This is a guest post by Rashaan Everett, the founder of The Greenwood Project, a startup dedicated to rebuilding Black Wall Street. He’s now dedicated to social entrepreneurship full time after Greenwood’s first funding raise; following stints with Accenture, Capital One, and Morgan Stanley. Rashaan has a B.S in Finance from Howard University and currently resides in his hometown of Long Beach, California.
Let’s take a moment to refocus. It’s been five years since the rise of social media-powered activism. The murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012, amongst other events, ignited a new wave of civil rights organizing and consciousness. Technology has played an undeniable role in this most recent chapter in our fight for equality. For the first time, videos of social injustice are broadcast directly to the world, and we can strategically leverage social media to empower ourselves with a voice that is too loud- and too widespread- to be silenced. Indeed, social media’s most important attribute is the dilution of a mainstream media that does not seek the voices and experiences of those who are not…mainstream. In this way, it has proven more democratic than traditional media could ever be.
Not surprisingly, we have more than taken advantage of this phenomenon. We heavily influence popular culture and sociopolitical discourse on several platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Social media has birthed a new generation of leaders, and the lines distinguishing “Black culture” and “pop culture” are rapidly blurring.
Our participation, energy, creativity, and leadership help power these billion dollar technology and social media companies, so why don’t we own a financial stake in these industries and use them to advance our communities? Technology, in general, provides an unprecedented opportunity to achieve more progress than our grandparents ever could. It’s time to channel our influence and dollars into building Black Business. But how?
Let’s try something different. Together we can double the number of Black-owned businesses over the next ten years. Since 2012, many Black Americans have reignited their passion for championing community progression. So far, however, we’ve achieved awareness, but little tangible progress. Harnessing the link between social change and financial independence is constantly being discussed, aimed at educating and uniting our communities. However, there’s been a lack of focus. What do we do now that we’ve decided something must be done? It’s time for us to put our money where our mouth is.
Barack Obama passed the JumpStart our Business (JOBS Act) to level the playing field for all entrepreneurs. Still, the major component of this legislation was activated just 17 months ago: Equity Crowdfunding. Equity Crowdfunding allows any American to own stock or debt in a private business for the first time in 83 years. It’s revolutionary, and this technology has the potential to transform Black economics. Since 1933, the wealthy enjoyed a government-protected monopoly that prevented middle-class Americans, and 98% of African-Americans, from investing in high-potential startups. To put it simply, White people have earned trillions through Silicon Valley’s technology since the year 2000. This is why the wealth gap is getting worse: it’s easy for the rich to get richer and almost impossible to overcome the hurdles without family-based wealth. Consider this: even if the founders of Uber came to your door 5 years ago with a great idea and asked for $100, it would’ve been illegal for you to invest in it (if you did make that investment, it’d be worth over $90,000 today).
Let’s use our mastery of social media technology to facilitate Equity Crowdfunding – the tool we can use to rebuild Black Wall Street. With just a few clicks, anyone can invest in a Black business. There can be opportunities to invest in franchises, cannabis companies, purchase shares of real estate, buy equity in creative projects or tech startups, and now anyone can loan money to Black entrepreneurs to fund their movies, restaurants, museums, bars, or literally any project that you believe me.
Think of it like a GoFundMe Campaign, but instead of donating to a cause; supporters can purchase equity or give a loan to support a business idea that matters to them and their community. It’s a game changer. Entrepreneurs can launch projects and use their friends and family as an investor base. Now, minority communities can raise money from each other instead of relying on the banking system or wealthy angel investors who don’t look like us. Even better, when these businesses succeed, the profits are returned to the same minority / middle-class investors; retaining and recycling wealth in our community like never before.
I challenge all aspiring entrepreneurs to launch that creative idea. You should know that there’s a new source of financial funding that doesn’t require convincing rich investors who may not relate to you that you have a good idea. I challenge today’s business owners to double down their focus, explore expansion and growth opportunities, and recognize Regulation Crowdfunding can propel your business to new heights. Building wealth begins with investing. People of all ages should consider making their first investments today, even if it’s only $100. If you’d appreciate updates regarding investment opportunities, sign up here
More established professionals should read about how Regulation Crowdfunding can diversify their portfolio. There is tangible wealth to be earned at all levels, with numerous investors pledging as much as 100k to Reg CF campaigns. In the Black community, we need to challenge our leaders and athletes to make these type of pledges to invest in minority communities today.
For the first time, there’s a tangible way to support our cause that doesn’t require donating money. Now, you can make a huge impact, and earn a financial reward too. There are no more excuses.