Meet Kelly Ifill, a former math teacher who created a digital hub to combat the racial wealth gap in banking for Black small business owners.
Ifill’s digital community bank, Guava, is on a mission to help Black small business owners gain access to capital by providing equitable financial products. With services like checking, credit, and soon savings, Guava offers Black entrepreneurs lower-barrier loans that use alternative data sets to evaluate risk.
MasterCard reports that she grew up in Brooklyn in a family that immigrated from Trinidad. Ifill saw firsthand how hard it was for her family to acquire seed funding to get their small businesses off the ground.
While working in venture capital after receiving an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School, Ifill realized how difficult it could be for Black entrepreneurs to raise money through the earliest rounds of fundraising known as the friends and family round.
“Most Black folks just don’t have that kind of access to capital to test out an idea,” Ifill said. “It put a stark light on the issue.”
With fewer banks in predominantly Black zip codes, studies show roughly 46% of Black adults are unbanked or underbanked. The findings highlight how much harder it is for Black residents to build credit or secure a mortgage or business loan.
With Guava, Ifill is reshaping online banking for Black business owners by providing financial support and creating a pipeline to build social capital. The Guava app connects Black entrepreneurs, providing a safe space to create investment networks.
It also serves as a hub where Black entrepreneurs can seek mentors and peers.
“People are particularly excited about a space where they can talk to other Black entrepreneurs, and that does not exist in the world right now,” Ifill said.
“This is a space built for Black entrepreneurs by Black entrepreneurs, and people are really excited about it. That is super affirming.”