After an unexpected layoff in April 2014, Mutale Nkonde was feeling desperate. She had always wanted to start her own business but was afraid that she couldn’t because she didn’t have the start-up capital. After working with a credit counselor, she raised her credit score to be approved for a $10,000 business loan.
She founded and launched Year of the Black Woman in January 2015— an initiative which includes 365 online and in-person events to support the wealth creation of Black and Latina women. This is under the umbrella of her company Nkonde & Associates, an educational consultancy firm with a mission to increase the participation of Black and Latinas in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in the innovation economy.
Nkonde’s approach to building black wealth is different than the conventional wisdom of encouraging entrepreneurship; largely because data shows that entrepreneurship may be a necessary but insufficient factor for amassing immense wealth for women of color: Black women create businesses at a rate six times the national average yet, on average make $47,000 in revenue annually, the lowest amount across race and gender. Also, of the 335,000 black millionaires in the United States, only 15% are black women.
Instead of following the path of bootstrapping and self-employment until retirement, Nkonde is advocating for black women and Latinas to think bigger. She believes that this demographic needs to build tech companies and exit them through acquisition or intial public offering (IPO).
She believes that technology is the ultimate wealth equalizer.
Currently, black women are woefully underrepresented in the tech start-up world which has become synonymous with being white, male, and under thirty years old.
And it is not a lack of creativity or hard work that keeps Black and Latina women from reaping the financial and social benefits of multi-million dollars payouts; it’s an issue of inclusion and access.
Black women are chronically out of the loop when it comes to understanding the venture capital world.
Kathryn Finney, a brown girl angel investor and founder of digitalundivided is working hard to bridge this information and capital gap. digitalundivided actively works to “disrupt pattern-matching in tech by identifying, training and supporting high performing black women founders of tech enabled companies.” Before helping digitalundivided’s FOCUS Fellows raise over $10MM in Angel/Venture funding, she successful sold her blog The Budget Fashionista for a premium.
This concept of owning a tech company can be very esoteric for the average black woman business owner with an online presence. The average brown girl, independent of their digital presence, may see a disconnect between the businesses that they own and their working definition of what tech companies are. It is refreshing to know that tech companies go beyond the likes of Apple, Uber, and Microsoft, software development, apps, and coding.
Black and Latina leaders of tech companies span to include bloggers, online retailers, tech reporters, educators, and founders of socially conscious brands.
Women like Nkonde and Finney are needed resources and thought leaders for galvanizing the next generation of black female tech millionaires. They are shifting black women’s consciousness and understanding what wealth can actually look like for us in the digital space and sharing the blueprint for how to achieve it.
The possibilities are both lucrative and endless