Browse Tag

Diversity

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Largest Black Owned Mutual Fund Secures $200 Million Investment To Scale Minority Owned Businesses

Ariel Investments, the largest Black owned mutual fund, is launching a private investment firm, Ariel Alternatives, which will initially focus on funding and scaling minority-owned businesses. The move into private investments is a first in the company’s 38 year history.

Ariel Investments co-CEO Mellody Hobson along with Leslie Brun are the co-founders of Ariel Alternatives. Mr. Brun, an Ariel board member and founder of the investment firm, Hamilton Lane, will be its chairman and CEO and will lead the first initiative of Ariel Alternatives called “Project Black.”

The new fund, which has secured $200 million in initial funding from JPMorgan Chase, plans to invest in minority owned businesses and non minority owned businesses that will serve as leading suppliers to Fortune 500 companies.

The firm plans to infuse the non minority owned businesses with the capital and minority executive talent needed to qualify as a certified minority business. In order to qualify as a certified minority business, suppliers must be at least 51% minority owned, managed, and controlled, according to standards established by the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

According to Brun, Project Black aims to fill a massive diversity gap in the corporate America supply chain. Fortune 500 companies spend about 2% annually on minority-owned suppliers, well short of the 10% to 15% spending goals many corporations set last year.

Despite “announcements and pronouncements” by corporations about increasing the amount they spend with minority-owned suppliers, many have difficulty finding those with enough capacity to meet their needs, Brun said.

“We’re intending to create those minority suppliers of scale, in concert with our Fortune 500 relationships, to provide the solution to their issue, as well as create the opportunity for us to then leverage that into the social impact initiatives that we have,” he aded.

According to a release announcing the fund, “Project Black will forge a new class of Black and Latinx entrepreneurs. The initiative will seek to position these companies as leading suppliers to Fortune 500 companies — supporting supply chain diversity.”

Project Black plans to focus predominately on health care, industrial, media and marketing, outsourcing, manufacturing and packaging, technology, transportation and logistics, and financial and professional services.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Young Couple Creates Culturally Inclusive Toys because Representation Matters

Matthew and Marnel are the parents of three children (all under the age of five) who love puzzles!

Frustrated with the lack of diverse images shown on commercially-produced puzzles, they created Puzzle Huddle,  a business that offers pocket sized puzzles for children and toddlers.

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Marnel and Matthew

We spoke to Matthew to find out more about the business, future plans and balancing parenthood and entrepreneurship.

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What is the most rewarding thing about your entrepreneurial journey so far?

I absolutely love being able to provide a product that parents trust in their homes in front of their children.

I regularly hear feedback from parents about children opening our products and exclaiming “it looks like me”. Being able to add a layer of cultural affirmation and inspiration in the lives of children is extremely rewarding.

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Most of my high school and college classmates now have young children. There’s an extreme emotional reward sending products to parents that I knew back when academics and social events where our priorities.

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What is the most challenging part of the journey?

The most challenging part of the journey is balancing business and the commitment to be very present in interactions with my children and spouse.
 

How do you balance being parent and a business owner?

Attempting to balance parenting and business is a process that I challenge myself on everyday. Children are impressively uninterested in their parents business priorities.

They very easily disrupt any business related multitasking to make themselves the priority of the moment. 100% of the time, interacting with my children is more fun and fulfilling than responding to an email

Where do you see the business in 5 years?

I expect the products to eventually become a standard for children at home and in schools.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Fall in love with process, both the successes and challenges. Also anchor your happiness, self confidence, and self esteem in something other than your business.

-Tony O. Lawson


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TONL Creates Stock Photos That Reflect Global Diversity

As someone who regularly looks for stock photos to use for different articles, I know all too well that quality images that reflect the diversity of Black experience.

Enter TONL, a stock photography company that showcases the many ethnic backgrounds of every day people.

We caught up with co-founder, Karen Okonkwo to find out more about the business. This is what she had to say:

TONL founders: Karen Okonkwo and Joshua Kissi
SB: What inspired the creation of TONL?

KO: TONL was initially inspired by my realization that there was a lack of culturally diverse images online when I was running a separate online business and I needed images.

I couldn’t find images of anyone outside of the white race.

SB: How did you and your co-founder connect for this project?

KO: I was well aware of Joshua’s talents through his girlfriend and my friend, Mekdes Mersha. I approached her about the idea and asked her if I should connect with Josh about the idea.
She endorsed it and so I reached out to Joshua and that is how we started the initial dialogue on the business.
stock images
Joshua and Mekdes

SB: Why is representation important?

KO: Representation matters because people need to see themselves in order to feel like they are welcomed and that they belong.
When one race is pushed in media, it doesn’t send the message of inclusion and subconsciously makes other races feel inferior.

SB: What factors do you feel will make TONL a successful stock photo company?

KO: TONL is of the times. We position ourselves in front of current waves so we are appealing to the general public and our target audience.

We achieve this through our more modern looking images, our voice on social media and the personal appearances we make to deeply connect with the consumer.

SB:Where do you see the business in 5 years

KO: In 5 years I see TONL as the premiere, diverse stock photography business. We will be the go-to for all people and businesses looking to showcase more diversity in their media

SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

KO: Know your ‘why’ and make sure it’s strong. It will get you through the inevitable low points of building a business. Your why will keep you results-focused rather than process-oriented.

When you’re process-oriented, you care about all the little steps along the way that it often discourages you. Start each day with the end goal in mind.

Find more TONL images on their website.
-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson aka @thebusyafrican
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Husani Oakley of Goldbean speaks Candidly about the Need for Diversity in Tech & More

Husani Oakley is the Chief Technology Officer at GoldBean, an online investing platform that helps people start their investment journey with companies and brands they love, know, and buy.

This week, he will soon be joining technologists and community leaders at the White House to discuss the Obama Administration’s TechHire initiative, and how we can continue to work towards a more inclusive workforce after “he-who-shall-not-be-named” takes office.

I caught up with him to discuss his work at Goldbean and the issue of diversity in the tech industry. This is what he had to say:

SB: You’ve been dubbed a Technologist. What does that mean to you and how did you develop an interest in technology?

HSO: As nerdy as it sounds, my technology interest came from being seriously into Star Trek as a child. My friends, who were also into Trek, wanted to be Captain Kirk, but I wanted to be Scotty. I liked being the person with his hands on the keys, on the buttons making things work.

SB: Goldbean is a tool that helps people learn about investing. Why do think there’s this idea in the Black community that investing in stocks is hard?

HSO: I think the resistance of people in the Black community to being a stock investor comes mainly from being unfamiliar with the terminology. When you make a Goldbean account, you plug in your bank account details and we pull your transactions and we analyze where you spend your money.

Then, we are able to put together a recommended profile for you that includes companies that you know. You might not know what a P/E ratio is, but you certainly know Nike versus Adidas, you know Whole Foods versus Trader Joe’s. We’re trying to show people that this stuff is easy to learn.

Imagine if, right when the iPhone was launched, you saw that suddenly, all of your friends were buying iPhones. That might’ve given you an indication that maybe Apple is an interesting investment target for you as an investor. We want to help people grasp that you can participate in this economy as more than just a consumer.

SB: What is the target demographic for your product?

Husani: Our average age is 29, we have a 50/50 split, male-female, which is great, and the average deposit in an investment account is about $4000. We’re actively talking to young people, particularly women and particularly people of color. The underserved groups who the large financial institutions, frankly, don’t give a shit about.

SB: In terms of diversity in tech, do you see things getting better?

Husani: I think it is getting better, if getting better is defined as the number of people who are not straight, white dudes who are in the field. If you look at the big brand names and look at their diversity reports, it’s fucking awful.

Facebook has two Black designers globally. It’s insulting and ridiculous, but I don’t look at diversity in tech on that level because tech is so much more than Google, Facebook and Apple.

There’s hundreds of thousands of startups alone on the East Coast of the US. We’ve got to count for something in terms of diversity in tech. Everyone at the large companies seems to use the excuse of the pipeline. “It’s a pipeline problem, there aren’t enough applicants.” Of course there aren’t, you’re only looking at Stanford. Have you been to Howard?

Have you been to Morehouse? Did you send your senior engineers to sit there and talk? Do you give money to these computer science programs? No, of course you don’t. So don’t blame the pipeline when you’re not doing shit about it.

SB: Well, damn. Tell us how you really feel.

Husani: I’m just the kind of guy who says this stuff. I’ve been in this field for 20 years and I’m senior enough to not give a shit what anybody actually thinks.  You can’t blame the pipeline and then not do anything for real to solve what you blamed. You can find women, and you can find Black people, and you can find gay people. We’re out here, we’re all everywhere.

I really do think it’s getting better, if only because there are so many interesting startups doing really interesting things, and I see more and more people of color realizing there’s an opportunity here, whatever here means. AirBnB is a great example of, “All of your people are racist bastards? Ok, we’ll just start our own.”

That’s what I love about this country, the ability to say, “Screw you guys. I’m going to to make my own thing and I’m going to put social progressivism in the DNA of my startup.”

It strikes me as so obvious. It’s a blind spot. If we can walk on the moon and make self-driving cars, we can hire some Black people.

 

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson

 

 

 

 

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Introducing INNERACT PROJECT: Educating the Next Generation of Design Gurus

Everyone knows there is a huge diversity gap in design and tech fields. What is important to note is that there is very little work being done with underserved youth at a young age to help prepare them and to combat this disparity.

Therefore, exposure at a young age is essential. My goal with Inneract Project is to provide minority parents from underserved communities with valuable opportunities for their kids to enter design fields.

10314548_10152135114198262_8797767453158308380_nI am dedicated to making sure kids (particularly underserved minority youth) get the best chance in life to be successful. This is REALLY important to me.

ip_ads_collectionI was raised in Richmond, California, where, like most young people in urban communities across the nation, I was primarily exposed to sports and music. I ran into design via a scholarship to play college ball but not every kid in the community will get this opportunity.

While I was in college, I randomly picked design as a major. This was because I liked to draw when I was a kid. Through this random act, I was exposed to a new world. I think every kid in the community deserves to know about design.

There are a TON of career options for youth in these fields. I work in the Bay Area where design is an important skill in the tech industry. Design careers are in demand, and as a result, pay well.

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Creative fields are projected to be one of the most promising new opportunities for employees over the next 7 years. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Design in Context

In today’s world, design is all around us – logos, architecture, furniture, packaging, websites, technology, fashion, and endless other places. Even so, few people really understand what design is.

Design “process” encourages creativity and innovation, which drives our global marketplace. It takes into account; function, human values, social conditions and aesthetics. It makes our lives efficient, informed, sustainable, and more productive.

It is deeply embedded into our culture and is used to move our nation forward. Yet, it is a missing piece in K-12 education and most underserved communities have little knowledge of its existence.

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Inneract Project is trying to change this. We know from studies that academic achievement by 8th grade is one of the largest predictors of college readiness.

We want to start working with young minority students at an early age, to give them the proper exposure, education and preparation to enter fields in design.photoIn 2015, only 6% of African American graduates received Art/Design bachelor’s degrees from U.S. degree granting institutions. (Higher Education Arts Data Services (HEADS)

As our nation focuses more on innovation, we must educate our youth on what design can offer and develop their problem-solving skills to prepare them for jobs that meet the needs of our changing world.

We must also educate parents and the broader community so they can support this new generation of design thinkers. We believe parents are the key and invite them to not only sign their kids up for our classes and workshops but pass the word around, be involved, and help us build a network of parents dedicated to improving the quality of life and future for our young people.

1098153_10152118967653262_4630090921166282862_nWe are working on an expansion model, testing Inneract Project programs in other cities as well as entrepreneurship for youth. We are empowering them through design and providing opportunities for them to create products that they believe the world needs.

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About Maurice Woods:

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Maurice Woods is the Executive Director/Founder of the Inneract Project (IP). Maurice graduated from the University of Washington with a BFA and MFA in Visual Communication Design. He played basketball as an undergraduate and professionally worldwide for 7 years. Since graduating, he has taught undergraduate and graduate level courses at multiple colleges, lectured nationally and internationally and contributed to various media outlets including the Wall Street Journal.

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Maurice served as Co-Chair of Education for the AIGA San Francisco and nationally as a Board of Advisor for the Diversity Archive Collection Exhibition. Currently he sits on the board for Design Ignites Change. Professionally, Maurice worked as a designer at the world’s largest independent design consultancy, Pentagram Design. He designed extensive identity, retail, exhibit and interactive programs for clients such as Nike, Greyhound, Symantec, Priceline.com, and Google. He has won multiple design awards, featured in publications and is also a Jefferson Award winner. He currently works as a Experience Design lead at Yahoo.

If you’re looking for a Retail Design Agency to help you with the launch of a product or with a company campaign, consider checking out Mynt.

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For specific questions or to get involved to help our mission, email us at info@inneractproject.org. We are currently looking for fundraising board members.

 

Contact Inneract Project on Social media:

website: inneractproject.org

facebook: inneractproject

twitter: @InneractProject

– By Guest Contributor: Maurice Woods