May 29, 2017
Today on Startup Funding hosted by Dr. Roshawnna Novellus we have Jessica Norwood who is a fellow of Nathan Cummings Foundation and the founder of The Runway Project which uses entrepreneurship as a way to bridge the wealth gap for black-owned businesses. They do this by providing the early pre-seed capital and business support a.k.a friend and family money.
Jessica who is based in Mobile, Alabama and grew up between politics and entrepreneurship, believes that the entrepreneurial spirit has always been a part of her. As a result of a childhood surrounded by politics, she saw several opportunities where black entrepreneurship could be strengthened, more than what was already being done. Having done some work with some major foundations on food investment in Alabama, Jessica saw how she could get more direct investments to support the entire eco-system surrounding black farmers from the production side to the consumption side.
The problem Jessica saw was that investors cared more about later stage, growth type of capital where assets may be used for collateral but many startups are undercapitalized from the very beginning. Also, friends and family money which represents a $60 billion industry was not readily available for African Americans because of the wealth gap.
If you’ve ever wanted to know about trends in the food and agriculture industry, listen to Jessica talk about innovations in the industry including business to business operations and small scale in-house farming. Jessica isn’t only interested in the agriculture sector though, in her words “what I’m most passionate about is the entire eco-system surrounding how we deliver friends and family money to entrepreneurs of color in particular.” She also outlines the innovations and movements that are going on to make her idea a reality.
Jessica also gives advice to people who aren’t accredited investors but wish to support startup companies ate the seed stage. When asked how we can open people's mind to the cultural realities behind black startup founders towards seeing more social enterprises evolve, Jessica states that with a greater inclusion of people who come from those communities to be a part of creating the solution we can effect a culture change by using diversity as a strategy to understanding where good business opportunities are.
Don’t miss out on Jessica’s advice to startup founders so that they can be as attractive to investors as possible. Her advice includes greater inclusion and visibility and she also shares examples of how this can be done. That’s not all, we get to learn a personal habit of Jessica’s that contributes to her success in this deeply insightful episode.
Roshawnna and Jessica discuss:
[02:50] Jessica talks more about herself and her she came up with the idea for Runway Project.
[06:01] We get to learn more about trends in agriculture and urban farming.
[09:40] We learn what other sectors Jessica is interested in asides agriculture.
[19:10] Jessica shares a story of an entrepreneur that helped her push forward to create her approach.
[25:40] They talk about changing the cultural perception surrounding startup founders.
[32:42] Jessica shares recommendations for entrepreneurs who can’t access funding easily.
[41:40] Jessica answers an interesting question from Dr. Roshawnna