VisionPledge, a for purpose/nonprofit organization, might have started as a learning process for two entrepreneurs, but in their journey, the two young women founders also created an answer that plagues every new businessperson: ‘Where and how do I start?’
Like many millennial entrepreneurs, both co-founders of VisionPledge, Ghanaian-American Aishah Alassan, the president, and lawyer Lisa Fennell, the vice president, have a special sensitivity to the obstacles that face their age group. This is especially true for people of color that are often underserved. It was at this point that Alassan and Fennell made the choice to become a “source” for other entrepreneurs.
Fennell describes VisionPledge as:
“A crowdfunding site for millennials to help them raise capital for their entrepreneurial endeavors. But it also encompasses a holistic aspect of entrepreneurship. Not only do we help millennials tap into capital that’s necessary for them, but we really try to help them get in the right frame of mind to do business but also provide tips for them for all of the different steps along the way that you need to know to lift your business off the ground.”
This description barely touches on everything that these two women are accomplishing. They have become teachers, mentors, confidantes and partners to many that are hungry for the information and support.
Even coming up with the name for their nonprofit was astounding—it was one of three names manifested in a dream of Alassan’s.
A strange turn of events
Both Alassan and Fennell began with the assumption that the highest priority for millennials was to pay off student debt, but after reading the poll results from their first event, they found that attendees were more interested in getting their own businesses started. Pivoting the direction of their focus, they changed up to get answers to the burning questions and launched VisionPledge with a focus on crowdfunding as a first level.
Alassan explains part of their mission statement for other millennial entrepreneurs when she says, “We are trying to fill that gap….the mindset first, the resources, [and] the perks, all in one platform.”
Sharing and caring
Alassan and Fennell moved through their own challenges of starting VisionPledge. With a goal geared toward underrepresented millennial entrepreneurs from different backgrounds, they make sure programs in mindset, crowdfunding, and how to create a structured business are part of their offerings to counteract the lack of contacts and experience.
Millennials may not have the years of business experience to establish a large network to rely on. When the co-founders took the advice of a friend and successful entrepreneur that said ‘Start with your immediate network,’ it prompted them to recognize that networks can be in all forms, including family and friends. This can quickly boost morale and confidence.
One of the critical pieces of their platform includes sharing the emotional aspect of how entrepreneurship creates personal change, too. Fennell says, “I think, for me, it might have been to embrace the unknown and to kind of embrace the turbulence of it all.”
For Alassan, VisionPledge changed her in ways that she didn’t expect. She says, “I think the key thing that I’ve done that has grounded me is meditation and self-development…so I’m really excited to help people who are not clear on their vision.”
Sponsorships, Workshops and the Future
VisionPledge is adding sponsorships and speakers that help motivate their audience to start new businesses from a place of focus and support. For example, Life Coach Brittany Josephina held a visualization exercise at their first event at Microsoft and author and TV Host Abiola Abrams, VisionPledge’s self-development community partner, will conduct a webinar to help entrepreneurs ‘manifest” their vision.
That’s what the founders of VisionPledge did for themselves. They didn’t wait for their business to become 100% ready, but they launched themselves along with other entrepreneurs on a platform they owned. Fennell says, “We want to serve as an example to other visionaries so they have an idea of what a crowdfunding campaign should look like.” In doing it this way, VisionPledge will not only be the place for minority entrepreneurs to raise funds together but be part of the story, too.