Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley appear to have trouble finding outstanding women and people of color to embrace in the world of startup and entrepreneurial success. Perhaps that is because they were all in Harlem for Let’s Do it for the Ladies: Women Entrepreneurs of Color, an interactive panel event that featured four dynamic millennial female entrepreneurs.
The sold out event was hosted by Creative Workspace via the Harlem Business Alliance, organized by the think and do tank, Enodi (Entrepreneurs of the Diaspora), and generously sponsored by the construction management and technology company Bunkers Hill Construction.
The evening featured a range of young women of color who have launched enterprises they both own and lead. Each woman shared their personal journeys, tips on how they raised initial capital and offered insight on how they have grown their business ideas.
“I’m a data nerd,” shared Robyn Andrea Burgess, ’10CC founder of Runaway Apricot when explaining the importance of leveraging data to guide her business approaches. “The first idea does not always happen. Have a testing plan see what’s working and not working. Then be creative and take all of the right elements to create an approach that works,” she advised.
Ms. Burgess founded Runaway Apricot eight years ago as a way to inform and encourage communities to make healthy choices in preparing local, seasonal and healthy foods from scratch.
The speakers emphasized that a viable business idea must solve problems and not simply just be new. “Being creative is contributing to a solution,” said Yvonne Tinsley ‘13SSW. “A crooked fork is unique, but it’s not useful. If you’re not contributing something useful you’re just unique, you’re not useful.”
Ms. Tinsley is the co-founder of Oshun, a forthcoming mobile app and web platform that is set to launch in October 2015. The service will link women with premier hair stylists.
Burgess and Tinsley were joined on the panel by Maureen Erokwu, founder of Vosmap, a tech firm that partners with Google to help expand its Street View efforts, and by Malyia McNaughton, owner and designer of Made by Malyia Jewelry, which offers handcrafted delicate jewelry. Made by Malyia has been featured on Essence.com.
The evening also included the New York premiere screening of On the Rise Africa, a business talk show featuring African entrepreneurs created by critically acclaimed filmmaker Femi Agbayewa. The episode showcased African female tech company founders, including Erokwu and Anie Akpe, founder of Innov8tiv.
“Harlem has long been a place for the innovators and Creative Workspace is a platform for entrepreneurs to share ideas, projects and products,” said Khalid David ‘10SEAS, founder of Bunkers Hill Construction and member of Creative Workspace. “At our event, we simply celebrated some of the most dynamic new leaders coming out of New York. Lucky for us, they were all woman of color representing the diaspora.”
“Let’s Do it for the Ladies” was conceived and planned by Mr. David and Michael Rain ‘10GS co-founder of Enodi and communications chief to the startup ZNews Africa. The pair wanted to offer engaging programing to observe Women’s History Month and create a space where current and future entrepreneurs can meet to do more than exchange ideas, but also to plan concrete courses of action to build their ideas up together.
“This is exactly the kind of movement we’re working to make happen,” says Rahim Diallo, co-founder of Enodi. “We’re not trying to do the same old networking party where people exchange cards and nothing happens. We want to bring people together to collaborate and focus on actually getting something done. That’s the only way we will grow successfully as a community.”