What experiences have you encountered/witnessed that drew your attention to the importance of supporting black owned business?
“We can no longer finance our own oppression. Let’s face it, black folks have little or no chance of achieving the many things we discuss unless we are organized and prepared to utilize our collective dollars as leverage to obtain reciprocity from the system in which we find ourselves.
I think it’s pretty obvious to every Black person in America that something has to change. Begging White people to care about our lives, isn’t working…I think it forces us to realize that we have the power to change our own destiny, and no one else is going to do it for us…It’s also obvious how brilliant Black people are. We produce quality, value, and influence the culture with little to no resources…The goal now, is to be able to fund more of our ideas with our dollars. Sometimes a Black entrepreneur will be lucky enough to get a loan from Wells Fargo or even a VC investment, but the real worth still returns to White America and does little to build real wealth. The Greenwood Project is the first vehicle to fund Black Companies with Black Dollars. We’re fixing a really big problem that’s only been compounded over and over: because there are so few Black investors (people with money) there’re even fewer young Black entrepreneurs who get their fair chance to create companies.”
How did going to an HBCU inspire your idea of creating The Greenwood Project? Also, what role did Marcus Garvey play in life that pushed its establishment?
“I’m a product of Howard University’s School of Business, so I’ve been fortunate enough to see up close and personal the tremendous, ambitious Black talent that’s desperate for an opportunity. I know Black entrepreneurs who struggle to connect with wealthy Venture capitalists (the walls of separation are thick) and even when they do finally get in the room, it’s often hard for them to articulate the value of their company…Naturally as an investor if you’ve never experienced or dealt with a specific problem, you’re less inclined to invest in it’s solution. Too frequently, these ideas are dismissed as “too small” or unrealistic, and so discouraged entrepreneurs of color give up because they can’t access funding to take their company to the next level.
I also believe that more entrepreneurs of color would be inspired to venture out, take risks, and dare to create world-class startups if they knew that a company like The Greenwood Project would listen and potentially give them a chance.
My favorite Garvey quote is, ‘The most important area for the exercise of independent effort is economic. After a people have established successfully a firm industrial foundation they naturally turn to politics and society, but not first to society and politics, because the two latter cannot exist without the former.'”
Now that some time has passed since it’s launch, what progress have you made with The Greenwood Project?
“To even get started, we had to earn a rare approval from the SEC, and work with lawyers, accountants, bankers, and CPAs. Our company is valued at $5 Million dollars. We’re quickly assembling a great team of partners. Plus, we’ve raised $55,000+, approximately $1,500 per day since we officially started. The feedback has been outstanding, I wish I could share hundreds of the inspirational messages coming from people as young as 13 and as old as 84, telling me how long they’ve been waiting for this and to keep chasing this dream because it can happen again.”
What are some major accomplishments you want to make with The Greenwood Project by the end of the year?
“I want to educate our people on financial literacy. Then, I want people to realize that we can create wealth for each other by supporting The Greenwood Project. If Black people support the innovative brands The Greenwood Project invests in, the profits will return to thousands of Black families. It’s like internal reparations. The best and brightest Black scholars have worked hard to prepare our business model. GWP has billion dollar potential, and we’re perfectly prepared to take advantage of Obama’s new investment law that was designed specifically to do what we’re doing. I’m most excited about how quickly this will grow and how many millions of Black people it will benefit.”
Gives some words of advice for the aspiring future leaders who want to do what you do some day.
#1 The only person you need to believe in your idea is yourself. Don’t listen to best friends, significant others, parents, mentors, or anyone else.
#2 Stop waiting and planning! We have a terrible habit of wanting to create the perfect brand before launching, making sure we have the absolute best photos or the most unique logo, or more money. Just go get started! The best way to build a brand is to learn from your customers. You can not learn anything until you launch. Literally, launch your company with the goal of making one sale or earning one customer. Do just the minimum (and nothing more) to make that first sale. Then, plan out what you’ll need to have in place for the second sale. These should be people you know. Then the 3rd, and 4th sale. After that, write down a plan for making the next 10 sales. Keep the goals small and bite sized, and stay persistent.”