Visa has partnered with Black Girl Ventures to digitally enable Black- and women-owned businesses across the U.S., committing $1 million in hyperlocal grants and mentorship. In addition, the company will provide access to partners, products and marketing to help drive growth to minority-owned businesses across six cities. One of those cities is Washington, D.C.
“The pandemic has impacted small businesses everywhere, but businesses run by women and people of color have been hit disproportionately hard,” said Senior Vice President Mary Ann Reilly, head of North America marketing.
According to Reilly, nearly three-quarters, or about 71 percent, of Black female business owners said that they couldn’t survive another year under current conditions.
The program will build on the support Visa provides women-owned small businesses through its She’s Next program. The new plan will bring resources and expertise to provide entrepreneurs with tailored solutions for each city to ensure they’re meeting the specific needs of small businesses in the program.
Through this partnership with Black Girl Ventures, Visa will work with the organization to team up with local companies and influencers to reach small businesses and identify their most pressing technological needs. The businesses will also be provided with access to the products and education they need to help them thrive. Keep an eye out for a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign to encourage support for Black and female entrepreneurs.
“Supporting a Black-owned business means supporting a whole family,” said Shelly Bell, founder of Black Girl Ventures. “When Black women win, everybody wins.”
Bell went on to explain that Visa’s research has helped shape some “amazing programs designed to help succeed and navigate new challenges in the wake of the pandemic.”
What inspired Black Girl Ventures to partner with Visa? “They are uplifting and celebrating Black women through impactful programming that aligns with our mission of providing access to capital, community and capacity building for Black and brown women entrepreneurs,” said Bell.
Ehime Eigbe, founder and CEO of the local business Sweetkiwi, first heard about the program through a post on Instagram. She clicked on it and it took her to the “IFundWomen” Instagram page, where she read about the opportunity for grants and mentorship. She applied and was selected as a grantee.
Sweetkiwi makes whipped Greek frozen yogurt and protein and probiotic granola, currently on shelves at local Whole Foods stores. Eigbe moved production to D.C. because she found a “supportive community where her business could thrive.”
However, COVID has severely affected Eigbe’s revenues. “Our launch into several grocery stores were canceled and we were unable to continue offering food service options to our clients,” she said. “It was certainly a tough time for us.”
Funding is also a major issue the business faces, as well as understanding the dynamics of the industry.
Bell offered some advice to budding women entrepreneurs: “Revenue is the validator — people (generally speaking) don’t validate you.”
“Take all advice with a grain of salt — just because someone loves you and you love them does not make them a business advisor or expert,” she continued. “Even an expert could be off when it comes to advice on your vision — non-profit doesn’t mean non-revenue. Non-profit means you’re in business for the cause, not the profit, however, you still have to bring in capital to support your mission.”