An Asset-Based Approach to Launching, Scaling and Exiting as a Black Woman Founder
Jewel Burks Solomon is Managing Partner at Collab Capital, an early-stage venture capital fund she launched to close the funding gap for Black entrepreneurs. Prior to leading Collab Capital, Jewel was Head of Google for Startups US, where she created initiatives that deployed over $30M in non-dilutive capital to Black and Latino-led businesses since 2020.
Much has been written about the dismal funding numbers plaguing Black women founders. I won’t waste words recounting those here, as the constant focus on what we don’t have and who is not supporting us can be detrimental to our forward progress. Instead, I want to focus this post on the assets we have as a community and on those that have been made available to us by organizations that understand our value as entrepreneurs and our buying power as consumers.
Making a decision to adopt an asset-based mindset is easier said than done. However, I’d argue it is a requirement to reach success as an entrepreneur. Things shifted for me in my entrepreneurial journey when I realized that my vision, ability to bring that vision to life, and the gift of rallying a team around the vision was all incredibly valuable. When I realized this value, I shifted my mind from dwelling on the areas where I was lacking (i.e. funding, connections, etc.) and focused on my areas of strength.
As you embark on your entrepreneurial journey, it’s important to begin with an assessment of what you already have. Perhaps you are a subject matter expert who has leveraged your years of experience to solve a problem that has plagued your industry for years. Or maybe you are a people person who has never met a stranger you couldn’t talk to and can sell anything. Tap into these gifts, amplify them, and think about ways to leverage them to attract the people who can be your compliment. Beginning with confidence in the areas where you are strong is like making your bed in the morning - starting with an accomplishment helps everything go better.
Once you’ve identified your existing assets, you can now begin to catalog the areas where you have gaps or will need support. Determine the areas where you’ll need support and begin to think about the people you know who may be able to help you plug the gaps you’ve identified. I find that many people underestimate their network and assume they don’t know the right people. You’d be surprised by how many people you’ve come across in your life and their capacity to help. For example, when I started my company, Partpic, I didn’t have family members who could write a check to support my business. However, my mother did have clients who had seen me grow up and had the capacity to support me with my first angel checks. Identifying people who can vouch for you and could make meaningful introductions, barter services, etc. is very important when you’re first starting out.
As you identify the people, organizations and partnerships that can provide support, it’s important to get to the crux of your business. I’ve noticed that many entrepreneurs are afraid to make money. They spend so much time in the planning phases and then tense up when it comes to charging customers. The purpose of business is to make money, so it’s important to orient your goals and focus on generating revenue and becoming profitable. You do this by providing value to customers and requiring them to pay for the value you’ve given them.
Something that may also help you in your pursuit of growing revenue and scaling your business is to spend time envisioning the ultimate end state for your business. Do you envision yourself ringing the Nasdaq Bell because you’ve taken your company public? Do you see yourself retiring on a beach while your business generates passive income indefinitely? The vision you see for yourself and your business at the end of the day should inform how you choose to grow and scale it. If you see yourself maintaining a high level of ownership and maintaining complete control, you shouldn’t worry about pitching venture capital investors. If you believe there is a clear path to $100M in annual revenue in the next 7 years and you’re totally fine giving up substantial chunks of equity in your business to get there, then perhaps finding aligned VC investors is appropriate for your business. Starting with the perspective that you should build the business that you want to build in service of the dreams that you have for your life is in line with an asset-based mindset.
As you go deeper into your entrepreneurial journey, there will be many times when it is difficult, lonely, and may even feel impossible. Ground yourself in knowing that everything you need to be successful is in reach. Beginning with the premise that you currently have, or can find what you need, to make your business work, is a powerful position to sit in and a much better place to begin than where business media would have you believe you sit. Then start with what you have to put yourself in the power seat which will make you much more attractive to capital sources like investors, grants, and competitions. And speaking of competitions, for the past 3 years, The Startup Collective by Aveeno® has provided $100,000 in non-dilutive capital to one first prize winner, and $50,000 to the 2nd place winner. This is a great opportunity for Black female-identifying owned beauty brands to get capital, support and awareness for their business.