Adeola Adejobi, founder, Women of Color and Capital Conference (WOCXC).
First of all, if you want to follow your own dreams, never give a hater a second thought.
When Adeola first set out to create the Women of Color and Capital Conference (WOCXC), some companies didn’t think there was a market, but she knew that was a racist lie. Naysayers and those who didn’t want to invest in her idea were basically saying that Black women, with some of the highest disposable income in the nation and the largest group of new business owners across the globe, didn’t have a need or interest to learn about investing, how to get funded as founders, and how to an invest in businesses.
She knew, from talking to her network through her company Avant Garde, that her friends, fellow attorneys, university alum and business people were interested. She also knew of the significant wealth and racial and gender gap, and her idea for a conference would address it by putting Black women founders in the room with those who don’t just talk about investing, but who write checks. She dubbed it “The money conference” and hasn’t looked back since its debut in 2019.
The Women of Color and Capital Conference teaches participants about important foundations of building generational wealth. Fifty-nine percent of Black and 49% of Latinx women have never invested; this is one of the biggest barriers to growing wealth. Many become investors by default by using their company’s 401k, or choose to go the property route by investing in real estate. (Oh yeah, founder of this conference Adeola created the largest real estate conference in the nation for Black women, too–the next Diversity In Commercial Real Estate Conference is set for July 27-29, 2023).
With inflation at 8%, there is no better time than now to take heed of any targeted resource to help build wealth. Much of the information shared on the panels of strategic wealth and estate planners is timely and vital–by the time you need it, it’s too late. Many of the participants who shared their expert knowledge discussed some economic challenges facing Black communities. “Black households only have 14% of the wealth of white households,” says Lori Anne Douglass, Trusts & Estates Counsel, Partner, Douglass Rademacher LLP. “It’s not a surprise; systems for Building generational wealth were not designed for Blacks. In other communities when an older person dies, younger person gets rich, in our community, families get more poor.”
Lanre Oladipo, the Founder & CEO of Oladipo Wealth Management, a Financial Planning and Wealth Management firm in New York City, expounds, “Ninety percent of Black people don’t inherit money from their parents. If they do it’s $100,000 and it doesn’t go past the next generation.”
“In spite of institutional and systemic racism there are things we can do today,” he adds. “Invest in the stock market, get life insurance and do estate planning.” The fear of estate planning for many is real. The push back is usually, “I don’t understand the market,” says Shakira Mason Holloway, Market Director of Wealth, J.P. Morgan. “We go to the doctor and we don’t know what or why. We eat and we don’t know what’s in it. But when it comes to money we pause because we don’t know. Go see our financial doctor because that’s just what we do. We need to change the culture. Get an advisor. Write your vision and make it plain. For 30 days write down every dollar you spend. You really do have the money to invest in you.”
Here’s some questions to ask yourself and it builds off of what Shakira Mason Holloway said about doing your financial audit. Where are you today? Where are you headed? How do you find out? What type of founder do you want to be? Lola Banjo, founder of Silver & Riley, a premier luxury travel and fashion leather goods brand made exquisitely in Italy was a memorable figure from the panel on scaling your business. But she says something many entrepreneurs wouldn’t; if you want to scale a business it’s important to work in Corporate America first. “I don’t consider myself a small business, I’m building an enterprise,” says Lola, who is also a Corporate Strategy Executive at Salesforce and a venture investor. “Be the woman that you dream of being. Walk like her, and the world will adapt to you as such.”
Could the power of funding the next generation of successful Black women-owned businesses be in your hands? If you want to be a quadruple threat like Lola Banjo: A Black woman, business-owner, corporate boss, and investor, then you would have loved the multiple panels of Black women who actually write checks in the millions to Black women owned businesses.
“We do better in VC than white men,” says Ekwutozia Nwabuzor, Counsel at Lowenstien Sandler, LLP, referring to venture capital. “Our returns are better. So we need to talk about that data.”
So how can you get $1 million wired to your business? “We have an open process at Kapor,” notes Uriridiakoghene Onovakpuri, a Managing Partner at Kapor Capital where she is focused on sourcing investment opportunities.
So what does it take to be a venture investor today and fund the next big idea? “In order to be an investor you have to have the desire, and willingness to take risks, be patient and be a great loser,”says Efe Ukala, the founder of ImpactHER, an impact driven organization that focuses on bridging the financing gap for women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa through investor readiness training, mentorship, market access, and other support.
You need to invest time to invest in self – study by using the following methods: Shadow someone–reach out to one of the women interviewed in this article. Practice investing in a business by writing a small check, then pay attention to how the business is performing. Make sure you have some skills to add to the business, or get some.
“Get with a group of like-minded people to share resources. Read investor memos. Eventually, pool your resources together to invest,” shares Nneka Ukpai, the Head of Financial Innovation at Better, where she advises the tech unicorn on business and legal strategy, new products, and financial inclusion. Nneka Ukpai also built the Better Opportunity Fund, Better’s nonprofit arm focused on closing the racial wealth gap, and Better Labs, a hybrid startup studio and venture firm.
Another panelist, Denisha Kalore, suggests joining a scout program to link with a VC firm. She also recommends reading the book, “The Psychology of Money.” She is the founder and CEO of Stan, a fan engagement startup helping artists power the fan experiences of the future and has worked with startups in her previous roles.
The most important thing is to invest in your relationships, which is how all of the amazing women who paneled at the Women of Color and Capital and Conference got to where they are today. “Networking is power. Capital is relationship driven. This conference is about connecting and money,” Adeola confirms.
You’ll need advice from people who have been there, done that, or know people who have. You need to make it a point to be to tap in for next year. Don’t miss the opportunity to be in the room with the people investing in the generational wealth of Black women today.
Author Helese Smauldon can be found at https://www.linkedin.com/in/helesesmauldon/. When not writing, she mentors new sales development representatives and other underrepresented (Black) people in tech. She eventually wants to be one of those check writers to fund new Black-women owned businesses.