Could a diversity promise work in venture capital? • businessupdates.org

by Ana Lopez

Fashion: an industry known for influencing trends, creatives and arguably the future of equity for black entrepreneurs.

Last week was the second Fifteen percent pledge gala, hosted by the non-profit organization of the same name, honoring black entrepreneurship and the organization’s efforts to increase equity in the fashion industry.

The non-profit organization stems from a call that designer Aurora James posted in 2020, urging retailers to stock at least 15% of their shelves with items from black-owned companies. (This number isn’t arbitrary; black people make up about 15% of the U.S. population.) That call turned into a pledge, then a nonprofit that partners with 29 retailers — including Yelp, Rent the Runway, Sephora, and Nordstrom — which claims to have shifted more than $10 billion in opportunity to the black community since its launch three years ago.

The promise has increased opportunities for black entrepreneurs. The foundation itself has launched a Google-sponsored marketplace. At the gala, it gave more than $250,000 in grants to black businesses, a life-changing amount for many. The average black business start with about $35,000, compared to about $100,000 for the average white founder. Their venture capital efforts are equally poignant, and most of their businesses not survive the start-up phase.

“I am also a descendant of people who were enslaved in this country. Such a program may be the closest I’ve ever come to reparations in my life.” Mec Zilla, Founder


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