American Express, in partnership with IFundWomen of Color, surprised 100 Black women entrepreneurs with grants of $25,000 and 100 days of resources as part of the “100 for 100” program. Brittany Rhodes, a grant recipient based in Detroit, is using the funds to expand her Black Girl MathGic movement — an initiative designed to provide basic math confidence in Black girls who are disproportionately impacted by the effects of math anxiety.
“This couldn’t have come at a better time,” says Rhodes. “This will help me enhance my website, roll out new marketing initiatives, and publish children’s books. I’m excited to be in this network with 99 other amazing women who I can’t wait to build with. I don’t think there are enough words to articulate how grateful I am for this opportunity and how this is going to change my business for the better.”
According to the 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, African American women are among the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs but report the lowest annual revenue numbers, averaging $24,000 per firm vs. $142,900 among all women-owned businesses. This means that the $25,000 American Express grant is more than the average Black woman-owned business receives in a year.
Rhodes is somewhat of an anomaly in comparison to many black-women owned businesses when it comes to funding and growth performance. She’s been winning pitch contests and grants ever since she started her math confidence initiatives. In fact, she won the first pitch contest she ever entered when BlackGirl MathGic was just an idea in February 2019. Now, Rhodes has received nearly $50,000 in funding in less than two years thanks to pitches and grants.
The $25,000 grant from American Express was the capital Rhodes needed to enhance her website and invest in paid marketing opportunities. Not only will she receive monetary support, but Rhodes will also obtain resources such as business education, mentoring, marketing, and virtual networking to help her expand her business. She’s using everything at her disposal to expand the opportunities available for the next generation.
“I view basic math fluency as the key to closing the racial wealth gap in America,” says Rhodes. “I want people to be able to open up every single door that is available to them so that when things like a pandemic happen, they are not stuck.”
Unlike many girls, Rhodes has always had a passion for math — especially since her mother was a retired principal who instilled in her the importance of education. During Rhodes’ freshman year at Spelman, she started to tutor other people in math and realized she enjoyed helping others overcome their math anxieties. Later, she started tutoring at a local nonprofit after school program and noticed how glaring the confidence gaps were. Many of the students she worked with were not ready for high school or even middle school math, lacking mastery of basic mathematics such as decimals, fractions, percentages, and ratios.
“It was just too many of my kids who were not ready and were very uncomfortable with it. These are skills needed for high school math and life,” says Rhodes.“I knew I had to do more to fix it. I wanted to do something that would have a transformative impact on a lot of people and that’s how Black Girl MathGic was born.”
At its core, Black Girl MathGic is a movement. The monthly subscription box service is the company’s flagship product designed to increase math confidence, enthusiasm, identity, and fluency in black girls. Although the products cater to those seeking a third through eighth grade level math proficiency, the company is looking at publishing books to help shape positive math mindsets for younger children. She’s also seeking to work with school districts and nonprofits to help scale quicker and provide access to more children who need this the most.
With COVID-19 and disparate remote experiences, Rhodes is on a mission to accelerate her goals. “Kids are regressing in their studies. I have a sense of urgency because I want to give kids the best shot at building the life they want to live,” says Rhodes. “Basic math fluency and confidence provides options. Generally speaking, math and stem-related careers pay more and now you’re on this accelerated path to financial stability.”
Rhodes continues, “When I think about the work I do, it’s not just about a kid getting an “A” in math classes. It’s about a kid being able to go off to college or pursue a trade or whatever they want to do and know that they are so confident in their math abilities that they can flourish and have those options to design the life they want to live.”
For aspiring or new entrepreneurs who want to expand their impact, Rhodes offers these words of wisdom: “Become a student of your business and the industry you are working in. Always be learning but don’t get stuck in the learning part that you never execute.”