Essence Festival To Focus On Capital Access For Female Entrepreneurs

This year marks the 20th anniversary celebration of the Essence Festival, the largest event celebrating African American culture and music in the U.S. and known for being a “party with a purpose.” The National Women’s Business Council is seizing the moment to engage with African American female entrepreneurs. NWBC is a nonpartisan advisory panel to the President and Congress on economic issues important to women business owners.

At the head of the NWBC is Carla Harris, who was named as Black Enterprise magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business,” Fortune magazine’s list of the “50 Most Powerful Black Executives in Corporate America,” and Essence magazine’s “50 Women Who Are Shaping the World.” The Wall Street executive is vice chairman and managing director at Morgan Stanley, a leading global financial services firm.

Since being appointed to chair the NWBC by President Obama in 2013, Harris has used her background in revenue generation and client connectivity across the Wealth Management, Investment Banking and Sales & Trading businesses to guide the NWBC’s focus on women entrepreneurs’ access to capital.

“Women’s economic parity must continue to be at the forefront of policymakers’ efforts to move our economy in the right direction, the issues of access to start-up and expansion capital and the relative undercapitalization of women owned businesses at inception remain the toughest obstacles for women entrepreneurs,” Harris said in a released statement.

The NWBC is using its platform on access to capital to reach black female entrepreneurs during this year’s Essence Festival by participating in a pitch competition hosted by PowerMoves. NOLA, an organization geared towards increasing the number of minority-owned, venture-backed businesses by providing early-stage and high-growth entrepreneurs with access to capital. PowerMoves.NOLA will showcase and support talented minority entrepreneurs, and connect them to a national network of capital, advisors and resources. The pitch competition will take place July 5. Four women business owners will get to compete for a chance to win $25,000 and access to a network of potential investors.

“In order to obtain capital in today’s new market environment, women entrepreneurs must be equip and prepared to deliver a power pitch,” says NWBC Communications Director Krystal Glass. “Recent reports and our insights give us great perspective into the unique challenges and opportunities awaiting African American women entrepreneurs. We’re making it a point to have a presence at this year’s Essence Festival to support women-of-color in pursuit of their business goals, hopefully opening some doors for them, or at a minimum, point them in the right direction.”

The NWBC advocates for increased access to diversified types of capital for women-owned small businesses, with the belief that increased resources to raise capital gives women a greater opportunity to scale and increase profitability. With the U.S. Census Bureau projections predicting women of color will make up the majority of all women by 2045, it only makes sense for women organizations like the NWBC to ensure they are engaging with the growing demographic of black female entrepreneurs, notes Glass.