a new business easier than one could on Navajo.” What gives you hope for the future? “Despite all of these hardships, [Native entrepreneurs] have not lost hope that one day they’re going to have a thriving business. People have so many great motivations for what they’re doing, and none of them involve greed or money; it’s always about trying to provide strong financial futures so their kids can go to school, or solving a social issue in their community. I find it all extremely inspirational, and I want to support it.”

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JESSICA STAGO

CO-FOUNDER, CHANGE LABS CHANGE LABS PROJECT DIRECTOR, GRAND CANYON TRUST // TUBA CITY, NAVAJO NATION

Jessica Stago describes building a business on the reservation as similar to trying to swim with one leg and one arm tied together. Having grown up in a family of silversmiths who considered themselves “just the providers of a product” rather than business owners, Stago realized that she was surrounded by entrepreneurship in the Navajo Nation and yet nobody was talking about it. She became a passionate ally for Native startups, honing an extensive background in business counseling and business management on the Navajo Nation. While working for the Grand Canyon Trust, Stago joined Heather Fleming to co-found Change Labs, formerly known as the Native American Business Incubator Network. Stago serves as the director of business incubation and handpicks mentors for the program. What role should business play in advancing racial equity? “This [movement for] systemic change needs to consider that Native people want to build businesses in their own communities because they want to live a better life on the land they are part of and to pass on that option to their children. It’s not about building wealth in the same sense that most Americans understand it. This has implications in areas such as access to capital. When capital is only available based on return-on-investment structures, access will never reach people who don’t value the same things.” CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE

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KEZIA WILLIAMS FOUNDER & CEO, THE BLACK UPSTART // WASHINGTON, DC Something clicked for Kezia Williams when she was introduced to Malcolm X’s speech “The Ballot or the Bullet” in a political theory course. A fresh narrative rooted in self-empowerment ignited in Williams an unapologetic love for herself and her Black community. She acted on this newfound fervor by starting a campus chapter of the NAACP to create a safer space for Black undergrads, launching a grant-making nonprofit funded by the charitable contributions of young Black philanthropists, and founding The Black upStart, a bootcamp designed to teach Black entrepreneurs how to overcome startup obstacles specific to race and create successful, profitable businesses. The Black upStart launched in 2016 with an expectation of attracting 40 applicants for 20 open spots; 110 people applied in one week, and one month later Williams welcomed her first cohort of 20 entrepreneurs. To date, The Black upStart has trained 250 Black founders of early-stage, pre-revenue businesses in six markets (Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte, DC, Baltimore, Brooklyn, and Atlanta). Forty-one percent of those ventures are still in business; at least half of them are now also employers. What is the most important social issue you’re addressing? “Black people not only need more jobs, but also more Black job-creators. The Black upStart is committed to increasing the number of Black employers who are more likely to hire Black employees and use their revenue to invest in Black communities. When we invest in Black business-owners, the returns have a generational multiplier effect.” Advice for social entrepreneurs of color: “The biggest challenge affecting Black entrepreneurs is their dysfunctional relationship with Black consumers and their disinterest in creating enterprises that benefit from Black consumers’ $1.2 trillion annual buying power. We must reorient aspiring Black business-owners to the benefits of selling products and services that are disproportionately purchased at higher numbers by Black consumers — outside of the familiar hair salon and barbershop. When I read reports such as ‘Black Impact: Consumer Categories Where African Americans Move Markets,’ detailing a list of 17 consumer categories where we are over index in spending, I’m flabbergasted at the deficit of Black entrepreneurs who sell products in these categories. For example, True Laundry Detergent is the only Black-owned company selling detergent despite Blacks spending $407.8 million annually on household cleaning products.”

Photo courtesy of Kezia Williams

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Photo courtesy of CariClub

“IT’S IMPORTANT FOR BUSINESS LEADERS TO CONTINUE TO HIRE AS DIVERSELY AS POSSIBLE, AND TO LOOK FOR TALENT IN UNEXPECTED PLACES.”

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RHODEN MONROSE FOUNDER & CEO, CARICLUB // NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK Rhoden Monrose is changing the way that the Fortune 500 give back. The former finance pro grew up in Harlem after emigrating from Saint Lucia at the age of 12. With the help of nonprofit organizations, he attended Middlesex School before earning a scholarship to Trinity College. Upon graduating, he began his career as a derivatives trader, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. In 2011 he joined a circle of like-minded people who found purpose in using their time, talent, and money to make a positive social impact. It was this involvement along with his personal experience with nonprofits that led Monrose to found CariClub, a for-profit company living between big business and the nonprofit sector. Launched in 2016, CariClub is an online network that matches young professionals to philanthropic boards. Young professionals gain leadership experience while contributing time, and often money, to serving on an associate board helping to operate a nonprofit they might not have otherwise known about. To date, CariClub’s members have raised $25 million for various nonprofits. In addition to enabling young professionals

to give back to missions they care about, CariClub also offers their corporate partners — which include Morgan Stanley, Deloitte, Unilever, Citigroup, and Davis Polk — the ability to help their teams hone leadership skills, increase employee retention, and enable networking through these nonprofit partnerships. What role should business play in advancing racial equity? “It’s important for business leaders to continue to hire as diversely as possible, and to look for talent in unexpected places. While [racial equity in business has] certainly improved and continues to improve every day, it’s critical for business leaders to make the commitment to hire a diverse workforce and to prioritize mentorship and meetings with young entrepreneurs and professionals of color who want to learn.” What gives you hope for the future? “The Millennial and future generations give me hope. We see it daily at CariClub: countless young people get involved through our platform or lobby their own companies to enroll in the program so that they can participate. The desire to give back, the desire to create a better world, makes me incredibly optimistic.”

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20 GAME-CHANGING FOUNDERS OF COLOR DR. XIMENA HARTSOCK CO-FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, PHONE2ACTION // ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA

Having been a school principal and assistant superintendent of schools in DC, Dr. Ximena Hartsock has been involved in education advocacy campaigns since she was a teen in Chile, but she stumbled upon the tech industry by accident. While she was working as Director of Grassroots Advocacy for an education organization in 2012, Hartsock recognized a technology gap in advocacy highlighted by a significant trend that year: the adoption of smartphones rose from 30 percent to 45 percent. Tasked with mobilizing parents and teachers to contact and visit lawmakers, Hartsock saw an opportunity to communicate through email and social media on smartphones. The idea for Phone2Action, an app to connect constituents with their officials in order to influence public policy, was born. When Hartsock and co-founder Jeb Ory launched Phone2Action in 2013, there was nothing like it on the market. Today, 11 million people use the platform to reach lawmakers across the US and abroad. Since 2013, Phone2Action has sent lawmakers 43 million messages from constituents, and in 2018 the app sent messages to 19,000 officials. What is the most important social issue you’re addressing? “Lawmakers exist to represent people in the creation of laws and regulations. We always think of Congress, but Photo by Tony Powell

“WE HEAR A LOT ABOUT THE LACK OF DIVERSITY IN TECH ENTREPRENEURSHIP, BUT I CAN’T THINK OF A BETTER TIME FOR A PERSON OF COLOR TO START A COMPANY.”

lots of changes happen at the local level, by governors, mayors, state lawmakers, city councils, ANC commissioners, committees — the list goes on. These legislators make decisions that have an impact on every aspect of our lives and too often without any input from those who put them in office. It is extremely important for people to have a way to connect with their officials and share how they feel about issues. It is a very exciting time in the US where ‘marching is the new brunch’ and civic technology is democratizing policymaking.” Advice for social entrepreneurs of color: “We hear a lot about the lack of diversity in tech entrepreneurship, but I can’t think of a better time for a person of color to start a company. There is capital available and desire by the venture capital community to invest in us because of the criticism they have received for the lack of funding going to minorities. However, the type of entrepreneur that is going to succeed now is different than a decade ago, so we need to stop emulating and glorifying Silicon Valley. If you are thinking about starting a company, I suggest you read Gary Shapiro’s latest book, ‘Ninja Future.’ In the book, Shapiro talks about the new type of entrepreneur our world needs — one that is bold, compassionate, resilient, and embraces diversity and collaboration.”


Photo courtesy of Tricia Martinez

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“WHETHER IT’S FINANCE, HEALTH, EDUCATION, OR ENERGY, TECHNOLOGY IS A DRIVING FORCE IN REVOLUTIONIZING THESE INDUSTRIES AND CREATING MORE SUSTAINABLE AND EQUITABLE MODELS FOR ALL.”

TRICIA MARTINEZ FOUNDER & CEO, WALA

// CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

With a background in behavioral economics and policy, as well as her experience as a Mexican woman building a business in Africa, tech entrepreneur Tricia Martinez knows firsthand just how much value there is in considering diverse perspectives. The first company she started out of graduate school — providing Ugandan farmers with unconditional cash transfers, one of the only proven interventions for alleviating extreme poverty — deepened her knowledge of how markets, societies, and individuals function. A light bulb went off: over half the global population operates outside of the formal financial system not because of barriers to education but because the system was never designed to service the vast majority. Driven by a strong belief that financial services are a human right, Martinez founded Wala, a blockchain-

powered financial services platform with a mission of creating a just and accessible financial system where everyone can participate and prosper. The app enables greater levels of economic participation from emerging markets by making financial services more accessible and removing fees. Wala is the launch partner of Dala, an open-source multi-chain crypto-asset designed for emerging markets, the first major contributor to Dala’s open-source development, and the first application enabling the use of Dala for transactions and peer-to-peer transfers. What gives you hope for the future? “Technology is exponential, and that gives me hope for the future. Many people might be fearful of the rate at which technology changes, but as an entrepreneur I have always seen technology as the one thing that can scale real-world positive impact. Whether it’s finance, health, education, or energy, technology is a driving force in revolutionizing these industries and creating more sustainable and equitable models for all.”

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MARCOS GONZALEZ FOUNDER & MANAGING PARTNER, VAMOSVENTURES // LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA Impact investor Marcos Gonzalez admits that his career has been charmed. After graduating from Brown University and Harvard Business School, he worked at The Boston Consulting Group, started his own tech company, and worked for two private equity funds before founding VamosVentures, a venture-capital impact fund, in 2016. But when it comes to his entrepreneurial drive and devotion to racial equity, Gonzalez credits observing and learning from his parents’ “life-entrepreneur” experiences as Mexican immigrants to the US. Having founded their own tech companies, the VamosVentures team is intimately familiar with the challenges and opportunities created by inefficient capital markets as they relate to minority entrepreneurs. In addition to investing in early-stage, tech-enabled companies led by Hispanic and other minority entrepreneurs, VamosVenture asks all of its partners to take its non-legally-binding, values-aligned pledge to take steps to hire diverse teams, contract diverse-owned firms, share company equity, engage in the community as role models, and bring on diverse interns and summer associates. What role should business play in advancing racial equity? “I’m a firm believer that if we do not take steps as a country to address the racial opportunity divide, our society will see a deterioration of our democracy. There are many pieces to this puzzle, but one is clear: the tech industry. Tech is driving wealth creation, social mobility, and economic self-determination. There is no doubt that to achieve racial equity writ large, we have to do so in the tech industry — as founders, leaders at established tech companies, and as investors.” Advice for social entrepreneurs of color: “Find mentors and advisors who have been through the startup cycle. An effective mentor can save an entrepreneur years and money by providing relevant and strategic guidance. Also, capture as much data as possible about your business, look at it every which way, and begin to draw insight from it. It is always hard to back an entrepreneur who is not curious about their own data.”

Photo courtesy of Marcos Gonzales

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Photo by Janelle Fontana

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CATHERINE PEREZ CO-FOUNDER & CHIEF PRODUCT OFFICER, HEALTHSHERPA // SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA Catherine Perez believes that health care and access to it should not be politicized. When Healthcare.gov, the official website of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was launched in October 2013, there were technological problems that made it difficult for the public to sign up for coverage. Driven to tackle some of the site’s consumer barriers, Perez submitted an iOS app for “a better Healthcare.gov” to the Salesforce Million Dollar Hackathon competition. She and her team took home the million-dollar prize, and shortly after, joined forces with HealthSherpa, a technology platform and a team of people helping individuals and families find, enroll in, and use high-quality, affordable health coverage. HealthSherpa sits at the intersection of purely and unequivocally advocating for the consumer while still existing and operating as a for-profit technology company. As a double-bottom-line company, the business measures success by revenue as well as the number of people enrolled in ACA coverage and remains unbiased when making recommendations to consumers based on revenue considerations. Since its 2013 launch, HealthSherpa has enrolled more than 1.8 million people in ACA coverage, saving those folks over $3 billion collectively.

“HOW CAN LEADERSHIP AND BUSINESSES DESIGN AND BUILD THE BEST SOLUTIONS FOR THEIR MARKETS IF THEY DON’T HAVE ANYONE ON THEIR TEAMS WITH THE LIVED EXPERIENCES TO REFLECT THE NEEDS OF THE MARKET?”

What is the most important social issue you’re addressing? “Health insurance in our country has continued to feel more like a privilege than a right. Because of the consumer protection laws under the ACA law, our mission-driven team feels personally motivated to provide access to ACA coverage and to provide knowledge about what an ACA plan is, how much someone can save via subsidies and cost-sharing reductions, as well as any updates to policy and law (which often cause consumer confusion). We also advocate on behalf of the consumer when discussing technology and market solutions with stakeholders in the federal government at the Department of Health and Human Services.” What role should business play in advancing racial equity? “The ACA intended to address racial disparities and other inequities as they relate to access to health care as well as health outcomes. The work we do at HealthSherpa is directly impacted by the advancement of racial equity in health care through the ACA. Our role is inherently clear: show up for these communities by making sure we are building inclusive products, hiring diverse team members, and enforcing a value system that believes in diversity and inclusion. I would encourage leaders, investors, and others to think deeply about the following questions: How can leadership and businesses design and build the best solutions for their markets if they don’t have anyone on their teams with the lived experiences to reflect the needs of the market? It’s a fundamental moral imperative. How can you practice conscious leadership if your values only exist in a narrow and exclusive capacity? How can you truly build relationships of trust and authenticity if you aren’t genuinely invested in your people personally?” CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE

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20 GAME-CHANGING FOUNDERS OF COLOR Photo by Helena Price

“PEOPLE OF COLOR WILL BE THE MAJORITY IN THE U.S. IN LITTLE MORE THAN 20 YEARS. INCLUSION IS NOT OPTIONAL.”

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LAURA WEIDMAN POWERS CO-FOUNDER, CODE2040 // SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA Laura Weidman Powers is thinking for the long term. Along with Tristan Walker, Powers is the co-founder of Code2040, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure that by the year 2040 — the beginning of the decade when the majority of Americans will be people of color — Black and Latinx people will be fully represented in the innovation economy and have the economic and social capital needed to thrive and build generational wealth. Code2040 activates, connects, and mobilizes the largest racial-equity community in tech to dismantle the structural barriers that prevent the full participation and leadership of Black and Latinx technologists. Through its events, trainings, and early-career programs, Code2040 equips underrepresented technologists and their allies with the tools, connections, and care they need to advocate for and achieve racial equity in the tech industry. As CEO emerita (2012–2018), Powers grew Code2040 from inception to a $7 million organization that has a staff of 35, partners with more than 70 companies, and serves more than 250 students and 6,000 community members each year. In 2016, Powers was invited to join the Obama administration for a six-month term as senior advisor to US Chief Technology Officer

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Megan Smith. At the White House, Powers focused on ensuring that hiring practices, entrepreneurial ecosystems, and tech products and platforms of the future will work well for all Americans, particularly those from historically marginalized backgrounds. What role should business play in advancing racial equity? “The future of our economy and our country depends on business leaders advancing racial equity. An equitable distribution of resources and power is a prerequisite for a stable, functional democracy. People of color will be the majority in the US in little more than 20 years. Inclusion is not optional. Business leaders must dismantle exclusionary systems that maintain the status quo and oppress underrepresented groups — or these systems will be toppled when representative leadership is at the helm.” Advice for social entrepreneurs of color: “Starting a company is the hardest thing I’ve done, but also the most educational and one of the most meaningful. You’ll have to work harder than you thought you could, and you’ll expend unreal amounts of energy trying to get others to see the world through your eyes, but the change you can effect if you’re successful — or even by failing in the right direction — is huge.”


Photo courtesy of Aniyia Williams

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ANIYIA WILLIAMS CO-FOUNDER & CEO, TINSEL CO-FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BROWN & BLACK FOUNDERS CO-FOUNDER, ZEBRAS UNITE // SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA Aniyia Williams hails from a line of entrepreneurs, but it wasn’t until she found a gap in the consumer electronics market that she started a company of her own. The classically trained opera singer grew up around her family’s school of hair design and spent her summers assisting with her grandmother’s consulting business before landing roles in marketing, business development, and fundraising at various organizations. While on a flight home from a trip on which she had been contemplating her next career move, Williams found her musical and tech worlds colliding when she decided to pursue an idea for a product that would allow her to listen to tunes on headphones without having to dig for a tangled mess of cords at the bottom of her bag. Williams and co-founder Monia Santinello launched Tinsel, an audio accessory that doubles as a beautiful piece of jewelry, in 2014. As if pitching to investors in the hardware industry wasn’t hard enough, Williams had three additional “strikes” against her: Black; female; and, six months into building her business, pregnant. While she was excited for all the possibility that lay before her — “I was building two startups at once!” — Williams realized that the odds were stacked against her. After a residency with Code2040, a nonprofit mobilizing the largest racial-equity community in tech (see more on page 42), she co-founded Black & Brown Founders, an organization that provides Black and Latinx founders with resources and networks for starting tech companies without relying on venture capital. Williams

also co-founded Zebras Unite, an active global community that is founders-first and calls for a more ethical and inclusive movement to counter existing startup and venture-capital culture. How does bootstrapping look different for founders of color? “Black and Latinx communities struggle with access to money, let alone capital. Cash just doesn’t flow abundantly in our communities. We don’t typically have people around us who can chip in to a friends-and-family round, we don’t typically have access to investor networks, and investors often underestimate us because we don’t fit the pattern of what they are used to seeing. But the silver lining is that many of the things that make us different are also what make us awesome founders. Despite the challenges, we often become entrepreneurs by necessity. Black and Latinx people have a resourcefulness, creativity, and grit that is unmatched.” What role should business play in advancing racial equity? “Technology and the innovation economy offer the greatest opportunity to create and grow wealth today, especially in diverse communities, but the barriers to entry are significant. In my opinion, the key to a thriving economic future for America is enabling tech innovation in ways that [make it so] everyone can participate.” Advice for social entrepreneurs of color: “You deserve to be here. Your very presence is a message to those who you may never meet and who you least expect to be inspired by you and your work. Remember that your contribution to society is as valuable as someone else’s, and while it may not change the world alone, it could influence someone or something that does.” CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE

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AYDÉ SOTO CO-FOUNDER & CTO, SIMPLECITIZEN // SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH Five years ago, Aydé Soto was living and working in Monterrey, Mexico, when she married a US citizen and discovered an opportunity to streamline the pathway to citizenship. Frustrated by her own experience with the complex US immigration system, Soto realized there was no online service to help her navigate the process, so she decided to create one of her own. Along with co-founders Sam and Brady Stoddard, Soto launched SimpleCitizen, a digital immigration and visa solution, in 2014. The company describes its service as “TurboTax for immigration,” providing a straightforward process that takes applicants from signup to completion, and has helped more than 3,000 families from more than 90 countries save at least $5 million on legal fees. What is the most important social issue you’re addressing? “Millions of Americans can’t gain access to attorneys and legal services to help them navigate law. Statistics show that Americans find it difficult to pay for and obtain legal services. This crisis is amplified even more for immigrants who are pressured to pay high legal fees. As the rhetoric around immigration continues to paint a dark picture for families from around the world hoping to successfully obtain a visa, green card, or citizenship, the need for SimpleCitizen increases exponentially.” Do you have any best practices to help yourself become and embody conscious leadership? “I take time each day to review my goals, my team’s goals, and the broader goals and objectives of the company. This has helped keep me centered and focused — and this kind of focus is contagious. It helps you stay mindful of what is important, and people notice.”

Photo courtesy of Aydé Soto

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ERIK MOORE FOUNDER & MANAGING PARTNER, BASE VENTURES // BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA

Erik Moore has seen his share of successful exits as an angel investor, including from Zappos.com (sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion in 2009), Agencourt Bioscience (sold to Beckman Coulter for $270 million in 2005), and PlanGrid (sold to Autodesk for $875 million in 2018). These early wins, along with his support of driven founders, spurred his passion for entrepreneurship. Prior to founding Base Ventures, an early-stage venture fund, Moore spent nearly 15 years in investment banking at Merrill Lynch, where he was among the top performers in fixed-income institutional sales. He then co-founded FlickLaunch, a digital streaming platform on Facebook for feature-length movies, and RuleLX, a successful special-purpose investment vehicle that offered a unique, discreet investment opportunity. Base Ventures builds upon the success of RuleLX by scaling Moore’s access to many of the best deals in Silicon Valley. For nearly 10 years, Moore has invested alongside leading venture capitalists, including NEA, Bain Capital, GV, Andreessen Horowitz, and Sequoia. In addition to investing in exceptional founders, Moore also strives to give back to his community. He has served organizations such as The Common Ground Foundation (founded by Grammy, Oscar, and Emmy award-winning artist Common); PACE, a private philanthropic group; the Museum of the African Diaspora, a Smithsonian affiliate; Russell Simmons’ Art for Life; the East Bay College Fund; and on the boards of several Base Ventures portfolio companies. What makes an exceptional founder? “They are resilient. Building a business takes hard work. Founders with a history of overcoming adversity, professionally and personally, are uniquely able to push through difficult times. They are singularly focused and must exhibit a clear passion for their businesses. It informs how they are able to innovate through the ebbs and flows of building a business. And they are resourceful. How do they overcome and develop creative solutions to the inevitable challenges that arise?” What gives you hope for the future? “When I attended my first South by Southwest technology conference almost 10 years ago, it was impossible to find 14 other people of color in attendance. Fast-forward to 2018, and one of our portfolio companies, Blavity, founded by powerhouse Morgan DeBaun, runs a tech conference called AfroTech. Their conference hosted 4,000 people of color in San Francisco a few months ago. Things have changed considerably, and it has made the entire ecosystem that much better and more robust. DeBaun and other entrepreneurs like her give me tremendous hope for the future.”

Photo courtesy of Erik Moore


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OSCAR GOMEZ FOUNDER & PRINCIPAL, SOJOGO // SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA A first-generation Mexican-American, Oscar Gomez was the first of his family to attend college. Reflecting, Gomez realizes that his education and experience in equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) truly began while earning his degree in international studies as one of the few Latinx students on Pepperdine University’s Malibu campus. His first job out of school was for a small nonprofit organization that worked on equity issues for migrant and seasonal farmworkers along the East Coast, and he’s been immersed in EDI issues ever since. After spending 25 years working in the community health field, 16 of which were as CEO of a national nonprofit, Gomez decided to move on to discover his next passion in life and circled back to EDI. In 2018, he launched SoJoGo, a company that partners and consults with purpose-driven organizations to deepen the impact of their EDI initiatives. The three syllables of the company’s name serve as tribute to his roots and his earliest inspiration, his parents Socorro and Jose Gomez. What role should business play in advancing racial equity? “To me, the whole Nike-Kaepernick advertising campaign provides an irrefutable business case for bringing a racial-equity lens and overall social consciousness to executive meetings and corporate board rooms. I’m sure those were incredibly difficult and challenging discussions within Nike headquarters. But in the end, it seems that Nike carefully looked at all the data about who its customer base would be for the next 30 years. As time goes on, this advertising campaign will seem less like a bold, strategic risk and more like smart, forward-thinking business. How can you argue against that decision when, within one month, Nike reported a record stock value to the tune of $6 billion, and Colin Kaepernick emerged as a civil rights leader and icon?” Advice for social entrepreneurs of color: “Seek out and build relationships with other leaders and entrepreneurs of color. Co-create mutually supportive spaces that promote vulnerability, empathy, and a sense of community. At the risk of sounding cliché, [these relationships] can lead to some powerful conversations and insights with a bit of healing in the process. Be intentional in seeking out diverse leaders of color — by gender identity, race/ethnic background, sexual orientation, and age — for those relationships. Explore, observe, and discuss the additional lenses through which you each experience your work and your intended social impact.”

Photo courtesy of Oscar Gomez

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“INCLUSIVITY IS NOT SIMPLY A MORAL IMPERATIVE; IT’S A BUSINESS IMPERATIVE.”

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YVE-CAR MOMPEROUSSE FOUNDER & CEO, KREYÒL ESSENCE // NORFOLK, VIRGINIA A Haitian-American, Yve-Car Momperousse grew up using her mother’s supply of Haitian black castor oil to keep her hair and skin healthy, but as she got older she realized there was no way to get the oil in the US. Recognizing a gap in the market and an opportunity to empower women, Momperousse founded Kreyòl Essence, a company that makes natural and ethical beauty products and supports female suppliers of castor oil in Haiti. The thriving enterprise has products on shelves at mainstream retailers like Whole Foods and is lauded as a beauty-industry leader by Sephora. She has created work for more than 3,000 farmers and 80 female castor-oil producers, and has seen a 600 percent increase in sales in the last year alone. HEAR Momperousse on the World-Changing Women Podcast

Photo courtesy of Kreyòl Essence

What role should business play in advancing racial equity? “The Millennial generation is the most diverse in US history, and in 2050 we will live in a minority-majority country. Inclusivity is not simply a moral imperative; it’s a business imperative.” Advice for social entrepreneurs of color: “It’s a great time to be in business as the ecosystem is realizing that our voice and perspective is needed. Enter the room with confidence knowing you have an advantage. It’s what I call ‘cultural fluency.’ We people of color often have the gift of understanding what our community needs in addition to ‘mainstream’ communities. If your business model caters to diverse audiences, own it and be proud. The fallacy that doing so makes you a niche company is being dispelled. Walker & Company, Carol’s Daughter, and Sundial Brands — Shea Moisture is under Sundial — have all sold to Unilever, L’Oréal, and Procter & Gamble, focusing on women of color. Don’t let anyone pigeonhole you. If you don’t want to solely focus on diverse communities, that’s okay, too.” CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE

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THE FUTURE

THE AWESOME POTENTIAL OF

REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS IN THE GLOBAL WORKFORCE Social enterprises are discovering that working to help global refugees, asylum-seekers, and survivors of human trafficking find dignified livelihoods makes economic sense. BY THANE KREINER

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ars, persecution, political upheaval, and climate change are driving a record number of people from their homes. According to the Office of the High Commissioner (UNHCR), one person was uprooted every two seconds, on average, in 2017, and the number of refugees worldwide increased by a single-year record of 2.9 million. In all, UNHCR estimates that more than 68 million people were displaced globally as of last year. Most stories about global refugees focus on the tragic aspects of their forced migration, which are very real. But what if we could find the opportunities hidden in the refugee crisis? What if we could treat displaced people less as a burden and more as a potential solution for businesses and nations seeking a strong, viable workforce?

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A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE ACCELERATOR DEVOTED TO REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS Refugees and migrants might not seem like an obvious area of focus for the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. But as the largest and most successful social enterprise accelerator in the world, we realized that entrepreneurial approaches might have the potential to address issues facing geographically displaced people. After all, one goal of social entrepreneurship is to disrupt unjust social equilibria and provide dignified livelihoods for poor, vulnerable, and marginalized populations. We decided to learn more about social enterprises working on issues that affect displaced people. Some provide employment for young women so they aren’t sold into modern

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slavery. Others use artificial intelligence (AI) to identify trafficking incidents, or blockchain technology to help refugees secure their assets and access them anywhere in the world. Still others provide various kinds of job training, placement, and work experience for refugees. Emboldened by our findings, Miller Center created an accelerator cohort consisting entirely of enterprises addressing the needs of migrants, refugees, and survivors of human trafficking. To our surprise, more than 100 social enterprises applied for our Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins (SEM) accelerator program, which launched in May 2018 with 21 participants. We are confident that the paths they follow and the results they achieve, which we outline below, will be of interest to those engaging in the broader social enterprise and impact investing ecosystems.


Photo by Angelica Ekeke

1951 Coffee Company trains and employs refugees and asylees at their cafe in Berkeley, California.

APPROACHES FOR PUTTING REFUGEES TO WORK SEM program participants help refugees and migrants integrate — or, in the case of skilled workers, re-integrate — into the workforces of their adoptive homes. Some of these social enterprises focus on training, equipping refugees with new skills that will make them employable in their new communities. Re:Coded is noteworthy because it works with refugees while they are still in refugee camps. This not-for-profit enterprise, the first of its kind in Iraq and Turkey, teaches coding and power skills to displaced youth — both inside and outside refugee camps — to prepare them for purposeful work in the technology sector.

A company that also works with refugees not yet settled into new homes, WorkAround enables refugees to work supplying translation, data entry, data scrubbing, image tagging, research, and transcription services to online clients for fair wages. Pointing out that many displaced people are “stuck in limbo, waiting to be resettled,” WorkAround enables skilled refugees to find work even as they await decisions about their status. Its approach to distributed work fits well into the modern “gig economy” model and lets people work from anywhere — even refugee camps. Acting as a kind of matchmaker for skilled refugees and global employers, Talent Beyond Boundaries is the only organization in the world connecting refugees to international job opportunities. Talent Beyond

Boundaries opens labor mobility as a complementary solution to traditional refugee resettlement while helping employers fill talent gaps. Additionally, a number of the enterprises we met offer skills and job training to refugees where they resettle. Refugee Company provides job training and placement in various fields — including hospitality, textile manufacturing, marketing, construction, and solar panel technology — for refugees who have resettled in the Netherlands. Refugees{code} prepares refugees for qualified jobs through coding and software development training, helping them integrate into the Austrian job market. In a more specific example of job placement, 1951 Coffee Company trains refugees and asylees and then gives them jobs in the organization’s California-based coffee shops. The

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nonprofit specialty coffee organization took its name from the year when the United Nations first defined and set forth guidelines for the protection of refugees — 1951. Also in the coffee industry, but using a different approach, 734 Coffee employs Sudanese refugees in smallscale coffee farming. Through its Refugee Campus program, 734 Coffee devotes 80 percent of the profits from the sale of its ethically sourced, fair-trade coffee to scholarships for refugee children. The number 734

ic burden to the countries that receive them. A recent paper published in Science Advances refutes this assumption. Three authors from the French National Center for Scientific Research evaluated the economic and fiscal effects of asylum-seekers entering Western Europe from 1985 to 2015. They found that instead of acting as a drag on Western European countries’ economies, asylum-seekers “might rather be an economic opportunity.” “The increase in public spending

are unlikely to end any time soon. All people are entitled to the opportunity to pursue dignified livelihoods. That truth doesn’t change even in the most chaotic refugee camps, which remove individuals’ agency, control, and ability to architect their own futures. At the same time, many businesses across the globe struggle to find enough skilled, qualified employees. Training refugees and migrants to fill key positions seems an ideal solution for everyone involved.

“What if we could treat displaced people less as a burden and more as a potential solution for businesses and nations seeking a strong, viable workforce?” denotes the geographical coordinates — 7°N 34°E — for Gambela, a region in Ethiopia that is now home to more than 200,000 people who fled war, atrocities, drought, and famine in South Sudan. Displaced people are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation, and dignified work can help survivors rebuild their lives. Relevée trains human trafficking survivors as makers of fine jewelry in Southeast Asia, while the Destiny’s Reflection program employs survivors of sex trafficking in Kolkata, India, to make fashion accessories for ethical businesses. In the Philippines, the business-process outsourcing company Regenesys BPO hires survivors of modern slavery and helps them walk the last mile of restoration through employment in technology.

REFUTING THE ASSUMPTION THAT REFUGEES ARE AN ECONOMIC DRAIN It’s commonly assumed that migrants and asylum-seekers pose an econom-

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induced by asylum-seekers is more than compensated for by an increase in tax revenues net of transfers,” the researchers concluded. “As asylum-seekers become permanent residents, their macroeconomic impacts become positive.” In the global competition for talent, the more welcoming countries are to refugees, the faster they accrue the economic benefits.

ARE REFUGEES THE FUTURE WORKFORCE? We greet these research results with great enthusiasm. It’s an indication that working to help global refugees, asylum-seekers, and survivors of human trafficking find dignified livelihoods — whether they’re newly displaced, living in refugee camps, or trying to establish themselves in new homes — is not just the right thing to do from an ethical and humanistic standpoint, but also makes economic sense. Unfortunately, the conflicts, persecutions, and climate-induced impacts that drive people from their homes

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Learning that asylum-seekers can actually spur a country’s economic growth might help ease the political opposition to welcoming refugees. Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship looks forward to seeing what our first cohort of SEM program participants will achieve. As the number of refugees and migrants continues to grow, and as global corporations increasingly find themselves competing for talent, it makes sense to view refugees as important members of the future workforce.

Thane Kreiner, Ph.D., is the executive director of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University.


WOMEN & MONEY MAKING MONEY MOVES THAT MATTER SEPTEMBER 16-17, 2019 // AUSTIN, TX A gathering of bold, catalytic leaders and activists in strategic philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, and gender-lens investing.

Join us as we turn knowledge into action and activate our capital for social impact with a gender-lens.

@wwitmovements WhatWillItTakeM whatwillittakemovements what-will-it-take an

company

For more information on this event + upcoming events, visit whatwillittake.com


THE FUTURE

CAN INVESTMENT CAPITAL

END RACISM, SEXISM, AND CLASSISM?

Rodney Foxworth, executive director of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, thinks investment capital can change the world. BY MARY MAZZONI AND RACHEL ZURER

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rowing up in Baltimore, Rodney Foxworth came face-to-face with the social and economic issues that dominate the news today. “The city represents much of the decline in the American dream: postindustrialization, the war on drugs, an emphasis on the prison system/ policing, the lack of opportunity in jobs, and, of course, the erosion of public education,” he says. As a college student, Foxworth worked as a freelance journalist, covering community issues in Baltimore that ranged from mass incarceration and unemployment to failing public schools, but he yearned to be part of the story. “I wanted to be able to effect some kind of change,” he recalls. “ I felt the need to be a part of the solution.” After a stint at Baltimore’s Abell Foundation and a local nonprofit focused on workforce development, Foxworth joined the Knight Foundation’s Black Male Engagement initative, now called BMe, which operates in Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Akron. He dovetailed his experience supporting Black men in their community engagement initiatives with his own consulting firm, Invested Impact, where he leveraged philanthropic and private-sector dollars to lift up entrepreneurs of color. In 2016, his efforts attracted the attention of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). The collective of communities, entrepreneurs, and funders seeks to “defy business as usual” and “create local economies that work for all.” Foxworth linked up with BALLE as a 2016 member of its lauded Economy Fellowship. He now serves

as executive director of the Oakland, California-based group. We sat down with Foxworth to learn more about his roots in Baltimore, his career in social impact, and how his new role at BALLE ties it all together. What led you to your role at BALLE, and how do you see yourself in the alliance’s mission to create local economies that work for everyone? Rodney Foxworth: My story starts in Baltimore, where I grew up in a working-class African-American household and was the first in my family to go to college. Every day, I saw my parents get up, go to work, and work really hard. In America, you often hear, “If you work hard and you do the right things, you will succeed.” But I saw that this dream wasn’t true for so many people, particularly minorities. Most people are hard-working folks, but the system doesn’t offer opportunities for their hard work to turn into material success or comfort and security. Seeing the “dream deferred” that Langston Hughes wrote about [in his poem “Harlem”] shaped my personal and professional orientation, and it got me thinking about what an American community can be. What is the difference you are trying to make in the world, both in your role at BALLE and in life? RF: I want to eliminate racism, sexism, and classicism. I want everyone to be able to live in a world in which you’re not defined by class, race, or gender. It permeates our daily activities in ways that are so unnoticeable. My big goal is to do

my part in helping to dismantle and deconstruct these reductive power structures. How do you see the role of business and investment in breaking down barriers around race, class, and gender? RF: I see business as both a driver of and adversely impacted by things like racism, sexism, and classicism. In the US, for example, we have these tremendous racial and gender wealth gaps. There are so many different disparities related to ownership of minority businesses and the kind of wealth that those minority business owners accrue. When we look at the investment side of things, fund managers of color face a disproportionate number of barriers to even enter the industry. From Jim Crow and before that, opportunities were inaccessible to certain minority groups — and business had a negative role in those days. Capital, wealth, and business have played a tremendous role in creating injustice. What do you feel needs to happen in order to move business from an enabler of injustice to an agent for positive change? RF: Coming from a place like Baltimore, you live the data. You don’t have to look at the statistics, because you know. But when you do look at some of that data, it’s clear that it will take quite a combination of concessionary capital, philanthropy, and other methods to be able to unravel the wealth disparity we have in the US. I often question: why does a foundation, for example, need to be a perpetual institution? How

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can philanthropies invest in wealthcreating vehicles that support people who have been most impacted by social injustices? I want to see philanthropic groups look toward investing in the capacities of those individuals while making their own wealth accumulation a secondary consideration. Philanthropists and impact investors need to figure out how they can leverage their own wealth and investment to spur the wealth and investment of other groups that have been marginalized. To do that,

RF: With today’s levels of wealth disparity, we have to figure out ways we can maximize the wealth accumulation of those who have been most marginalized — before we do anything else. When, for example, people of color become the majority in the US, what does it look like when Latinxs, African-Americans, and other minority groups do not have the type of household income and wealth that will be able to sustain the US economy? What does it look like when the majority of our people have a fraction of the wealth

RF: For one, philanthropy is not large enough [as an] asset class. Second, it’s framed as a goodwill endeavor that’s more akin to charity. What I’m speaking of is an economic question that even self-interested investors may be interested in. For example, African-American women are a growing consumer market in the US, and they represent America’s fastest-growing entrepreneurial population. Yet, because of all the disparities and “-isms” they face, many AfricanAmerican women don’t have access

“There’s a lot of opportunity for us to drive equitable wealth in this country, but it does require sacrifice.”

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they might have to give something up — whether that means a lower return on investment or no return on investment, but that’s not uncharted territory. When I look at certain things like the venture capital space, where 75 percent of venture capital doesn’t even return to investors, I see a huge opportunity for reimagining and rethinking how we look at capital investment. There’s a lot of opportunity for us to drive equitable wealth in this country, but it does require sacrifice. It requires consideration for not necessarily maximizing [return on] your capital investment, but ensuring that there’s a dual or triple purpose. If your investment is able to, say, create more wealth in a place like Jackson, Mississippi, in a southern, majority African-American place, that’s a solution in and of itself.

and household income to which we’ve become accustomed? A scenario like that presents tremendous downsides for all of us, as an economy, and that’s the point I try to drive. We’ve done a great job maximizing wealth for those who have it. At the same time, we’ve got to figure out vehicles in which we can maximize wealth for those who have been impacted by centuries of inequities. I certainly understand and believe that one can make a financial return while investing in something that produces a social good. However, there are plenty of things that need capital that actually will not make a return on investment. We still need those investments to happen. Otherwise, we’ll continue to have whole communities that are not able to obtain wealth and sustain themselves, which is what we have today.

Do you encounter resistance when you tell funders and philanthropists that they might have to accept lower returns in order to maximize impact? What do you tell people who might disagree?

You’re talking about impact-driven investments that don’t necessarily yield a financial return. Don’t we have a system for that? Isn’t that called nonprofit or philanthropy? What makes your perspective different?

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to the same resources as some of their White male counterparts. There’s an economic opportunity in removing those barriers, but you’ll have to over-invest at some point in order to unlock that opportunity. You might have to spend more up front to pave the way for those entrepreneurs to make the kind of return that you would like to see. Philanthropy is not large enough to address an economic question like that. We need to identify the opportunities to make investments in marginalized communities so that philanthropy can be a leader in partnership with other capital providers, but we need more folks at the table. Can you offer an example of a non-philanthropic investment that can have a big impact but isn’t necessarily expected to generate a high immediate return? RF: I try to focus on the station between philanthropy and investment. For example, even though venture capitalists invest with the goal of making an outsize return, by and large they don’t do


Rodney Foxworth, photo by Olivia Obineme

“Philanthropists and impact investors need to figure out how they can leverage their own wealth and investment to spur the wealth and investment of other groups that have been marginalized.”

that with every single deal. They make most of their money from a handful of deals or one unicorn. I’m suggesting that investors consider the longer-term impacts beyond maximizing their financial return. Our economy will accrue other benefits if investors look toward areas where there has been little to no investment before, or even extractive investment.

There are parts of the country that have very little investment, but they hold vast opportunities for investors in the long term. Still, investors have to be patient and spend money at the front end before they’ll be able to see those returns. Take what Jessica Norwood is doing with The Runway Project [see more on page 33], an investment

fund that backs African-American entrepreneurs as well as educational programs in rural communities. These are not high returns. It’s patient capital. You’re making meaningful investments that will return something to you, and although you won’t get a 15 percent return on your investment, there are still long-term opportunities there.

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How does BALLE put these concepts into practice? RF: The 2018 cohort of BALLE Fellows is made up of leaders from rural communities. Lifting up rural leaders is extremely important to us simply because Americans don’t often think about the entrepreneurial innovation that happens in rural areas. We typically look to the coasts or to major municipalities, but we don’t think of rural communities

RF: The best advice I’ve ever gotten is to be humble. Listen more than you talk. Take the time to understand what people are feeling and how things impact them, and commit to be in service to people. Then, everything else falls in place. Particularly if you are a business leader or an entrepreneur, your task is to hire and call together people who are better and smarter than you. If you are consistently the smartest person in the room, you probably won’t have a successful

the stands and put forth the investments that are required for the change we need today. It might sound trite, but I’m inspired by people who are strong and talented — and the BALLE leadership network is full of them. I wake up motivated every day to be in service to them. We are 50 years out from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, and it’s game-changing for me to reflect on the level of commitment that a person has to have in order to

“When, for example, people of color become the majority in the US, what does it look like when Latinxs, African-Americans, and other minority groups do not have the type of household income and wealth that will be able to sustain the US economy?” as hubs of creation. Even without that recognition, entrepreneurial leaders are doing great things in these communities — and fantastic opportunities can come from investing in their efforts. For example, one of our Fellows organized a sustainable farming group in DeWitt, Arkansas. Effectively, the model creates a value chain around sustainable farming and energy-efficient biofuels in a 3,000-person town. They’ve been able to create jobs, expand upon farming opportunities, and bring on a generation of people who can engage in this industry. This kind of activity is happening in rural areas across the country, but it remains a blind spot for investors. What is the best leadership advice you give or have received?

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organization — whether that’s a for-profit business, a social change enterprise, or a nonprofit. To succeed, you need to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are, and you need to center respect for those people and help them be the best they can be.

drive change. It makes me want to double down, while also recognizing how hard it will be. People sacrifice every single day to make our communities and our world better, and we have to continue doing this work.

What gives you hope? RF: Communities across this country and around the world are so hard-hit by economic injustices, yet people continue to push forward. I can’t help but be optimistic because I see folks like Jessica Norwood persevere and create opportunity where there might not have been before. I am inspired by the fact that we have foundation and corporate leaders who are able to take

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Mary Mazzoni is an environmental journalist and editor based in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in print and online, including in TriplePundit, AlterNet, Yahoo Travel, and multiple Philadelphia publications including the Philadelphia Daily News. Rachel Zurer is Conscious Company’s former editorin-chief. Before joining the Conscious Company Media team, she worked at Backpacker and Wired magazines.


parting thought...

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.� —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


ACCESS // INCLUSION // IMPACT

June 12 - 13, 2019 The Gathering Spot Atlanta, GA

The premier gathering of multicultural changemakers creating an inclusive impact economy

consciouscompanymedia.com/spectrum

Profile for Conscious Company

Conscious Company Magazine | Spring 2019  

The Q2/Spring 2019 issue of Conscious Company is all about the racial wealth gap, diversity as a competitive differentiator, game-changing f...

Conscious Company Magazine | Spring 2019  

The Q2/Spring 2019 issue of Conscious Company is all about the racial wealth gap, diversity as a competitive differentiator, game-changing f...