From SOCAP21: Narrative for Change: Connecting Entrepreneurs of Color with Capital and Audiences
As a tool for change, capital can help entrepreneurs expand new models, reach new audiences, and attract new consumers. In concert with finance, storytelling can influence our everyday lives and decision-making.
The SOCAP21 “Narrative for Change” session featured changemakers and financial leaders who are using storytelling, data-driven policy advocacy, and other methods to combat false narratives — with a boost from investors helping to scale these efforts.
With partners Jay-Z and Jay Brown at Marcy Venture Partners, Managing Director Larry Marcus is building positive impact through investments in consumer culture — from fashion to skincare and beauty, food and beverage, technology-enabled products, and more. “There’s been this sameness in venture capital,” he said. “We really wanted to bring together our diverse backgrounds to make a real difference in the ecosystem.”
As a top-performing, majority Black-owned venture capital fund, Marcy Venture Partners demonstrates how investing in women and People of Color — those who traditionally have been underrepresented — is a portfolio path toward financial success as well as a more inclusive economy. “People tend to want to just invest in what they know, just want to be safe,” Marcus said. “It’s a false narrative. One of the great things is just showing — with data and returns — just how powerful it is. Frankly, it’s where culture is heading … and a lot of companies today are very out of step with that.”
Marcy Venture Partners’ investment brands, like Savage X Fenty by Rihanna, have values in tune with where culture is headed, he said, and are attracting loyal customers. “There’s a lot of different levels where the change takes place. The most important place, frankly, is with the consumers themselves,” Marcus said. “The companies that think they can just keep doing things the same old way and maintain their market share, it’s just not going to work.”
Finding success among large audiences that others have overlooked also is a strategy for MACRO, a multiplatform media company. Poppy Hanks, Executive Vice President, Film Production and Development, says the production finance company has a mission and mandate to tell stories through a multicultural lens, in front of and behind the camera.
As an example, she points to the TV show “Raising Dion” that tells the story of a single Black mother raising an 8-year-old son who has superpowers. Distributed on Netflix, the show has seen “phenomenal” global reach, Hanks said. “This particular show performed very well in Kenya, Nigeria, Germany, and was able to reach places that I think we’re often told won’t watch,” she said. “Other companies that are not streaming won’t put the money into expansion. We’re proud of where it was able to reach.”
By producing a show that reflects the everyday lives of people who often don’t see others like themselves on TV, MACRO shifts the norm to more accurately reflect today’s society. “There’s a difference between doing a PSA and creating a narrative that people can see themselves in and also be educated,” Hanks said. “It needs to be more than just hiring one executive; it needs to be a bigger change. It also needs to be a change in terms of content and really backing it up with dollars.”
One source of those dollars are foundations that are increasingly focusing on investments in People of Color and women, including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. As Vice President for Program Strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Carla Thompson Payton leads the work to build expansive capital systems that support creating pathways of equitable opportunity with a commitment to advancing racial equity. Some of that work includes telling the stories of entrepreneurs and others affected by structural racism and conscious and unconscious societal biases, she said.
One program focuses on expanding opportunities for entrepreneurs of color in Detroit, where Payton said they struggle to secure funding necessary to launch or expand their businesses. “We’ve been working with JP Morgan Chase around creating a fund so that entrepreneurs of color who are experiencing barriers to access to capital have a pathway,” she said.
In working to expand access to capital for entrepreneurs, the Kellogg Foundation also is looking internally to identify ways to manage its endowment and process that lead to greater equity, she said.
“We need to capitalize on this moment … but we also need to follow that with our dollars,” Payton said. “When we think about how we work with the investment community, it’s really around helping investors understand their risk factors. The returns are there — there’s no question about that. It’s whether you have the courage to stand up and do what is right.”
Watch Narrative for Change
David Bank, Editor and CEO, Impact Alpha
Poppy Hanks, Executive Vice President, Film Production and Development, MACRO
Larry Marcus, Managing Director, Marcy Venture Partners
Carla Thompson Payton, Vice President for Program Strategy, W.K. Kellogg Foundation