Keenan Beasley is the founder of Venture Noire. This non-profit mentors and develops underprivileged diverse entrepreneurs and provides them with access to capital.
Mr. Beasley’s Story
Today, only around 1% of venture capital dollars goes to entrepreneurs of color. Coupled with discriminatory lending practices and institutional bias, America has undercut over 1 million minority-owned businesses totaling over 9 million potential jobs and $300 billion in collective national income. Venture Noire seeks to correct this disparity by facilitating projects with public and private markets that tackle minority workforce creation and development. One way we achieve this is by providing grants and gifts in kind to startups within the program which act as a Friends and Family-sized investments. This allows these startups to test their service or products in the marketplace and achieve the crucial MVP (minimal viable product) and use-case that many Venture Capitalists look for when deciding whether or not to invest. Since launching, the organization has facilitated the distribution of nearly $180,000 in non-dilutive capital. As we look ahead to 2021, Venture Noire is currently seeking to raise $5M to expand our scope and launch additional programs to continue to attack this crucial mission.
Describe the most significant influence that led you to your line of work:
“We believe the world needs new institutions and thinking to unlock the chains of generational poverty. Income inequality is a global crisis that has been expanded upon through systemic racism and more recently the impacts of COVID-19. Venture Noire identifies global and regional problems, conducts research on potential solutions, and executes those solutions in the form of tangible projects and managed cohorts A driving factor behind Venture Noire is our mission to help close the Racial Wealth Gap in America. One of the fastest, most effective ways to do that is through business creation. By supporting these early stage, diverse entrepreneurs we’re helping to level the playing field and create additional opportunities for the Black community to close the wealth gap.”
What do your family, friends and colleagues say about your accomplishments?:
My family circle is very supportive and proud. Recognition like this is as much theirs as it is mine. Being an entrepreneur and non profit leader is a job of passion. I’m thankful that my circle understands and shares my passion.
Tell us about something that made you grow the most as a leader:
Like many company leaders, COVID provided very unique challenges. My main goal was to protect the business and our employees. When you’re working from home there is no stopping point – no set time to “leave the office.” So my biggest challenge was preventing fatigue and burn out. I did this by creating boundaries for the team and business by setting clear and realistic goals and objectives.
Share your ideas for mentoring the professional development of young entrepreneurs.
Having access to resources is critical for young Black entrepreneurs. While many businesses in the tech industry might be working towards improving the diversity of their workforces, there are still very few people of colour at the top of companies. In addition to access to capital, Venture Noire provides curriculum and mentorship to a diverse set of over 1,000 Black and minority entrepreneurs. It’s key to create a safe space that allows people to share candid stories without ego or fear. Venture Noire as a non profit is a perfect mechanism for this. Our mentorship is purely based in the desire to help and advance the community and culture forward.
To date, what project is your greatest success? What is the story behind that innovation?
2020 birthed two organizations that I’m extremely proud of. The first being the creation of Venture Noire as a true minority venture catalyst organization in the minority community. We’ve approached this organization with a common goal and have been humble enough to learn along the journey. The second was the launch of athleisure hair care brand Sunday II Sunday. Launching a brand/company in the middle of a pandemic requires intense fortitude. This business is built off the desire to help women find a balance between their beauty and health goals. It was critical for us to launch despite the hurdles because self care has never been more important. I’m proud to say that we are doing our part to improve the lives of thousands (and one day millions) of people around the country.