Racial inequalities have been a point of contention in the U.S. for decades that has only recently gained a significant amount of traction in 2020 due in part to the murders of Black people in this country, most notably Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and the countless other unarmed Black women, men, and children.
As part of the Nation’s approach to bring awareness to the racial injustices that exist, there has been an increased focus highlighting the current gaps across different industries, with the most notable being the racial wealth gap.
Even in thriving industries that flourish on captivating ideas of entrepreneurial talented geniuses, Black entrepreneurs have continuously been overlooked by angel investors and venture capitalists for investment funds, networking resources, and support within the community.
In October 2020, McKinsey & Company released an article, Building Supportive Ecosystems for Black-Owned U.S. Businesses that stated,
“A silver lining of COVID-19 and the racially charged violence in 2020 may end up being that some large companies have now launched programs to support Black-owned businesses: a major social media company dedicated $40 million in grants to support Black-owned US businesses with 50 or fewer employees; a financial services firm pledged $1.15 billion, including $350 million in procurement spending on Black-owned businesses, to close the racial wealth gap.
However, these individual actions will not in themselves be enough to affect the needed change. For this work to have a systemic impact, entire business ecosystems will need to be involved. Once successful, however, this effort would benefit not only the US economy but US society as a whole.”
One such company has made it their mission to be disruptors in the entrepreneurial / investment industry to create a pathway of opportunities for Black people. With over 10 years of financial management consulting experience in both public and private sectors, Ashley Kirk and Irene Onyango founded Empower Us Agency to cultivate and empower Black businesses, incubators and accelerators by eliminating systemic barriers to generate Black new wealth.
“The momentum of these uprisings have caused us to shift gears from our lives as consultants, to reflect and think about how we as Black women can utilize our talents to help create long-lasting opportunities for our Black community,” said co-founder Ashley Kirk.
This upsurge has caused Empower Us Agency to boost support efforts to promote their core values—to provide social and financial options where limited-to-no funding or investments in Black businesses in general existed, and insight on how to connect with and access financial investors including angel investors and venture capital firms.
“The entrepreneurial and investment ecosystems have systemic barriers that limit the number of Black people managing capital investment funds, and founders accessing social and financial investments,” explains co-founder Irene Onyango.
“This is a problem that must change, because there are plenty of talented Black people in the industry, it’s just not inclusive of us. We want to contribute to closing the barriers and gaps by serving as a professional and reputable source throughout the ecosystem.”
1863 Ventures was the first company to work with Empower Us Agency, which provided Ashley and Irene with an opportunity to share new up-and-coming Black entrepreneurial talent. 1863 Ventures is run by Black female founder and trailblazer Melissa Bradley, providing a unique business development program designed to bridge the gap between entrepreneurship and equity. The company is making waves with a vision to create $100B of new wealth and economic power for and by the New Majority.
Adding to their portfolio, Empower Us Agency supports the Black Apothecary Office (BAO), Inc, which is a new concept model accelerator that started in early 2020 for Black and Latinx creators, collaborators, and disruptors in the beauty and health/wellness space. Their efforts have recently gained the attention and popularity of Black Enterprise Media and Cosmetic Executive Women.
Empower Us Agency also bolsters organizations such as the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), creating economic opportunities for entrepreneurs by providing capital and services to assist underserved entrepreneurs in starting, stabilizing, and expanding their businesses through research, incubation, and conveying advocacy to foster a robust and inclusive marketplace.
As more and more large corporations announce commitments that aim to mitigate the lack of financial and social capital for Black businesses, now is the moment to join Empower Us Agency on their mission to shatter the current ecosystem and rewrite the narrative of what investors and entrepreneurs look like, creating access to opportunities for Black people to build Black generational wealth.
It’s about time.
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