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Game-Changing Founders of Color Annual List, 2020-21

SOCAP Global December 15, 2020

SPECTRUM and SOCAP are excited to announce the second annual Game-Changing Founders of Color cohort. Launched in 2019, Game-Changing Founders of Color highlights 20 dynamic leaders on the frontlines of innovation, moving with bold purpose and driving change. In partnership with KTC, an Atlanta-based public relations agency, Prudential Financial and the W.K.Kellogg Foundation, SOCAP conducted open nominations for our 2020-21 cohort, receiving 166 submissions up from 78 submissions in 2019, across eight categories: Art, Culture, and Creative; Climate Action; COVID-19 Innovation; Early Stage/Startups; Education; Health and Wellness; Social Impact and Technology.

2020 has been full of challenges. From the pandemic to racial injustices to political and economic uncertainties, this year has shone a powerful light on the cracks and gaps in our systems, revealing the horrific toll of unchecked disparities that affect communities of color. Entrepreneurs of color are at the center of action around the complex social and economic needs crippling America. Despite not having the same level of access to funding, resources, and networks as their white peers, they are building some of the most dynamic organizations that solve the problems and challenges within their communities and beyond.  More is needed by the impact economy to support, fund and invest in these game-changers as they reshape systems, shift outdated narratives and build the future they want to see for their communities and the next generation. 

Join us in celebrating this year’s cohort of  20 Game-Changing Founders of Color, learning about their work and how to support it.  From large, well-established companies, to small, outstanding startups, these founders are meeting this unprecedented moment in time with fresh thinking and innovative ideas that are transforming industries, reshaping society, and moving the world forward. 

Meet the Game-Changers of 2020-21!


Bem Joiner

Founder & Creative Culture Curator, ATLANTA INFLUENCES EVERYTHING, LLC

Atlanta, GA 

ATL Influences Everything 

Category: Arts and Culture  

What is the issue you are solving for? 

How to use cultural/social capital as a tool of community engagement and economic development.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

Fulfillment help with our retail component as well as physical offices/retail/event space.

How do you measure the impact of your work?

By capturing data and content that will show the value of cultural/corporate/civic collaboration.

What is the best piece of advice that you have received that you would share with other founders?

Any of Nipsey Hussle’s quotes from the interview clips on his Mailbox Money album.

TWITTER///LINKEDIN///INSTAGRAM


Bree Jones

Founder & Executive Director, PARITY HOMES

Baltimore, MD

Development without Displacement 

Category: Housing 

What is the issue you are solving for? 

Parity creates demand for housing on mostly-abandoned blocks and neighborhoods by tapping into a growing yet overlooked demographic of Black Americans that are seeking affordable homeownership opportunities in culturally relevant and historically Black spaces. Parity takes extra steps to prevent displacement of legacy residents by connecting them with critical resources.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

I’m seeking decolonized philanthropists to help repair the harm done in Black neighborhoods.

What is the best piece of advice that you have received that you would share with other founders?

Don’t self-impose limitations on your ability to do great work because of imposter syndrome.

What’s the origin story of your business? 

I founded Parity as a response to the gentrification I was experiencing in my hometown.

LINKEDIN///INSTAGRAM


Dune Lankard 

Founder & CEO, NATIVE CONSERVANCY

Anchorage, AK

Preserving Culture, Restoring Habitat, and Creating a Regenerative Economy

Category: Environmental Justice

What is the issue you are solving for? 

How Native communities in Alaska can restore ocean habitat impacted by the Exxon Valdez oil spill; recover ancestral traditions and local economies; and adapt to climate change by developing their own solutions – most  notably participatory kelp and mariculture farms and long-term cold storage of traditional Native foods. 

What is the best piece of advice that you have received that you would share with other founders?

It takes equal parts passion, persistence, and patience to create lasting impact in/for the world. I’ve been making progress, one conversation at a time, for more than three (3) decades.  Every conversation is important – and anything worth saying is worth repeating, over and over again… Habitat, habitat, gotta have Habitat.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

While we have a circle of committed donors and supporters, we need an additional $5 million to finalize the first phase of our Community Kelp Farm project, along with our 23-year conservation campaign to stop roads and protect three-million acres of wild salmon habitat on the eastern Copper River Delta.

What is a fun fact about you? 

In 1998, Time Magazine named me one of the top “Heroes of the Planet” for helping protect over 700,000 acres of wild salmon rainforest habitat in the Exxon spill zone.

LINKEDIN///FACEBOOK


Erika Alexander 

Co-Founder & Chief Content Officer, COLOR FARM MEDIA

Los Angeles, CA 

We are the Motown of Film, TV and Tech

Category: Media & Entertainment 

What is the issue you are solving for? 

We are solving the problem of representation for people of color and other marginalized groups in media.

What’s the origin story of your business? 

At the age of 14, out of nearly 1,000 girls I was chosen for a leading role in a film. So many girls were denied that same opportunity. I live with “survivor’s guilt” and a passion to expand access and inclusion for people of color and women in film and television.

What do you think are the unique opportunities and advantages that founders of color bring to the marketplace/industry/ecosystem?

We bring unrivaled excellence and an enterprising spirit of determination and power. We are the architects of the Third Reconstruction.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

Capital is the most important resource needed to scale our enterprise. We need to have the means to build capacity and infrastructure. Our goal is to create an ecosystem and a farm system that cultivates and nurtures talent so that we are building generational excellence and wealth.

What is the best piece of advice that you have received that you would share with other founders?

Build capacity through smart, strategic partnerships with people who you respect and like to work with.

TWITTER///LINKEDIN///INSTAGRAM


Fay Darmawi

Founder & Executive Director, SF URBAN FILM FEST 

San Francisco, CA 

Leverage the Power of Storytelling for Equitable Cities

Category: Media, Justice 

What is the issue you are solving for? 

Inequitable urban planning practices and outcomes.

What’s the origin story of your business? 

I founded the SF Urban Film Fest in 2014 to bring urban planning closer to communities by leveraging the power of storytelling and film. We started small with donated space and a few volunteers but here we are Artists-in-Residence at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

How do you measure the impact of your work?

Our goal is to bring attention and resources to underserved urban communities for self-determination. We aim to create narratives with our community partners that galvanize support for more affordable housing, transit options, clean air and water, to name a few crucial services. Storytelling energizes communities to determine their own futures.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

Addressing decades of underrepresentation, disinvestment and exploitation will take an entire generation to overcome. We need patient capital that will stand by us to build back up what was misrepresented, repressed and stolen. We need capital partners who will roll up their sleeves and commit to long-term change.

TWITTER///LINKEDIN///FACEBOOK///INSTAGRAM


Henry Red Cloud

Founder & Executive Director, RED CLOUD RENEWABLE

Pine Ridge Reservation – South Dakota

Renewables – A “New Way to Honor the Old Way”

Category: Social Justice, Renewable Energy 

What’s the origin story of your business? 

After a long night, as dawn broke during a vision quest…I stood before the rising sun and felt “anpetu wi ta wonia wakan” (the sacred life giving force of the sun) warm my body through my outstretched hands and knew my path was to help my people achieve energy independence.

What is the issue you are solving for? 

Bringing Energy Independence to Tribal Communities

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

We are very ready to train more students.  But we need to upgrade our equipment, so students work with current technology.  We need to reach out to more tribes to identify students, especially Native women, who want a career in renewables. We need more tools and a bobcat with attachments.

What do you think are the unique opportunities and advantages that founders of color bring to the marketplace/industry/ecosystem?

As a Native American, I am naturally close to the Earth and the world needs to hear more from us about working WITH Mother Earth and not just constantly taking from her. Our work with solar is for us more than just a job. It is a way of life.

FACEBOOK


Irma Olguin Jr.

Co-founder & CEO, BITWISE INDUSTRIES

Fresno, CA

Together we can Rebuild the American Workforce

Category: Technology 

What is the issue you are solving for? 

The tech industry (and most high paying/high growth industries) has a problem with diversity, equity, and inclusion. The lack of representation is blamed on a lack of diversity in the “talent pipeline.” Bitwise proves there is an abundance of qualified talent from all backgrounds.

How do you measure the impact of your work?

Geekwise has taught over 4,500 people to code, Shift3 has created hundreds apps/websites and Bitwise has developed 250K sq. ft of previously blighted space into thriving tech hubs. In 2019, Bitwise raised $27M to scale beyond it’s hometown of Fresno, Calif. Bitwise is now valued at $120M.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

Public and private partnerships need to increase in order to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce. The resources we have allowed us to expand rapidly and impact thousands of lives. We have the recipe to help millions. More organizations to prioritize this issue to create real change.

What is the best piece of advice that you have received that you would share with other founders?

Getting to the “no” faster means not wasting your time while raising VC capital trying to convince someone to invest if they’re not interested. Get to the no and move on to the next prospect.

TWITTER///LINKEDIN///FACEBOOK///INSTAGRAM


Joey Womack 

Founder and CEO, GOODIE NATION

Atlanta, GA

I Accelerate Relationships to Help Founders and Futures Grow

Category: Economic Growth

What is the issue you are solving for? 

The Relationship Gap for Tech-Focused Social Entrepreneurs and Diverse Founders.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

Grants and sponsorship from medium-to-large sized companies as well as VC and law firms.

What’s the origin story of your business? 

We began as a 1 day hackathon that connected nonprofits to developers during Startup Week ATL 2014.

What is a fun fact about you? 

I’m trying to positively impact 1 billion people by the year 2039.

How do you measure the impact of your work?

We look at the increase in revenue, funding, and professional development as well as stress reduction.

What is the best piece of advice that you have received that you would share with other founders?

Focus on the inner scoreboard (performing to your potential), not the outer scoreboard ($, press).

TWITTER///LINKEDIN///INSTAGRAM


Jonathan Quarles

Founder & CEO, QUARTZ WATER SOURCE

Flint, Michigan

Water is a Right, Not a Privilege

Category: Water 

What’s the origin story of your business? 

I am a Flint, Michigan native who couldn’t continue to sit on the sidelines as the water crisis decimated the city’s economy, morale, and health. With no solution in sight four years after the crisis began, I felt compelled to act. So I founded Quartz, whose mission will always be personal.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

Capital is a definite necessity for the enterprise. Our company went through a substantial COVID-related pivot, which was needed but costly. Paying off pivot-induced debt is slowing down growth in other areas. We could also use legal advice pertaining to how to structure our various technology partnerships.

What is the best piece of advice that you have received that you would share with other founders?

Know your ‘why’: Connect to your deepest motivation for when the going gets tough or when you have to make difficult decisions.

How do you measure the impact of your work?

We measure the impact of our work by how much clean water we are able to get to the households and institutions that need it the most, as well as by the awareness that we are able to raise around the global nature and severity of the water crisis.

TWITTER///LINKEDIN///INSTAGRAM


Jonathan Rabb

Founder, WATCH THE YARD

Minneapolis, MN

Digital Home for Black College Students and Alumni

Category: Media, Higher Education 

What is the issue you are solving for? 

Watch The Yard is creating a space for Black college students and alumni to connect, engage and celebrate each other all while preserving Black history in real time.

What’s the origin story of your business? 

In 2012, I did a Fulbright grant in digital audience development where I studied how to build engaging audiences in Berlin, Germany. I took the knowledge from my research there and applied it to my own community after realizing that Black college students did not have a platform where they could celebrate each other’s successes. 

What is the best piece of advice that you have received that you would share with other founders?

Make sure to spend time researching, learning and interacting with your audience. The results are priceless when your audience feels represented, understood and heard.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

It would be great to get connected with more brands and companies that would like to reach a rich and highly educated pool of Black students and alumni for career partnerships– a mutually beneficial opportunity for the company and my audience alike.

TWITTER///LINKEDIN///INSTAGRAM


Kim Folsom

Founder & CEO, FOUNDERS FIRST CAPITAL PARTNERS, LLC

San Diego, CA 

The Field is Broken

Category: Social & Racial Equity

What is the issue you are solving for? 

We are addressing social and racial economic equity issues for small businesses led by diverse founders. The systems of these issues are lack of revenue growth, premium wage jobs, access to growth capital and wealth creation for this underrepresented group.

How do you measure the impact of your work?

We use 100 metrics to track our program participants performance and progress.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

Seeking introductions/relationships with fortune 5000 companies that want Diversity & Inclusion supply change partners.

What is a fun fact about you? 

I fell in love with what I am doing in 5th grade but it took 40 years to gain the experience to launch Founders First.

TWITTER


Kimberly Wilson

Founder and CEO, HUED

Washington D.C.

Diversifying the Patient-Physician Experience

Category: Health 

What’s the origin story of your business? 

I founded the company after being diagnosed with uterine fibroids in 2017.

What is the issue you are solving for? 

African-Americans and Latinos experience 30- 40% poorer health outcomes than white Americans every year. Research shows that people of color are being misdiagnosed, mistreated and generally not getting the care they need because of fear, distrust, comfortability, and dismissed symptoms. Where these patients seek out culturally competent providers, they report higher satisfaction and improved health outcomes. 

What do you think are the unique opportunities and advantages that founders of color bring to the marketplace/industry/ecosystem?

Founders of color are innovative, ambitious and brilliant -because we don’t have a choice not to be.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

Capital; mentorship; introductions to customers/audience segments.

TWITTER///LINKEDIN


Kristin Kagetsu 

Co-founder & CEO, SAATHI

Plastic-free Periods! 

Category: Health Care

What’s the origin story of your business? 

Co-founders Kristin Kagetsu, Tarun Bothra and Grace Kane came together on a mission to create fully eco-friendly, compostable sanitary napkins using locally sourced banana fiber.

With a  passion for using sustainable, natural materials and impacting women, SAATHI developed a biodegradable and compostable sanitary pad with a circular business model.

What is the issue you are solving for? 

Pads made of plastic or wood pulp, which causes women skin irritation and is harmful to the environment. Plastic pads take 600 years to degrade, are burned for disposal, generating CO2 and toxic fumes. It is estimated that the average woman generates 120-150 kg of sanitary pad waste in her life.

How do you measure the impact of your work?

We measure impact through following parameters: Number of pads sold. Number of customers

Amount of plastic waste and C02 emissions saved. Number of women in rural areas who have access to sanitary pads and menstrual hygiene awareness. Number of underprivileged women employed. Amount of increased income for farmers.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

We need an experienced mentor or hire in marketing and communication strategy.  Looking for a mentor to help us negotiate corporate partnerships. Need funds to scale production to meet demand.

TWITTER///LINKEDIN///FACEBOOK///INSTAGRAM


Mandy Bowman

Founder & CEO, OFFICIAL BLACK WALL STREET

Brooklyn, NY

The largest App Connecting Consumers to Black Businesses

Category: Tech and Social Impact 

What is the issue you are solving for? 

Official Black Wall Street (OBWS) tackles the economic inequalities in the entrepreneurial world for African Americans. When it comes to being a business owner, the statistics have consistently shown us that large institutions are reluctant and many times unwilling to support African American entrepreneurs. OBWS was created to fill in the gap.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

Mentorship in the tech industry and capital would give us the unique opportunity to take the work we’ve done to the next level by finishing our machine learning-powered marketplace. This update will allow us to make it even easier for people around the world to support Black-owned businesses.

How do you measure the impact of your work?

For community-level impact, we measure the amount of money spent at Black-owned businesses through our platform and marketing efforts. We also measure impact by monitoring the number of business owners registered and the number of active app users we have garnered.

What do you think are the unique opportunities and advantages that founders of color bring to the marketplace/industry/ecosystem?

Founders of color bring such unique perspectives and solutions to the market. Some of the most innovative people I have ever met were founders of color who came from little and as a result had the ability to turn scraps into gold.

TWITTER///LINKEDIN///INSTAGRAM


Martin Muoto

Founder & Managing Partner, SOLA IMPACT

Los Angeles, CA

Doing Well by Doing Good 

Category: Racial Equity 

What is the issue you are solving for? 

SoLa Impact provides safe and affordable housing and opportunities for economic mobility to low income communities.

What’s the origin story of your business?

Saw opportunities in South Central Los Angeles to provide safe homes for “good hardworking people”.

How do you measure the impact of your work?

Homes built (1000 per year), Jobs created (100 per year), and Lives changed.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

Great people, great partners, and great projects

TWITTER///LINKEDIN///INSTAGRAM


Noni Session

Co-Founder & Executive Director, EAST BAY PERMANENT REAL ESTATE COOPERATIVE

Oakland, CA 

#RestorativeEconomics 

Category: Cooperative Economics

What is the issue you are solving for? 

The East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative (EB PREC) is transforming an unjust finance and housing system to build collective ownership and wealth among historically disenfranchised Black, Indigenous, and POC communities. EB PREC,  a people of color led land and housing investment fund, has pioneered a unique, non-extractive, multi-stakeholder, cooperative real estate model. 

What’s the origin story of your business? 

Anthropologist and Oakland Native seeks change through collective ownership and cooperative economics.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

Low interest and grant capital are critical for projects that truly reinvest and rebuild communities.

What is the best piece of advice that you have received that you would share with other founders?

Throw out the rule book, create your own lane and change the game as it is currently played.

TWITTER///LINKEDIN///FACEBOOK///INSTAGRAM


Reginald Parker 

Founder & CEO, OPTIMAL TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION

Atlanta, GA 

Ending Energy Poverty 

Category: Climate

What is the issue you are solving for? 

Intelligently lowering energy and facility cost of energy and facilities for commercial client’s by up to 70% using advanced analytics, efficient energy tech, and remote autonomous control.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

Raising capital to complete product for pipeline and to cover staff and growth over 18 months.

What is the best piece of advice that you have received that you would share with other founders?

What you know, who you know, and who knows you are not as important as what they say about you.

How do you measure the impact of your work?

Optimal uses saving tons of CO2 per year and jobs per year, as well as customer experience.

TWITTER///LINKEDIN///INSTAGRAM


Robert Luo

Founder & CEO, MI TERRO

City of Industry, CA 

End Plastic and Food Waste

Category: Climate, Tech and Waste 

What is the issue you are solving for? 

Upcycle excess food, agricultural byproducts, and food waste to replace plastic packaging materials.

What’s the origin story of your business?

The company started when I visited my uncle’s dairy farm in China and saw spoiled milk waste.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

More protein suppliers, casting & drying packaging factories, and logistic partners.

How do you measure the impact of your work?

We’ve upcycled 10,433 kg of excess milk, which equals to reducing 48,513 kg of carbon emission.

LINKEDIN


Roy Scott

Founder & CEO, HEALTHY HIP HOP, INC.

Atlanta, GA 

Transforming a Generation Through Hip-hop Culture, Education & Innovative Technology

Category: Technology 

What’s the origin story of your business?

As a kid I was heavily influenced by hip-hop after I graduated high school, I decided to skip my college education to become a rapper. Everything changed when I noticed my 4-year-old son, Justus, repeating my music. These lyrics promoted drugs and violence, that was my light bulb moment to change my direction. 

What is the issue you are solving for? 

Lack of positive and culturally relevant hip-hop music and culture for children.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

Corporate partners, capital and social influencers.

What do you think are the unique opportunities and advantages that founders of color bring to the marketplace/industry/ecosystem?

Founders of color bring culture, swag and innovation. Providing a unique perspective on business, life and entrepreneurship.

TWITTER///LINKEDIN///INSTAGRAM


Wanona Satcher

Founder & CEO, MĀKHERS STUDIO

Atlanta, GA

Build 2 Gentrify Your Own

Category:  Manufacturing

What is the issue you are solving for? 

Lack of quality affordable housing and local job opportunities in marginalized communities.

What’s the origin story of your business? 

I started my company in 2017 as a platform to use design and manufacturing for social good.

What do you think are the unique opportunities and advantages that founders of color bring to the marketplace/industry/ecosystem?

We have a deeper awareness, empathy, and an impact obligation to those future generations unseen.

What resources are needed to continue, scale or enhance your enterprise?

Seed funding, infrastructure, team expansion and professional legal support.

TWITTER///LINKEDIN///INSTAGRAM

Equity and Inclusion / Leadership
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