1863 Ventures: A Goal to ‘Generate $100 Billion of Wealth by 2030’

with Melissa Bradley of 1863 Ventures

While Black and brown individuals are the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs, challenges persist in growing their companies.

Melissa Bradley, Founder and General Partner of 1863 Ventures, joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss growth opportunities for emerging Black and brown business owners, including access to capital investment, forming partnerships and business development programs.

Posted on:

January 31, 2024

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Not only did it set the stage for the abolition of slavery, the proclamation led to opportunities for the generations that followed to realize their version of the American Dream. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. While the American Dream inspires an entrepreneurial spirit, barriers remain for business owners from historically marginalized communities of color to start or advance their businesses. Joining me to discuss how Black and brown entrepreneurs are leveraging capital investments and forming partnerships to grow their business is Melissa Bradley. She is the Founder and General Partner of 1863 Ventures. And, Melissa, thank you so much for being here.

Bradley: Honored to be here. Thank you.

Anderson: So, we are a long way from 1863. Freedom and opportunity are here now. But where do Black and brown businesses stand when it comes to growing and sustaining? I mean, what's the general overview?

Bradley: Yeah, so, post-COVID, I would say there was an amazing upswing. Post-COVID, there was a dramatic upswing. We had about a 10-year decline in the creation of new businesses. But when we saw over a million new businesses be created in one year, the majority of those founders were women and people of color, and the majority were actually Black women. And so we have seen this democratization of access to be able to start a business. Unfortunately, almost anybody can start a business, but not everybody can build a business. And so where we see the challenges are access to capital, access to markets, and access to quality information on how to actually grow and scale your business.

Anderson: So you started 1863 Ventures to serve this population that you call the "new majority." Explain what that is.

Bradley: So, I know it's a term that scares people, but I am a finance major, a professor at Georgetown. I teach numbers. And 2 plus 2 is always 4. American history -- depends on who the narrator is -- can change. And so when we look at it statistically, the fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs are Black and brown individuals, hence the "new majority" of business owners. But when we think about the population and the demographic shift that is happening well before 2025, where many states already have people of color being the majority, we wanted to use a term that was not judgmental, that was not pejorative, but one that really reflected that it's not about because we're the minority. It's about that we are actually the drivers of economic reality in this country.

Anderson: And what have you learned about the barriers that business owners in this group face? And can you run down the ones sort of at the top of the list?

Bradley: Sure. I think access to capital is always at the top of the list. Having been a financial regulator and serving in Treasury, I realized that it is illegal to actually have bias because risk is a subjective perception. But I don't want us to just rely on capital. I think there's access to markets where we know that it's very hard to get into big-box stores. It's a highly competitive process. It's hard to break into supply chains. We also know it's hard to find mentors. One of the things that I'm very clear about is that if you have never run a business, it's hard to tell somebody else how to do so, because there are nuances and risk apertures that are very different than someone who's sitting in corporate America. So I think those still remain the biggest challenge. But I would say that we found the biggest challenge is mind-set and self-confidence. Statistics show that a Black and brown entrepreneur, it costs them at least $250,000 more to start the same exact business as their white peer because of direct and indirect structural racism and sometimes sexism. However, despite that initial barrier, while 50% of all businesses fail in this country within six years, Black and brown entrepreneurs last at least -- at minimum 8.5 years. So there's a level of resilience that exists in the communities that I serve, but also a set of barriers that we do have to address.

Anderson: What would you say that success looks like today for Black and brown businesses? And is there sort of a baseline of progression that we should be looking to?

Bradley: So I think success is, one, that there is this democratization, that anybody can start a business. I think our goal is that, by 2030, we create $100 billion of new wealth by and for new-majority entrepreneurs. Now, we still have a ways to go, but I'm optimistic we will get there. But I think what's changed the most, to your question, over the past few years has been an acknowledgment that Black and brown entrepreneurs are important and integral to small business and the American economy. In fact, we know that Citibank said the cost of racism has been $16 trillion. So people recognize there's an economic imperative. In fact, we've lost almost $100 billion of GDP because we have been locked out of that system. I think the other piece is that more and more people are understanding the value of working with Black and brown businesses because of our customer base. And so you see the 5% pledge or the 15% pledge, where we're getting greater access on shelves and in B2B partnerships.

Anderson: So, this is something I know people are going to want to know a lot more about. What is your website? Where can people look?

Bradley: Sure. People can go to 1863ventures.net. You'll learn all about our programs, you'll be able to access our research, and, most importantly, be able to see our founders and be able to support them.

Anderson: Melissa Bradley with 1863 Ventures. Thank you for being here.

Bradley: Thank you very much.

Anderson: And thanks to you, as well, for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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