Nasdaq Convenes Slutty Vegan, Mielle Organics, and More Black Founders To Celebrate Success in Historic Bell Ringing
Last Friday, a passionate group of Black and Brown changemakers opened the stock market at Nasdaq headquarters in New York City with a historic bell-ringing ceremony.
In support of growth-stage businesses, Nasdaq extended an invitation to be seen and celebrated in this part of the financial ecosystem. Among those invited included a trailblazing group of founders and investors who continue to break barriers in a challenging funding climate while building thriving enterprises. Let’s say the occasion was a means to show up and show out.
The gathering, convened by Nasdaq Chief Digital Officer Sehr Thadhani alongside The New Voices Foundation and Essence Ventures, companies founded by entrepreneur, investor, and social commerce innovator Richelieu Dennis, was groundbreaking.
As part of his landmark sale of Sundial Brand, Dennis created the $100M New Voices Fund for women of color. He provided mentorship and investment in Black women founders experiencing extraordinary challenges, such as access to capital and resources, relationships with retailers, and more. These include the masterminds behind The Honey Pot, Mented Cosmetics, The Lip Bar, and McBride Sister’s Wine Co.
During a live broadcast, Dennis stood proudly alongside two members of the entrepreneurial cohort, Monique Rodriguez, founder of Mielle Organics, and Pinky Cole, founder of Slutty Vegan, as they sounded the bell. The trio was backed by a dignified community striving to show that real sustainable joy and change are possible in Black and Brown communities.
“Seeing is the manifestation of what our ancestors could not do. What they were not empowered to do, what they were not able to do, or more accurately, what they were deprived of doing,” Richelieu Dennis told BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“And so we’re all here getting the opportunity to do that. And so, for me, the future should look like hundreds of thousands and millions of businesses, like the ones that are in this room, driving real change in their communities.”
Last month, it was announced that P&G acquired Mielle Organics, further proving the benefits of the ecosystem that Dennis has architected, where Black businesses collectively work and experience success.
“Everything that we are doing here is about purpose. Our model is full pace, and that is purpose, access, capital, and expertise. And we bring that into every single thing that we do on this journey,” Dennis said.
“Seeing our businesses execute against their purpose on a consistent basis for me is the future because that’s how it’ll change our communities. That’s how we’ll be able to determine; we’ll be able to choose what schools we send our kids to. We’ll be able to choose what healthcare we want. We’ll be able to choose what politicians we want to elect.”
After experiencing many challenges, Mielle Organics joined the New Voices Fund in March 2020, making it one of its first investments.
“I feel very grateful, and humbled, and proud to show Black and Brown boys and girls the possibilities of just having a dream. What, for me, started nine years ago has led me to ring the bell on Wall Street. That’s nobody but God. So super excited,” Rodriguez told BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“So for us to even do the next couple of transactions that we did after partnering with New Voices, it was because of their guidance and helping us through the process and introducing us to bankers, investment bankers, and just guiding us and educating us on the process.”
For Cole, ringing the bell represented a new day with opportunities to succeed to the next level. She not only credits Dennis’ investment but also his belief in her visions and ideas.
“When I was invited to do it, I’m like, ‘Well, why would they want me out of all people?’ Why not me?” Cole told BLACK ENTERPRISE of her joining the New Voices Fund in January thanks to the support and mentorship of Dennis. “Because we’re visionaries, we’re colorful, we’re abstract, we think outside of the box, and we think at a high level. And it just feels good to be affiliated with people who are doing the work in the community to help take businesses to the next level.”
“And not only was it a good opportunity to be able to scale financially, the level of resource that I have in Rich alone, forget everybody else, but in Rich alone is unmatched.”
Caroline Wanga, president and CEO of Essence Ventures, opened up during the ceremony about her journey: leaving the C-suite of a Fortune 50 company to working in a more entrepreneurial environment. Wanga said she made it through by enlisting a “five fails a day” mantra and realizing that “nobody needs to weigh in on your purpose; it just is.”
“The more important piece was having the unmitigated gall to believe in a future other people couldn’t see. I stopped asking people for their opinion on what I was born to do. I stopped checking in on if I was doing it well, and I reduced the amount of time I spent on things I don’t do well to 10% of my time. And I never tried to make them good; I just mitigated the risk,” she said.