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'I'm Black. I'm a Woman. Let's Talk About Raising Venture Capital.' As a Black woman, I'm part of a demographic that's least likely to successfully raise venture capital. But there are ways to shift that narrative.

This story appears in the January 2021 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Courtesy of Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon

The first few times I went to pitch a venture capitalist, it was like traveling to a different country where I didn't speak the language or know the cultural norms. I'd never done anything like it before and didn't know anybody who had. When I cofounded my first startup, I was a sixth-grade teacher in my 20s. I'd soon discover that people like me — Black, female — are the least likely to get funding from an investor. But eventually, I'd learn something equally as important: People like me are often pitching all wrong, or at least very differently than the founders VCs say yes to.

There's a lot to learn from those founders who are successfully raising capital, no matter who you are.

In my case, I came from humble beginnings. My dad is Black, and he grew up with 11 siblings in a two-bedroom apartment in the projects of Spanish Harlem. My mom is white, and she grew up in rural Iowa, helping her mother, a young widow and a product of the Great Depression, raise four boys. My parents met each other in law school in Los Angeles, where they both became civil rights attorneys and later went on to raise three daughters in Pittsburgh. They named me Mandela after Nelson Mandela — you can imagine the conversations in that household.

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