-Special Thanks to Cheri Henderson at TriStateMSDC for the info

At this year’s Essence Festival, Richelieu Dennis, former founder of haircare and skincare products company SheaMoisture announced the launch of New Voices Fund, a $100 million fund aimed at supporting women entrepreneurs of color.  This revelation comes less than a month after venture capital firm Backstage Capital announced a $36 million fund focused exclusively on black female-led startups.

The almost simultaneous financial support for women of color is a huge win for everyone involved and a much needed solution for an underrepresented group.  According to Black Enterprise, “Women founders received less than 3% of VC dollars in 2018. Investment in black female founders—who in recent years have been starting businesses at higher rates than any other group, so they’re not hard to find—was barely discernible, at .02%.”

Dennis spoke about the achievement at the Essence Festival stating that the fund has already “invested in or committed to, over $30 million in black women entrepreneurs.”

In addition to the New Voices Fund and Backstage Capital, according to a collaborative report from digitalundivided, JPMorgan Chase, the Case Foundation, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, “the number of black women who have raised upwards of $1 million from VC firms has more than tripled from 11 to 34. The number of startups founded by black women has also increased 2.5 times from 2016 to 2018, jumping from 84 to 227.”

Note: As part of the selling of SheaMoisture to Unilever in 2017, former founder, Dennis “vowed to use the capital to create an investment fund for minority entrepreneurs, specifically women of color. Unilever and Sundial Brands, creators of SheaMoisture, agreed to contribute an initial investment of $50 million to the fund.”

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