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Investing in BIPOC-led firms and nonprofits with more than a check: A commentary by James Wahls

May 28, 2022

Black_woman_entrepreneur_rawpixel_McKinseyWith Black, Indigenous, and people of color-led businesses and nonprofits attracting increased public attention and large capital investments in recent years, do we still need additional initiatives? The short answer is yes. Society places the burden of success on entrepreneurs of color while often ignoring the systems that continue to cause them to fail disproportionately. We should be talking more about ways to reduce start-up risks and help businesses become sustainable over the long term.

I come to this work with 15 years impact investing, legal, and entrepreneurial experience. Having previously worked with the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan, I have managed or co-managed more than $240 million in impact investing allocations in grants, equity, debt, and direct investments. This includes leading or co-leading investments to fund entrepreneurs of color across the United States, along with investments in affordable housing, financial inclusion, job creation, and community development. I have always been passionate about catalyzing investments to people of color-led businesses and nonprofits. It is critical that we not just write the check but position entrepreneurs to continue securing investments and, we should hope, larger ones than what we have provided.

It is no secret that many BIPOC-led firms do not always have the support they need to start or grow their businesses. What most people do not appreciate, however, is the critical role of infrastructure development in enabling a business to grow. It is not just money that would-be entrepreneurs lack. Many need trusted partners who can support them in expanding their networks, conducting market research, solidifying business plans, applying for the requisite licenses and business insurance policies, researching funding streams, setting up payroll systems, etc. As many have shared with me, if you’ve never launched a business or nonprofit before, and no one in your family has done so, you may not know the ins and outs of getting it off the ground....

Read the full commentary by James C.D. Wahls, founder and managing director of Revolve Fund, senior vice president at Mission Investors Exchange.

(Photo credit: McKinsey via rawpixel)

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