To celebrate the passing of Juneteenth, non-profit Impact Ventures offered a screening of Boss: The Black Experience In America, where panelists discussed the value of Black capital and investing in Black business.
A Word From The Panelists
Owner and co-founder of AlgoPear [a trading company that focuses on auto-pilot investing using bots that evaluate the marketplace, execute trades and manage your portfolio to increase profits] Ronnie Green stated that what brought him out to the screening [aside from being a panelist], is being able to tell people his story of success and inspire others. To show them that they can build a successful business regardless of the trials they may face.
“I want to be able to tell my story, my experience and hopefully inspire new entrepreneurs to find the hope that they can build a successful business regardless of all the roadblocks they are facing in this country,” Green said.
Green’s path to business success began when he was in college and initially started stock trading, while also playing football.
He finds what Benjamin Vann is doing [putting a panel discussion together] to be beneficial in passing down information gained through experiences and knowledge that can’t be acquired through school. He feels it’s beneficial for Black entrepreneurs to speak with those who are already implemented in the world of business and execute it in their daily lives to succeed. Green states he finds that to him, Generation Z has been able to use platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram where they can have a voice and brand without paying for traditional advertising like billboard space and radio time. He feels they can garner information about the Dallas resources available to them that they as entrepreneurs may be unaware of.
“I think that they can really benefit from learning about tools and resources in Dallas or in their local communities and use them because a lot of the times, entrepreneurs don’t know that these resources are available because we’re not well connected and we don’t have the resources. So just them coming and learning about what they can do to apply to business and help them gain value is super important,” Green said.
Taylor Shead, founder of STEMuli, [an educational metaverse which was founded in 2016 by her and her co-founder Wade Aston], stated that she was happy to be a part of an event where they celebrate the Black experience in the business. She stated that she finds events like this screening to be particularly important given the impact of the media on how Black adults and young kids see themselves becoming. She believes it’s important for the Black community to tell their own story rather than relying on news publications and media entertainment. Rather, focus on how we can support each other.
“I hope to show the next generation [Generation Z] that they can build technology, specifically technology that the world needs, wants and loves,” Shead said.
As for the importance of investing in the Black capital and market, Shead stated that regarding the Black community, there is an innovation that being closest to a problem can help make you the closest to the solution. It’s also essential to offer that capital funding to offer the Black community the chance to have money work for them as opposed to just getting by.
“I would say that my number one goal is equipping the next generation with the knowledge of how to get access to capital so that they can share the capital,” Shead.
Benjamin Vann, the owner of Impact Ventures, who put the screening and panel discussion together stated that investment in the Black enterprise to him that people have access to the Black enterprise because it makes sure young people can have an opportunity to look up to and aspire to be something.
“If we don’t invest in it (Black enterprise and business), where you know what happens to our community where we provide such a valuable piece of the culture. Black culture is steeped in our DNA, it’s on everything from music to sports, to politics to everything and so, you know, if we don’t invest in the Black community enterprise, you know, we all suffer as a community and hope,” Vann.
Vann finds events like the screening to be significant in the communal nature that it forms for Black people. It creates a scenario where people can be brought together and celebrate all aspects of what success looks like in the Black community. Both for young people and for our elders to celebrate and how they paved the way for our future.
“Our history isn’t always taught the right way in our school systems, you know, it’s typically taught from a different point of view. So these are opportunities to tell us the stories in our own way in the way that we see,” Vann said.
As for what Juneteenth means to him, Vann stated that for Texas, the holiday is a time of remembrance that we should use to move us forward. He stated that to him, social justice with no economic justice is wasted labor.
“That’s why we want to tell the importance of Black Enterprise, on Juneteenth to show that these are people that are truly free. They own their own narrative, they own their own future, and they’re being put in a position that they can put others in a position to own their own future,” Vann said.
The Boss: Black Experience in America Panel
Featuring Green, Shead, Impact Ventures owner Benjamin Vann and Ahmad Goree (who is chief of Marketing and Outreach Division and public information officer for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Dallas division), the panel began with a discussion of what advice business owners on the panel had to offer regarding raising capital, Ahmad Goree, who suggested the SBA’s [Small Business Associations], explaining that via the SBA they [business owners] can be set up with business advisors and mentors who are capable of assessing the needs of your business and where it needs to go as well as what options are out Shead stated that for her, the advice she offers is to share is for people to ask what each business owner [as an individual] needs.
“No two businesses need the same thing,” Shead said.
Business owners also shared their success and advice regarding raising the capitol. Shead suggested focusing less on capital and more on building up revenue.
“I’ve seen the gamut of opportunities to get capital and it hasn’t worked. I was lucky enough to get a SBA [Small Business Association] loan, but that was because I had a million dollars in revenue,” Shead said.
Regarding research and development, Green stated that part of his process was speaking to engineers and learning about how to build stock. For Shead, what helped her was her volunteer work with DISD over time. Her work with them allowed her (when the pandemic hit in 2020) to communicate with them and ask what they needed from her. She was eventually asked to help create something that could make school fun for students, which led to a pivot in her business. Her advice is that regardless of what others may be saying, to follow the voice inside you telling you to go with what business plan works best.
“I had to advocate for myself and advocate for the kids. Despite the fact that I had CEOs telling me that I was going to fail, you
have to believe in yourself. You have to kind of like just go with it. You’re going to have to keep going,” she said.
Boss: The Black Experience in Business
A PBS documentary that originally aired in 2019 and was directed by Stanley Nelson, Boss: The Black Experience in Business, featured an account from both historians and the first-hand account of Black business owners and their experience. One of these accounts was Ursula Burns, former CEO of the Xerox company. Burns came into the job at Xerox at a summer intern while in college, a place where she was, by her own account, in every visible way a minority. There are also interviews with the descendant of journalist and activist Ida B. Wells and business owner Madame C.J. Walker (Aleliah Bundles). The documentary also discussed the intensity of racism Black business owners faced from the massacre of Black Wall Street to JET and Ebony magazine founder John H. Johnson disguising himself to buy buildings from white owners. The documentary also highlighted how Black business has progressed today, with business owners today like Jay Z (with his founding of both Rocawear clothing (which was sold for $204 million) and the Tidal streaming service), Sean “P.Diddy,” Combs (with Sean John clothing, which accumulated $200 million in sales within two years) and Dr.Dre, who sold Beats for $3.2 billion. At the end of the documentary, they state that Americans desire innovation and new ideas, which is what Black people have long offered.
“What Americans want are new ideas, innovativeness, and that is what black people have been doing all along. So, I think it will be positive for black Americans in a way that it hasn’t been before. We have always moved forward because of successful black entrepreneurs. So, all we need to do to know that we’re gonna be fine is look over our shoulders.”