1863: Rebranding Our Future

Melissa L. Bradley
Oct 5, 2018 · 6 min read
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Image for post
Vanity Fair, March 2018

In May 2016 we made a three-year commitment to identify 500 high potential entrepreneurs of color; business owners operating enterprises who were ready and willing to scale in the DC region. In just under two years we surpassed the mark; we have supported 525 of entrepreneurs of color in the DMV.

We are deeply grateful to the entrepreneurs who trusted us with their time, dreams and their businesses. Our members have generated over $267M in economic impact and supported nearly 3,000 jobs in the District of Columbia. As we celebrate this milestone, we now aim higher.

Over the next 10 years, our goal is to create $100B of new wealth by and for new majority entrepreneurs.

To support this bolder vision for a community of entrepreneurs that have been overlooked and underserved, we are now changing our brand.

In 1863 Congress signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This legislation created a policy change, as well as a cultural shift in the belief that personal freedoms were more important than war. While not all slaves were free until 1865 it is important to acknowledge this policy that changed America and put the freedom of Blacks in motion.

While slavery reminds many of us of very painful times, it is also a chance to memorialize the role of African Americans (immigrants) in building America and creating this country’s massive economic power. We African Americans — who were cast as slaves — made America great. However, the perception of us as less than citizens, coupled with the emotional and physical abuse, did not allow us to embrace our power, reap the economic benefits or rise up after Slavery; this is now exacerbated by long ingrained structural racism and implicit bias.

This rebranding of our organization is intended to serve as a reminder of our potential and reclaim our power. It is intended to provide entrepreneurs of color the chance to access the power of this time in history and claim our economic power on behalf of our communities.

1863 is the acknowledgment of the beginning of a process for all people of color — enslaved and marginalized — to find freedom. Enslaved by erroneous history, institutional racism, failing education systems, policy barriers and racist financial structures. We seek to support all the communities who have been and/or remain marginalized by institutions and individuals — especially African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans.

Our work ahead seeks to invigorate the entrepreneurial mindset in people of color to achieve economic freedom for ourselves and our communities. We will help small businesses become high growth companies. We will contribute to the economic freedom and financial security of millions of people of color and our communities. We will live out the legacy of our collective history, passion and intelligence.

Since our arrival in this country, Black people have played a significant role in the economic prosperity of this country. Despite our role as economic drivers, there has been a historical disinvestment in us, our communities and those that look like us or who have been equally marginalized.

The reality is that the US economy is slowing, and entrepreneurship is declining among the traditional stereotype (e.g. white, privileged male). However, entrepreneurship is booming amongst the new majority. Latino businesses are the fastest growing segment amongst minority owned companies, and African American women are starting businesses 6x more often than their white peers. Imagine if there was parity in investing in people of color? Imagine if there was no racism in banking?

New Majority entrepreneurs lack access to capital to build and grow their businesses. Venture capitalists invest less than 1% of their capital with new majority entrepreneurs. Equity investments are highly unlikely; even if available. Research found that the average amount of new equity investment in a minority-owned business is about $3,400, which was 43 percent of the average equity investment in a non-minority business.

Debt is available to entrepreneurs of color, but at a significantly higher cost. Data from the 2003 Survey of Small Business Finances shows that whereas the average loan amount for minority-owned small businesses was $9,300, the non-minority average was more than twice this amount, at $20,500. The same survey found that minority businesses pay, on average, 7.8 percent for loans, compared with 6.4 percent for non-minority businesses.

Access to “friends and family” is even more challenging for new majority entrepreneurs. By 2020, median Black and Latino households stand to lose nearly 18% and 12% respectively of the wealth they held in 2013, while median white household wealth increases by 3%. Just two years from now — white households are projected to own 86 times more wealth than black households, and 68 times more wealth than Latino households. The median wealth of Black Americans will fall to zero by 2053; Latino households will have a median wealth of zero by 2073.

This lack of access to capital and wealth stymies the potential of entrepreneurs of color.

The significance of New Majority — defined as historically overlooked and underserved communities represented primarily by women and people of color — is not just one of quantity but quality. We will be the largest group in the United States and the livelihood and stability of the country will rely on us.

As our numbers increase, we will no longer be the “minority” in this country; we will be the New Majority. In fact, many states have already seen the shift in citizenry and globally we have always dominated. We need to rebrand our power and own the term — New Majority — so we are not once again disconnected from our importance to America. We cannot have it approved by others. It needs to be our vision to be loud and proud. Despite slavery, intentional mass incarceration, voting fraud, drugs, being called names from the N word to super predators, family destruction, disinvestment in our communities, etc…still, we rise!

Before it’s too late, and the fear that is heard in political rhetoric, manifested in legislation and seen in the neglect of our communities becomes the norm, we need to change our narrative and our images. The images of Willie Horton must be replaced by the imagines of successful entrepreneurs of color. We need to give more visibility to the Vanity Fair article highlighting Black women who have raised over $1M than to the political pundits and press who espouse fear.

I am not naive in believing entrepreneurship will solve racism and sexism and all the other structural barriers and bias that exist. I am optimistic that as we demand to be a part of this country, treated with dignity and respect, the new minority will see our value — as they did in slavery but did not compensate us for it — and we can be prosperous for ourselves, our communities and the country we made home.

The New Majority is not a moral imperative, but an economic one. The capitalist system counts on producers and wealth builders. It’s our time. We are reclaiming the date — 1863 — a date that should have held great promise for us and choosing to rebrand and represent its potential and its power.

It is time that we are no longer a commodity being used and abused, but we are recognized as a necessary investment to restore justice and economic freedom to this country. This is not just about diversity and inclusion, or a special grant program for underserved people. This is about a radical shift in supporting innovation and prosperity for all. If women, minorities, and children from low-income families were to invent at the same rate as white men from high-income (top 20 percent) families, the rate of innovation in America would quadruple. We know that investing in this promise will bear fruit.

Companies like Victoria’s Secret and J.C. Penney used to employ prisoners for slave labor. They have stopped but should now leverage supplier diversity programs to harness our skills and talents and compensate us for the value we create. If you trust us to make a garment, then trust us to run a company that makes the garment.

As we enter this new phase of our work, narrative and images, I share these thoughts:

I am only underserved by your ignorance
I am only marginalized because you do not to see me, and redline me to “other” neighborhoods
I am only overlooked because you truly fear my power
I am only unseen and unheard because you are afraid of my existence
Imagine if I was served, engaged, supported and invested in?
I would be one of the most powerful and productive gifts to America

Learn more at 1863ventures.net

1863 Ventures

1863™ bridges entrepreneurship and racial equity to…

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