HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – When Ann-Marie Stephens left her job in corporate America to chase her dreams of starting her own business, she didn’t realize the same struggles she faced as a Black, hardworking, woman would follow 30 years later.
“We were trying to get recognition; we were trying to feel equitably valued that our contributions were assessed on the same scale,” Stephens said. “It is almost for me, like a reliving of the same scenario in the entrepreneurial world.”
Black BRAND Co-founder and President Blair Durham said African Americans receive only about 0.2 percent of investor funding for startup companies and small businesses.
A new program created by the nonprofit hopes to level the playing field. The B-Force Accelerator is a 12-week program laser focused on jumpstarting and expanding Black-owned businesses.
“Business owners are trained with regard to general strategic planning, of course financial planning,” Durham said. “They prepare pro-forma statements.”
Budding businesses would get the mentorship, support, and connections they need to eventually pitch a viable plan to potential investors and better prepare them for capital investment.
Stephens is hoping to use the program to launch her nutrition business Portia by May.
“It is really targeted to underserved, multicultural, millennials who are at risk for overweight or obesity, diet-related challenges,” said Stephens, who is the co-founder of Portia.
To see if the B-Force Accelerator is right for you, Black BRAND and its local partners will kick off a free, virtual event Thursday, February 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is called “What Every Entrepreneur Needs.”
“It’s not always about a high-tech, high-growth company,” Durham said. “We’re not looking for the next Amazon or Facebook, necessarily. We’re looking for any business that knows that it needs to scale; it wants to grow.”
The B-Force Accelerator is a partnership between the Norfolk State University Innovation Center and the Incubation Network and is sponsored and hosted by Portsmouth Partnership/bloom co-working.
To register for the entrepreneur event, click here.