environment, there is a premium on basic things like customers and revenue.
JUANITA LOTT: One of the things that we have not really figured out how to do is to spend time with entrepreneurs who have great ideas. There is a whole skill set around being an entrepreneur, raising money, developing a marketing strategy — those aren’t things that you wake up one morning and suddenly know how to do. A lot of these kind of networking communities that are mentoring groups are giving their time to help those young folks that are coming behind them. We are not as effective and structured around that part of entrepreneurship as it relates to African Americans. And that’s not about giving access to people who don’t have a strong value proposition. That’s about those of us who have gone a certain ways down this road, making it a point to spend time with those who want to make this journey, and helping them into the pipeline.
B.E.: So how do African American entrepreneurs get into that pipeline to build these relationships, particularly when many venture capitalists are shying away from early-stage firms?
RON CADET: You can get into that pipeline by taking a look at the relationships you already have. Take a look at your own relationships, your friends and family. It is a cliché, but many good businesses were started with people just going to their uncles or members of their church. This is really the time to get back to the grass roots. Go to those people. You can sell them your ideas, raise a little bit of money, and then begin tapping into their networks.
LOTT: One of the most important skills for a startup entrepreneur is to have no fear in really working a network. And you have to be tenacious about it. There may be individuals that you don’t have a close relationship with, but you know at least enough about to pick up a telephone and say, “This is who I am. This is what I’m doing. Give me 30 minutes to tell you about my business proposition and get feedback.” What I have found is probably the people at the highest levels, and the ones you think are least
accessible, are absolutely willing to give you some of their time.
KIM FOLSOM: You may need to change the network of people you spend time with to people who have done what you want to do. Because one thing that’s evident to all of us [is that] we have all had experience. If someone asks, “How did you do this, and what would you do differently?” you are going to share that story with them. And that is critical, because there isn’t enough of that done on an ongoing basis.
BYRD: Now is a great time, or probably the best time, for entrepreneurs of color to be raising capital. One reason is that there are many more people of color who are managing venture capital or private equity funds. And many more of