Being pro-Black in a startup ecosystem has its challenges. The startup ecosystem is a vast area where entrepreneurs run wild but it is still very much controlled by the White male. Diversity and inclusion initiatives exist but conformity is expected. Conformity can hinder these initiatives and make them a huge waste of effort. This is not to say being Pro-Black in entrepreneurship is the opposite of conformity. However, it does put us in a realm where we much know the pro and the cons to insure business success.
What is pro-Black?
First and foremost, we have to establish what pro-Black means in society. To those under the moniker, we know that it’s a point in which we seek to gain knowledge and increase the opportunities of Black people. For others, it’s seen as anti-White. We hear the narrative often in reference to the need for “white history month” or “historically white colleges and universities” to offset certain privileges Black people have. This notion negates that these “privileges” were only instituted because of the lack of inclusion.
People have to understand that pro-Black isn’t anti-anything and it’s nothing more than having pride in our culture and wishing to see prosperity for our ethnicity. Being pro-Black does not mean exclusion of other ethnic groups. It means strategically planning to uplift our ethnic group. You don’t have to be Black to be pro-Black because it’s not a war of the races. It’s assisting the disadvantage to grow cultural awareness. If your startup ecosystem understands that, you are doing better than more cities.
One major advantage of being pro-Black in your entrepreneurship is that you can more easily align with like-minded individuals that understand the cause. Your business itself may not be Black-centric but you may seek pro-Black organizations for assistance, networking, and community. Having a face and a prospective like your own in your circle will help your success as you are less likely to feel alone. Community is a huge need in any startup ecosystem.
The potential of a niche client base can also be helpful. Many are on board with the #buyblack initiatives and working towards #BlackWallStreet by signing up to beta test and otherwise assist in product development and customer discovery. The support system in this case is largely social and will lend itself to growing a fanbase for your business to turn into customers.
Bigotry. Let’s be real. It exists. We have to navigate it everyday and sometimes we end up on the short end of the notion. Being that startup ecosystems are still heavily dominated by white men, you are at a disadvantage by just being Black, much less showing up to an angel investor meeting with a fist afro pick. Statistically, venture capitalists and investors, invest in those that look like them and Black-owned firms represent less than 2% of firms nationwide. Funding will likely be harder to obtain.
Lack of understanding the needs of Black-owned businesses is also a deterrent. The approach of a startup with the exact same business model will have different outcomes with a Black founder at the helm. The startup ecosystem has to recognize and nurture that across many cultures to actually impact diversity. This one isn’t even just a Black problem. It’s a people of color problem. Asian and Hispanic culture have these issues in some ecosystems. Taking a moment to think outside of the lines of color could assist but we are still far behind the inclusion we need.
As a pro black entrepreneur, you don’t have to compromise to get around disadvantages. There is little you can do to change your skin color. Capitalize on the advantages to grow your business and your community. If you shy away from it, so will others. Shine bright, and so will others. Ultimately, being pro-Black in a startup ecosystem will only grow diversity as faces like ours see it is truly possible to be an entrepreneur.