We love a charitable king! It’s no secret that the multi-hyphenate Pharrell Williams is quite the philanthropist. Over the years, the Grammy-award-winning talent has supported various conservation, education, fashion, and human rights causes. In fact, most fans would agree that one of his most noteworthy efforts has been the development of the non-profit initiative Black Ambition.
Inside the non-profit
Since its inception in 2020, the Black Ambition initiative has been a beacon of advancement and hope for Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs nationwide. Many entrepreneurs face various disparities — from coaching to funding struggles — that ultimately impact the evolvement of their businesses.
Pharrell and Black Ambition CEO Felicia Hatcher have flipped the script with the non-profit’s annual prize competition, Demo Day, which allows entrepreneurs to score industry connections, financial support, mentorship, and resources. Additionally, winners receive life coaching and therapeutic workshops, which help founders build confidence and improve their pitching strategies across the board.
Black Ambition’s 2023 Demo Day
On Nov. 9, 2023, Black Ambition’s 3rd Annual Demo Day prize competition awarded entrepreneurs with over $3 million. Out of 2,000 applicants, 36 founders won prizes ranging from $20,000 to $1 million.
Antoinette Banks, CEO and founder of Expert IEP, a parent-facing app that optimizes existing Individualized Education Plans with predictive AI for children diagnosed with a disability, took home the million-dollar prize. Rounding out the top 3 prize winners is ECOMSPACES, an e-commerce solutions company winning $250,000, and HBCU $200,000 grand prize winner, Monocle, a social e-reader designed to promote a community-based reading experience.
Expert IEP CEO and Founder Antoinette Banks shares advice
Per GBH News, Black women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S. However, many of these businesses fail to mature, mainly due to financial hardship. Antoinette shared invaluable gems with fellow Black female entrepreneurs — from grant and funding resources — to help keep their businesses afloat.
“Pursue non-dilutive funding first. There are a lot of avenues that a lot of women don’t understand. If you pursue non-dilutive funding first, then you can stand on the fact that you have traction,” Antoinette told HelloBeautiful. “It doesn’t matter what investors have to say because you have a proven track and a point of record.”
Antoinette continued, “Then, I would also say to pursue SBIR grants. People don’t know too much about that. If you put research and good work into your company, like an SBIR, that’s $250,000 straight off. And no one has access to your company. Then you can say, ‘Look, I have money, proof points, I know where I’m going. Now, it’s an opportunity for you to now be involved in what I’m doing.”
Black Ambition has awarded funding and resources to over 100 prize winners, including Dosso Beauty founder Kadija Dosso in 2021. In addition, the non-profit has supported over 5,000 founders since its inception.
Congratulations to all the prize winners!
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