The Black & Brown Founders Project

It’s time to rewrite the playbook.

I‘ve spent the last 3 years tackling the hardest, most rewarding challenge of my life. I’ve started a company, made a product and brought it to market.

AP Photo/Eric Risberg

In September of 2014, I left a well-paying job to start Tinsel and set out to make the world’s first audio necklace. Financially, what enabled me to do this was:

  1. My boss (at the time) who became my first investor
  2. My husband’s and my successful careers
  3. A shit-ton of creativity and resourcefulness

I had a good foundation that allowed me to take the risk without putting “everything” on the line, but to say that getting funding was easy would be a huge misstatement. When I started Tinsel, I didn’t know how hard it would be to raise capital from investors.

I had to be very resourceful and efficient with capital to bring Tinsel’s first product to market. Hardware ain’t cheap, y’all!

I spent months of time finding ways to get in front of investors, pitching them, and then ultimately walking away empty-handed. Finding another investor who would take the risk was extremely difficult, and for a long time, I thought I was doing something wrong. Then I became an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) with Code2040, started to meet other founders of color, and I realized that I wasn’t alone.

I now understand that the rules of the game are not written for people who come from certain backgrounds. If we want to join in, we have to rewrite the playbook.

There are many hard lessons I’ve learned on this journey, and I’ve since made a promise to myself that I want to impart what I’ve learned to others like me.

So, I want to bring a community together. I want to lift as I climb. I want those who come after me to learn what I wish I had known.

That’s why I’m putting on an event called the Black and Brown Founders Project.

The Black & Brown Founders Project is an event aimed at providing Black and Latinx founders with tools and hacks for starting companies without relying on venture capital.

We want to buck the narrative that these investments are needed to build a company that can have a successful exit.

We know that “bootstrapping” doesn’t look the same for black and brown founders as it does for others. Money doesn’t flow abundantly into our communities. We don’t typically have people around us to chip into a “friends and family round”, we don’t usually have access to investor networks, and we are often underestimated by investors because we don’t fit the pattern of what they are used to seeing.

But here’s the silver lining: many of the things that make us different are also what make us most likely to succeed. Let’s harness that and build a new future.

The Black & Brown Founders Project is meant to do two things:

  1. Give Black and Latinx founders tools to build successful companies without relying on venture capital
  2. Build a community of Black and Latinx founders to network and share resources with each other, through the “Black & Brown Founders Club”

Topics we will cover at this two-day workshop include: how to manage your cash flow expertly, alternative forms of financing, building apps without code, owning your company narrative, and product design on a shoestring.

This is a start to what is intended to become a flourishing community of Black and Latinx founders. It’s not just about this event, but how we can continue to level up using the ingenuity and determination that got us this far.

As said by poet June Jordan, and again emphasized by those in the community I’ve become part of, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

Sign up for information about Black & Brown Founders at **UPDATE** Our first event was held on March 20th & 21st, 2017 at Galvanize in San Francisco. See how it went in this report.