How to Redefine the Pitch Competition for Black and Brown Female Founders
Shelly Bell is disrupting pitch competitions by bringing capital directly to underrepresented entrepreneurs.
As a door-to-door saleswoman in college, Shelly Bell learned how to convince potential customers to buy something they already had in their homes: vacuum cleaners. Today, Bell says that experience laid the foundation for her success as a serial entrepreneur and founder of Black Girl Ventures.
Several years ago, Bell realized that entrepreneurship was a key to unlocking generational wealth building for African Americans and that by helping minority-owned businesses grow, new employment opportunities would also open for others in the community. However, she knew that the traditional fundraising models weren’t created with black and brown women in mind and often directly excludes them.
“If we peel back the layers, what we’ll see is that the financial capital is really coming from people knowing each other,” says Bell.
With Black Girl Ventures, Bell has found the nexus of financial capital and social capital: pitch competitions that are entirely community-driven. “Connections are what really bring the money. At Black Girl Ventures pitch competitions around the U.S., the audience connects directly with the entrepreneurs: they contribute the cash for the top prize, select the winner, and, often, serve as mentors for the competitors.