by Saundra Wilson
Seed Spot’s warehouse district office space was full to the brim Friday evening as the graduates of the social entrepreneurship incubator’s first African-American boot camp pitched their ventures to a crowd of more than 100 people.
The entrepreneurs underwent more than 30 hours of training over the week-long bootcamp, diving into workshops on accounting, branding, communications, investments and legal issues.
The group, which was selected through an application process, was able to polish and develop their pitches for investors and the public in order to move their businesses forward.
John Johnson, Seed Spot’s community development manager, came up with the idea for the bootcamp and says African Americans are vastly underserved when it comes to entrepreneurship.
Only about 1 percent of venture-backed companies have an African-American founder, according to CB Insights, which aggregates and analyzes data about venture capital financings.
Black entrepreneurs may run into barriers when trying to start a business including lack of access to debt and equity capital, and lack of access to well-capitalized social networks, according to the article “Investing in Minority Entrepreneurs: An Economic Imperative for the U.S.”
The graduates of Seed Spot’s African American boot camp have ventures at various stages of the business development process with some looking for assistance with marketing, looking for members, looking for community partnerships or looking for capital.
Here’s a look at the entrepreneur’s ventures:
Community Basketball Leagues seeks to help basketball players who want a second chance at taking their game to the next level. Chief Commissioner Jamar Johnson, says the company has already acquired a 25,000-player membership database, generated over $600,000 in revenue, helped six players get professional basketball opportunities overseas, helped one player get into the NBA’s D-League, and helped eight players get college basketball opportunities. Johnson says the company is looking for sponsorships, a business and project strategist, and partnerships with advertising agencies.
Hip Hop for Higher Learning seeks to use hip hop and local hip hop artists to promote education. The company plans to put on hip hop concerts and events, raising money for educational programs. Co-founders Sowan Thai and Elaissia Sears are looking for local artists, people who have connections to the hip hop community, and people who are passionate about education.
Uncommon Thread is a socially conscious design company that brings awareness to important causes through socks. The socks will come with information cards featuring facts and statistics about the cause represented. Shaw says he is looking for partnerships and mentors in the manufacturing, nonprofit, design and fashion sectors.
Humanisee is company that seeks to bring awareness to marginalized and disenfranchised communities through video-based storytelling. Founder Patrick Traylor says the company will generate revenue by selling advertising on the back of the videos. He is looking for connections, partnerships and mentorships.
Charity Auction Trades is a platform that allows nonprofits to trade auction items to maximize their fundraising revenue at events. Founder Monia Dixon says the platform will work similar to the app Offer Up, allowing users to search for the auction items they want. She is looking for help with web development, connections to nonprofits, and then business start up resources such as marketing.
The Sisterhood Extravaganza is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering women and girls to succeed economically through programming. There’s a personal development program, a business start-up program and a youth mentorship program. Founder Pat Gillam says the organization is looking for people to become memberships and partnerships with any youth organizations who need a youth mentorship program.
Poetic Soul is an event production company that seeks to encourage and empower artists to fund their art through unique event experiences.
DiscoverHer Life Coaching is a lifestyle coaching service supporting women who are battling with childhood issues. Founder A. Margot Brisky said women will go through a four step process called the empowerment process that will help them dig deep into what is holding them back. Brisky said the company is looking for support with marketing and more relationships.
Mocha Princess AZ provides services to underserved girls between the ages of 5 and 12, providing a sisterhood a safe haven through empowerment, reading and writing workshops. The organization also provides free math tutoring services and introduction to Spanish courses. Founder Michelle Thomas says the organization is looking for mentors, sponsors and facilities to work in.
VolunteertoServe.org is a website that strives to increase volunteer numbers in the United States by targeting the non-volunteer. Founder Shawn Casher, who loves volunteering, was inspired to create the company after a Special Olympics director told him the event did not have enough volunteers. He said the organization is looking for people to register on the website and share the word.
Huttle is an online platform that allows for nonprofits to received bids and proposals from freelance professionals with skill sets that will align with their needs. Founder Nicole Harris says she is looking to work with nonprofits that generate less than a million dollars in revenue per year. The website is subscription based on Harris says more than 200 freelances have already pre-registered. She says the company is looking for more users and for referrals to nonprofits.
Pronto Park is a mobile application that would allow people to find open parking spots without having to drive back and forth through a large parking lot. Company founder Ashton McCullough says there are opportunities for revenue though in-app advertisements and parking reservations. He says the app is set to launch by 2020.
K Serenity Natural Deodorant for Kids is a company that makes kid-friendly, all-natural deodorants that are made by kids, for kids. Founder Minea Moore said the idea was sparked by her daughter’s body odor and her desire to find something natural to address the funk. Moore says the company is in the research and early development page and said she needs someone with a scientific background to help her develop the deodorant recipe and marketing and PR experts.