Securing the necessary startup capital for any new venture can be extremely difficult. For African American business owners, the challenge is greater due to economic and racial disparities in financial institutions. Outside of banks, entrepreneurs often look to private funds with investors looking to partner with different businesses to help expand their growth. A group of Black investors decided to bring their talents together to create their own capital fund aimed at helping Black entrepreneurs.
Collab Capital was started in 2018 with three founders who wanted to create a way to help Black entrepreneurs grow their businesses after their own experiences. Barry Givens, Jewel Burks Solomon, and Justin Dawkins came together using their experience in developing businesses in different sectors to help other Black business owners thrive, with a $50 million target.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, they had to quickly adapt like many other businesses. Eventually, they were able to bounce back with different initiatives to help Black business owners weather the public health crisis. “We were affected, you know, just like every other business. We were in the middle of fundraising when it happened,” said Givens in an interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“We launched a founders’ care package that was giving them access to all those resources that were being thrown around. So we had someone on the team keeping track of those and updating the resource packet. We had our event, Bet on Black, which is basically bringing together a bunch of leaders in the Black community. What can we do as a community? Where do we need our focus to be? How do we stay resilient through this period? And then lastly, we hosted a pitch competition where we gave away close to $60,000 to founders.”
Seeing the economic devastation that hit the Black business community from the viral outbreak only strengthened their resolve to help other small business owners to thrive “I think [the pandemic] fortified [our mission]. It really let us know that what we set out to do is needed now more than ever,” said Dawkins.
“I think that with everything going on with COVID, it highlighted two big things, two glaring things, which was even the response from the government, and some other things, weren’t necessarily designed [for us] and they weren’t necessarily as accessible as they made it seem. And so there were still challenges.”
The group has continued to invest in companies across different sectors. Most recently, the team invested $500,000 in Hairbrella, an Atlanta-based company specializing in hats to protect natural hair from the rain.
“I met Tracey three years ago. I’d just sold my business. So I was becoming really intentional and excited about working with, supporting, advising, mentoring, and potentially angel investing in new companies and particularly companies led by Black women founders,” said Burks.
“Her business has grown tremendously over the past year. And we really wanted to be a part of that growth trajectory. And because of what she’s she’s building, we have a strong conviction in the product that we think is really necessary and a needed product in the market. Tracey is a brilliant founder. Even with something as potentially detrimental to a business as COVID-19, we’ve seen her resilience and really wanted to get behind what she is building.”