As a child, I never imagined myself as a business owner. I aspired to work in a wide range of disciplines, from architecture to marine biology. I dreamed of infiltrating science and math fields that were regularly helmed by men. After completing my undergraduate degree at Syracuse University, I pursued a master’s degree in New York City. While doing so, I began working—solely to pay for my education—in fashion and entertainment with brands like Sean John and Donna Karan. Eventually, I shifted into strategic communications with clients like Rachel Roy, Kelly Wearstler, L’Oreal Paris and graduated to organizations like IMG.
At the time, I had no idea that working within tight production deadlines and balancing budgets while looking at financial margins and building relationships would prepare me to run a business. It wasn’t until my friend De’Ara Balenger asked me to partner with her to launch maestra, a social impact firm, that I took the leap of faith into entrepreneurship.
Our organization is dedicated to amplifying untold and marginalized stories while helping clients build equitable brand value through strategic partnerships, community building, and powerful storytelling. We officially launched maestra amid the pandemic with a focus on creating a more equitable society. According to The Los Angeles Times, 380 out of every 100,000 Black adults became new entrepreneurs during the pandemic—the highest rate in history, surpassing all other ethnicities. Noticing this trend, De’Ara and I set out to help Black and brown entrepreneurs build long-term sustainable financial income and generational wealth. From programs like the Gucci Changemakers to the 2021 Fiverr Future Collective fellows, maestra cultivates spaces for Black entrepreneurship and collaboration.
For people of color, talent and hard work aren’t always enough to overcome institutional barriers, America’s legacy of racism, or advance in the corporate world. That’s why we work with organizations like 1863 Ventures, a Black-led nonprofit focused on developing and supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs of color. Most recently, we partnered with 1863 Ventures to create the Fiverr Future Collective, a business accelerator that focuses on funding and investment to help companies grow and scale. The initiative empowers founders like Adrian Abrams, a Future Collective inaugural fellow and the owner of AppDrop, an app development tool that helps others build and digitize their business with no coding experience. According to experts, Black business owners like Abrams could help close the United States’ Black-white wealth gap, which is projected to cost the economy up to $1.5 trillion per year by 2028.
We’ve seen the pandemic decimate countless Black businesses and destroy wealth-building opportunities. In fact, Black-owned businesses plummeted by nearly a half-million in the first three months of the pandemic compared to just 17% of white-owned businesses. To help entrepreneurs in these turbulent times, Fiverr, the online marketplace for freelancers, and maestra came together to create the Future Collective, a business accelerator. Each business selected will receive approximately $24,000 in funding from Fiverr as well as coaching and mentorship through a series of business intensives led by 1863 Ventures over the next year.
Launching Future Collective is one of maestra’s most fulfilling endeavors to date. Our goal with the inaugural class of five entrepreneurs is to increase exposure and access for Black-owned businesses within Fiverr’s community, in effect making our communities even stronger. When people of color launch businesses, we, in turn, invest in our families and ourselves. We also create job opportunities and bring revenue into our communities, thus fostering lasting change.
For generations, small businesses have been the backbone for supporting Black spaces. As we navigate this road to recovery, it is essential to support Black businesses to pass on wealth to the next generation.
To learn more about our inaugural class of business owners, please visit here.
This is an opinion piece that does not necessarily reflect the views or beliefs of Black Enterprise.