Reframing the Entrepreneurship Narrative through Stories of the New Majority
Ask people to describe an entrepreneur and many will likely describe the stereotypical startup founder portrayed by the media — young, white, wearing a hoodie, hacking away at his laptop in Silicon Valley. But focusing on those one-in-a-million, high-profile tech startup founders aiming to become the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg does a disservice to the millions of entrepreneurs making a living, creating jobs, and contributing to the economy. The true face of entrepreneurship is much more diverse and varied, and includes businesses that aren’t as glamorously successful as Apple, Google, Facebook, or Uber. Mainstream media tends to overlook them, painting an unrealistic portrait of entrepreneurship.
The New Majority and Entrepreneurship
To change the current narrative of entrepreneurship we need to do a better job telling the stories of traditionally underrepresented groups or, as serial entrepreneur, investor and 1863 Ventures founder Melissa Bradley has come to define them, the New Majority. Bradley is on a mission to accelerate New Majority entrepreneurs, and others are joining in the effort to reframe and change the collective mindset.
Steven Rodriguez is the CEO and founder at Suego, a coach and mentor at 1863 Ventures, and Regional Manager, US/Canada Startup Programs at TechStars. He’s been rethinking how ecosystem builders can reshape the narrative of the New Majority entrepreneurs by telling the stories of traditionally underrepresented groups. “We want to focus on them, because we want to inspire the rest of those groups to also get involved in entrepreneurship,” says Rodriguez. “We want to be active shapers of the narrative of the entrepreneur.”
As ecosystem builders, we put on programs and events, but many of us still see low participation from the New Majority. It might be easy to think that they’re not interested in entrepreneurship. But it’s not that they’re not interested. Rather, it’s that we are not reaching them. How do we reach them, show that they ARE entrepreneurial, and reshape the narrative?
Finding and Connecting with the New Majority
The first part of Rodriguez’ approach was identifying the entrepreneurs to showcase. “I’ve been forced to rethink how I do my outreach. It’s not just sending it to the same email blast of people, because I just don’t touch those groups that way. So how do I partner with other organizations, like the Latino Economic Development Centers or others that touch the groups that I just don’t seem to touch? We asked them, ‘Hey, who are 10 entrepreneurs that don’t get highlighted much, but you know are killing it?’ And they’re the ones who recommend them to us, so we can hopefully tell the story a little more,” says Rodriguez.
Why Telling the Stories Matters
To Rodriguez, telling the stories of the New Majority entrepreneurs is critical. While a lot of ecosystem builders help underserved entrepreneurs through programs and events, we may not be doing enough if we don’t celebrate the outcomes.
“When it comes to outcomes and showcasing what they’ve been able to achieve or the awesome entrepreneurs that we have at the table, we’re not doing much of that. We’re helping the entrepreneur, but their voices are still being silenced in a way, because we’re not showcasing them as well,” says Rodriguez. “Nonprofits can only get so much money, so all that money goes into helping those entrepreneurs, but not so much in marketing and telling their stories. Without anybody marketing them or telling their story, people think, ‘Oh, those groups are just not interested or not involved in entrepreneurship and not involved in economic development.”
The benefit of showcasing New Majority entrepreneurs goes beyond marketing, according to Rodriguez. “One thing we’ve learned is that confidence building is one of the key things we need to focus on. They don’t have the confidence in themselves, so we need to focus on confidence building with them. So we’re hoping this kind of shows them that, ‘Hey, you’ve done amazing work so far. Keep it up!’”
By reaching out to and partnering with organizations that are well connected to New Majority entrepreneurs, Rodriguez has been able to identify the founders he wants to celebrate. He focuses his efforts on those who are still in business after five years.
“We want to showcase that not only are these New Majority entrepreneurs killing it when it comes to startup ideas and innovation, but they’re also killing it economically, because their businesses have survived more than five years. So they’re actually hiring people and adding back to the economic development of that city. We want to showcase that there are lots of New Majority entrepreneurs that are successful businesses. How many startups make it past the first five years? Until then, they’re likely not hiring or adding to the economic development of a city,” says Rodriguez.
Using Visual Storytelling to Showcase the New Majority Entrepreneur
Most ecosystem builders and organizations have limited capacity. Recognizing this, Rodriguez came up with a scalable process to showcase successful entrepreneurs. “We started saying, ‘All right, well, why don’t we just create a little card to congratulate them?’”
Having identified entrepreneurs through his revised outreach efforts, the next step was to collect some basic information from them, along with a headshot photo. He created a form he could send entrepreneurs to enter some basic information — like their name, company, and title — and upload their headshot photo.
The next step was to create a visual card for each entrepreneur that he showcases. For this, Rodriguez used Canva, a popular online online graphic design tool that makes creating images simple and easy. He created reusable templates in Canva, to insert the entrepreneur’s photo and information. He then exported the result as an image to be shared on social media.
If you’re not familiar with Canva, other software tools such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop can be used as well. Another alternative is to use presentation software like PowerPoint, to create slides then export those as images.
For now, social media platforms are the primary locations Rodriguez uses to showcase the entrepreneurs, primarily on the 1863 Ventures Instagram account, but also Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Rodriguez started beta testing his new campaign in February, focusing on monthly themes, initially with Black History Month. While that first month was slow getting started, the campaign really took off the following month for Women’s History Month. “We got like 40 [responses to the form] overnight. So there is an appetite, and they’re all super thankful, that ‘Oh my god! Thank you for telling our story!’”
Building on the success of those campaigns, he has continued the concept, creating visual cards to highlight cohort members of 1863 Ventures’ Pipeline Accelerator program and finalists of the Her Impact pitch competition. He also showcases presenters at 1 Million Cups. Again using an online form, he asks 1 Million Cups presenters to provide their basic information, along with a quote aimed at other entrepreneurs, and creates a card for them. Then either the team will promote it at the organizer level and the speaker is also free to promote it or retweet it however they want,” says Rogriguez.
While Rodriguez is happy with the results he’s seen with these visual cards, he has ideas to expand the approach to include more details in the visual stories. “Let’s say instead of doing them one by one, I can create a little booklet of five to do like a little mini-portfolio on Instagram,” says Rodriguez. “We create a little storybook, so that people can click right to see one or maybe five at a time. Or we tell a deeper story with different images and quotes and language for each one.”
If you’re looking for a way to showcase the diversity of entrepreneurs in your community, think about how you might be able to reshape the narrative of entrepreneurship in your community by highlighting and celebrating them. As Rodriguez says, “Why not give value and give first, and highlight these awesome people. And hopefully, when people like them see themselves reflected, they’ll think about entrepreneurship or see it as something to consider.”
“Citizens have the capacity to change the community story, to reclaim the power to name what is worth talking about, to bring a new context into being… If we can accept the idea that all real change is a shift in narrative — a new story, as opposed to the received dominant story — then the function of citizenship, or leadership, is to invite a new narrative into existence.” — Peter Block, Community, The Structure of Belonging
As ecosystem builders, we have the power to shape the narrative of entrepreneurship and economic development in our communities. Imagine if ecosystem builders everywhere used this power — leveraging social media and other Internet channels to tell the stories and show the real face of entrepreneurs. We could truly change the stories in our communities.
Check out 1863 Ventures’ Instagram feed to see examples and inspiration!
Read on for more insights on this ecosystem building topic:
- Only 34 Black Women Founders Have Raised Over $1 Million In Venture Funding
- 6 Top Tips to Help Owners Scale Their Businesses
- Moving Beyond Inclusion: An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Builder’s Imperative
Missed Connections: Know other voices that connect to this story? Link them in the comments!