Backstage Capital: The venture capital firm Backstage Capital is known in the tech industry for its commitment to investing in companies led by underrepresented founders including people of color and women. Backstage Capital founder and managing partner Arlan Hamilton inspirationally started the firm after experiencing homelessness and has convinced business all-stars like Marc Andreessen and Chris Sacca to invest in the fund. To date, the firm has invested more than $7 million in over 130 companies led by underrepresented founders. Additionally, the firm recently started Backstage Crowd, a crowdfunding platform where accredited investors can contribute up to $5,000 to companies with diverse founders.
Community Development Financial Institutions Fund: The Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, part of the U.S. Treasury Department, plays a vital role to help lesser-served U.S. business owners by increasing access to capital. Many Black-owned businesses have been helped by CDFIs because these institutions specifically “provide loans, investments, financial services and technical assistance to underserved populations and communities.” On top of this, the CDFI Fund offers tax credits to spur investment. Business owners can search for local financial institutions that have received money from the CDFI Fund and that, in turn, should be able to provide tailored assistance.
Founders First Capital Partners: The Founders First Capital Partners offers a unique take on funding with “revenue-based investment” for service-based companies led by minority, veteran or women founders. The organization has a flexible payback model where payments are determined from cash flow instead of being a set amount each month. On top of investments, the firm also has business accelerator programs and a learning platform that can help business owners.
Grants.gov: The website Grants.gov offers a centralized location to learn about and apply for federal grant opportunities from more than 20 agencies. These “grant-making agencies” award more than $500 billion annually to businesses of all stripes, meaning no matter the background or type of company you have, there may be a grant opportunity available through this portal.
Harlem Capital Partners: New York City-based Harlem Capital Partners debuted its $40 million diversity-focused venture capital fund in December 2019 with a goal of helping to invest in minority and women founders around the United States. The firm targets companies that are already generating revenue with tech-enabled products and services, and it hopes to invest in “1,000 diverse founders over the next 20 years.”
Humble Ventures: Humble Ventures, a venture development firm incubated by Ogilvy Consulting, provides consulting to diverse tech startups to help them grow and find funding. The organization said it specifically wants to enable entrepreneurs that are “solving problems for growing demographic segments” that “represent the markets of the future.”
Kapor Capital: Oakland-based venture capital firm Kapor Capital prides itself on its commitment to help diverse entrepreneurs, as “founding teams from under-represented backgrounds provide a competitive edge.” The company’s current portfolio has 59% of its investments going to companies with “a founder who identifies as a woman and/or an underrepresented person of color.”
Minority Business Development Agency: The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce since 1969, works to promote the growth of minority-owned businesses. One aspect of their work includes providing resources about grants and loans. Black business owners looking for guidance on local funding opportunities can do so at one of the MBDA’s Minority Business Centers, which are located in major metropolitan areas all over the country.
Small Business Administration (SBA): Last but certainly not least, the Small Business Administration (SBA) provides important resources to small businesses of all kinds and has multiple programs that can help Black-owned businesses. The SBA’s Lender Match tool helps connect small businesses with SBA-approved CDFIs (read more about them above) and small lenders that can provide a personalized touch. Notably, the SBA also has two federal contacting programs that may be relevant to Black-owned businesses — the 8(a) Business Development program and the HUBZone program.
The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC): The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) is a non-profit corporate membership organization that supports minority-owned businesses. The NMSDC has a grant program called the Business Consortium Fund, which is intended to support certified minority-owned businesses.
The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC): The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) is a non-profit organization that aims to revitalize communities in need through its programs. It supports Black- and minority-owned businesses across the country through its Small Business Relief grant program, which will open for applications on August 31.
Accion: Accion is a nonprofit organization that provides loans, access to resources and connections to diverse business owners and entrepreneurs. Its application for minority-owned business loans is available on its site.
IFundWomen: Another incredible resource is IFundWomen (IFW), which helps female and female-identified founders of any race or ethnicity seeking capital (specifically through crowdfunding), coaching, networking, and grant opportunities. But for today’s purposes, we’ll direct you to IFW’s grants hub, where they’ve aggregated a collection of the most exciting grant opportunities for women (crucially, with up-to-date application deadlines).
NASE Growth Grants: Founded in 1981, The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) is the nation’s “largest nonprofit, non-partisan association” dedicated toward supporting entrepreneurs and micro-businesses. One way the organization supports these smallest of small business owners is through their grant program. This program awards NASE Members up to $4,000 to finance a particular need, whether that’s purchasing equipment, hiring staff, launching a marketing plan, or another approved purpose.
The Amber Grant Foundation: the Amber Grant Foundation awards one $10,000 grant to a small business owner per month. In this case, however, grants are offered only to female entrepreneurs, and they’re intended specifically to help new entrepreneurs launch their businesses. If you’re awarded one of the $10,000 monthly grants, you will also be in the running to win the Amber Grant’s yearly $25,000 grant.
Female Founders Fund: Launched by “serial entrepreneur” Anu Duggal in 2014 and powered by a team of female investors, the fund is dedicated to “investing in the next generation of transformational technology companies founded by women.” FFF invests in B2B, consumer, fintech, and health care businesses that have at least one female founding member, and they primarily focus on investing in seed-stage businesses. That said, they’re open to reviewing pitches from businesses in a variety of industries, and occasionally even before those businesses are ready for a formal funding round. They average between six to eight investments per year, with investments ranging from $500,000 to $750,000.
Black Girl Ventures: Black Girl Ventures (BGV) provides coaching, development, and community resources for Black and Brown female-identified entrepreneurs. BGV’s marquee offering is their crowdfunded pitch competition program, in which participating entrepreneurs have three minutes to pitch their business idea, followed by a three-minute Q&A session with a panel of professionals in front of an audience. Then, the audience votes “with their dollars” on the crowdfunding platform SheRaise. First, second, and third place winners are announced, but everyone participating in the BGV Pitch has the opportunity to raise capital. Winners receive additional perks, as well, like free business coaching and a discount on graphic design services.
Fearless Fund: Fearless Fund invests in women of color led businesses seeking pre-seed, seed level or series A financing. Our mission is to bridge the gap in venture capital funding for women of color founders building scalable, growth aggressive companies. Fearless Fund is built by women of color for women of color.