Three startups founded by Black women were awarded grants from Capital One totaling $50,000
“Your success and story is yours to own – don’t compare it to anyone else’s,” said Marty McDonald, Founder and CEO of Boss Women Media.
On August 15 and 16, more than 16,000 people tuned-in for the Black Girl Magic Summit. Capital One was honored to sponsor the event in partnership with Boss Women Media, a national organization focused on creating experiences and resources to propel women of color and allies forward in their careers and financial lives. Due to the impact of COVID-19, the summit went virtual this year, ultimately reaching thousands more women and allowing for greater networking and connectivity.
Two days of interactive programming prioritized financial, physical and emotional well-being, featuring keynotes, thought-leadership panels, workshops and opportunities to network virtually. A highlight of the weekend was a small business pitch competition, in which three startups, founded by Black women, were awarded grants from Capital One totaling $50,000 (first, second and third place winners took home $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000 respectively).
Each finalist pitched their business ideas to a panel of Capital One judges, including Shavonne Gordon, VP of Diversity Recruiting and US Card Talent Acquisition, Maureen Jules-Perez, VP of HR Technology, and Joy Brown, VP of Card Technology.
Learn more about the winners and their businesses below.
First Place – Kewanta Brooks, Elite Kids
As a classroom teacher, Kewanta Brooks noticed the resources accessible to her students did not reflect what they looked like – there was a lack of diversity in educational materials for children from birth to 10 years old. Thus, Brooks founded Elite Kids in 2019, a company that produces media and educational content featuring Black and brown characters for children.
Light Bulb Moment
“Three years ago, I was blessed to become a mom. Naturally, I wanted to find engaging, relevant content that catered to my sons’ unique needs as little Black boys. But, I couldn’t find a good resource, so my only option was to create one myself.”
How She Built It
“I hired an illustrator and together we created four characters known as the Elite Kids Crew – diverse in their skin color, hair, facial features, ethnic backgrounds and more. I wanted to highlight our uniqueness without making a mockery of it.
The characters we developed then transferred over into the products we sold to teachers, starting with a set of flash cards featuring the Elite Kids Crew. Each card had the answer to a question on one side and a picture of an Elite Kid with an affirmation on the other.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I transitioned and created a website to sell products specifically for parents to use at home. The goal for Elite Kids moving forward is to have our own subscription-based video app that will house all of our content.”
“My greatest challenge has been raising capital and finding investors, which is why I am very grateful to Boss Women Media and Capital One for this incredible opportunity. I will use this investment to create more content, launch the beta version of the Elite Kids app, buy inventory and launch a multi-channel marketing campaign to increase brand awareness and sales.”
Second Place – Courtney Caldwell, Shear Share
40% of space in hair salons goes unused everyday, while more than 1 million stylists are displaced and don’t have an easy way of finding space to work in.
Courtney Caldwell and her husband were operating a popular barber shop and getting frequent requests from stylists who wanted to use their space. They created ShearShare to connect independent stylists with a curated list of salons and barbershops where they can rent chairs by the day. The app can currently connect stylists with space in over 625 cities in the U.S. They’re hoping to expand the platform to enable users to grow and manage their businesses successfully by providing access to resources that help with accounting, trademarking and more.
Light Bulb Moment
“My husband has been in the industry for 30 years — he earned his doctorate degree in professional barbering cosmetology. We were running our own salon together in Plano, Texas, and found that stylists generally had to be on a waitlist before they could work at our salon.
Once we expanded, we got a phone call from a stylist who had moved her salon 45 minutes south and just needed to rent a suite closer to some of her clients. She needed to do the same in other surrounding cities, so my husband helped her rent space at different locations. Then people from those salons started sharing our contact information with other stylists, and for the next three years, stylists would call us up and tell us what type of location they were looking for.
This felt like a full-time job and my husband asked me to look for the app that offers this service. I couldn’t find it! We looked at each other and said, ‘let’s build this.’”
How She Built It
“We cashed out of our 401K accounts to hire a third party engineering firm to build the Shear Share platform. We were eating at a restaurant one evening and my husband took a napkin and drew every screen of what the Shear Share app needed to look like. We took that napkin to the third party engineering team and slid it across the table. We still have that napkin today.”
Shear Share Today
“As we began talking with investors we realized that if we are going to be a Tech company we needed our own Tech team. After receiving financial backing from venture capitalists, we hired our own Tech team that thinks about opportunities in an entirely different way than we would’ve by ourselves.
We have a recommendation engine fueled by machine learning based on stylists’ location, price sensitivity and other filters to push what we feel would be the best match. The grant we received at the Black Girl Magic Summit will go toward refining those algorithms and hiring a data scientist.”
Third Place – Tammy Bowser, Snag My Wedding
The average cost of a wedding in the United States is $34,000. Recognizing how much money some couples spend on a one-time special event, Tammy Bowser created a platform where couples can re-sell their entire wedding online (most couples typically have $10,000 worth of wedding items they can resell!). Over the past seven years, she’s been building Snag My Wedding as her side hustle and working to make the website user friendly for buyers and sellers. They currently have over 6,000 registered users, and she plans to focus on marketing in 2021 to take the business to the next level.
Light Bulb Moment
“I attended my cousin’s wedding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2012, which was about six hours away from where she lived. I pitched in to help load up a U-Haul full of stuff there and back.
She took it all home and put a truckload of stuff that she used for a couple of hours in her living room. I kept thinking that there had to be a platform where someone could snag someone else’s entire wedding. She had already thought of the colors and the theme and someone else could potentially want that entire wedding. I couldn’t find that platform, so I created it. I had a vision in my mind for a website, but my biggest learnings came from customers. They told me what they liked and didn’t like and I continued to iterate on the website. Then I worked with brides to explain the concept of thinking ahead to resell their wedding before it happens.
Snag My Wedding Today
“While Snag My Wedding has always been a side hustle, I was furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic and have been fully focused on this business. There are so many events that happen like birthdays and bar mitzvahs and I want to expand to include a “Snag My Event.”
We live in a world today that’s so wasteful. I want Snag My Wedding to bring people together so we can do our part to be more sustainable.”
“The money that it takes to actually put a product in front of the people that need to see it is a great challenge. Winning this grant at the Black Girl Magic Summit has given me an opportunity to look at how we can expand our marketing to be in those places where brides look first.”
Not only did Capital One leaders judge the pitch competition, they coached the business owners and provided feedback on their pitches.
“What I’d love to see is more Black and Brown leaders across the corporate world, across government, the nonprofit sector and small business ownership,” said Dr. Jennifer R. Jackson, President, Capital One Canada. “Seeing Black people in leadership roles, Black women in particular, would bring me tremendous joy because of the impact that I believe we would have. Events like the Black Girl Magic Summit help propel that mission forward.”
Women, and especially women of color, often experience gaps in leadership opportunities and access to business capital among other barriers. Capital One is committed to sharing resources and expertise to help these communities navigate through adversity and break down barriers.