1863 Ventures is Helping Black Founders Climb with Accelerator Program

1863 Ventures is a business development program that helps accelerate New Majority entrepreneurs from high potential to high growth. With a goal to create $100 billion in new wealth for New Majority owned businesses by 2030, Melissa Bradley and her team at 1863 Ventures are working diligently to make it happen.

Bradley is a purpose-driven community leader, brilliant entrepreneur, savvy investor, and professor at Georgetown University who is focused on assisting Black business owners to thrive. Sharing, “Personally, I have one goal and many roles. And my one goal is to shift the paradigm of capitalism so that Black people are not on the bottom.”

Melissa Bradley of 1863
(Image: Melissa Bradley of 1863)

Bradley has most recently founded and is Managing Partner of 1863 Ventures. She is also the Co-founder of venture-backed Ureeka, a community of over 10,000 small businesses gaining access to the expertise needed to grow.

Melissa Bradley also serves as an advisor to the New Voices Foundation, New Voices Fund and the Halcyon Fund. She was named one of The Most Entrepreneurial Women Investors in 2018 and is just an all-around dope individual that everyone should know.

1863 Ventures Is Unlike Any Other

Bradley’s 1863 Ventures is different from other accelerator programs in that the team dives deeply to provide the real support and tools needed to assist New Majority businesses to truly scale. They focus on de-risking the business and really getting under the hood. In the program they teach entrepreneurs about operations, staffing/hiring, finances, fundraising, the customer journey and more.

In addition to providing the necessary knowledge, 1863 Ventures has key partnerships to help cohorts to scale their businesses. For example, their partnership with Target. Through this partnership, participants speak with buyers directly and learn what it takes to get onto shelves. They also have relationships with Ulta, Walmart, JP Morgan, E&Y and many others that lead to educational and lucrative opportunities for participants.

“We want to make sure that we’re not just de-risking [the businesses], but that we’re getting them revenue opportunities as well.” Bradley explained.

“We call ourselves a business development program, because yes we have accelerators, but we really want to make sure businesses grow to become ten, fifty, hundred-million-dollar and billion-dollar companies, if they so choose.” Apart from the training and partnerships, 1863 Ventures also has an investment fund available only for 1863 Venture alumni. Within less than a month, they can cut a check to qualifying businesses that need funding to further scale.

1863 Ventures has three main goals for 2022. The first is building up the community through creating a community tech platform. The aim of the platform is to connect entrepreneurs to each other and to the other helpful resources/support available. 1863 Ventures is also looking to deploying more capital to New Majority businesses this year. Lastly, they will leverage technology more in an effort to continue to solve entrepreneurs’ problems after they finish the program.

1863 Ventures Is The Missing Link

Bradley founded 1863 after realizing that many entrepreneurs weren’t receiving the help that’ll get their businesses to grow. She was receiving great pitches, but when she wanted to talk about the numbers and business’ operations, many were lost.

“Ninety percent of the entrepreneur programs in this country are focused on start-ups. And that’s great. But there’s a big difference between starting something and growing something. It’s a different skillset. It’s a different mindset.” 1863 Ventures is the missing link, for entrepreneurs, taught by entrepreneurs. They provide the tools businesses need to not just survive, but thrive in all climates.

Funding has historically been a major hurdle for Black businesses. Critical non-financial resources that help a business to grow have also been scarce. In addition to these hurdles, Bradley finds imposter syndrome and not being able to source between good and bad information holds many entrepreneurs back.

The 1863 Venture founder understands that a C-Suite executive who has a comfy job, 401k and a P&L they can control does not have the same experience or risk tolerance as an entrepreneur who has put it all on the line.

“The other thing that is hard for entrepreneurs is everybody wants to help us now that Black people are popular and [it’s about] discerning who are the right people to help and when. I’m not saying a corporate executive can’t help you but there are certain stages of your business that you need to make sure you align with folks who actually understand the context that you’re working.”

Bye, Minority. Hello, New Majority

When asked why she prefers the term New Majority over minority, Melissa Bradley noted, “Although I’m a finance major, I realize language is everything…when I hear the term minority, none of the definitions it has speak to anything about power, about resilience, putting us in decision-making positions. It’s like ‘other’, ‘marginalized’. And that’s clearly how we’ve been treated. Fortunately, having six kids I realized when you hear words early on, you absorb those words. And we as a people, are actually not the minority. Globally, people of color are the majority.”

Bradley went on to mention that when looking at the USA, the demographic patterns show that in a decade’s time, people of color will be the majority. She believes we have to start changing the word as demographically, we are the new majority.

“More importantly, in the context of entrepreneurship, we’ve been the majority for a long time. There has been a forty percent historical decline of entrepreneurship amongst white men. One of the fastest segments have been Black women in particular and the fastest growing businesses once incorporated are Latinx businesses. And so I refuse to allow language to continue to divide and define who we are.” Bradley chooses to be intentional when she speaks and refuses to overlook or undervalue us.

To date, 95% of 1863 Ventures’ cohort businesses have survived the pandemic, far exceeding the national average.

“Of the 5% that didn’t survive, it was literally due to the fact that someone in their family got COVID and it required an all-out lockdown and they had to step away from their business…85% of [the 5%] that didn’t make it said they’re coming back.”

Is 1863 Ventures A Good Fit For You?

Curious who is a good candidate for 1863 Ventures? Melissa notes, “We want to be a good fit for the entrepreneur. We do have an ideal minimal threshold of one hundred thousand a year, but we certainly make exceptions. We want them to be past the start-up stage, where they’re starting to grapple with some of these growth problems. The second thing is, we want to know that they want to scale. We want to know they’re ready, because it’s hard. The stuff that we throw at [them].”

Bradley mentioned that the last piece of the criteria is that those that apply cannot just care about the money. They cannot just come to the program looking for a check. 1863 Ventures provides tools and when the entrepreneur needs funding, they assist them to get it, but they must first put the work in and complete the tasks provided to grow their company.

If the above sounds like a good fit, or you’re curious to know more about 1863 Ventures, you can head on over to 1863ventures.net . You can also follow their Instagram @1863Ventures and Twitter account @1863Ventures.