Afra Smith, founder and CEO of The Melanin Project, said when she was starting her company to build generational wealth for Black women, she had to continuously justify her competence and vision.
“I was having to answer a million questions about my identity and target market and that creates a system where you seem like you don’t belong. I don’t want to have to justify why I am working with Black women. I am a Black woman and my target market is Black women,” she told Madison365.
To delve into this challenge, and other challenges like this for women and BIPOC entrepreneurs Smith and five other panelists will lead a discussion during the virtual Social Good Summit on Friday, Aug. 13, noon-2 p.m.
At the free event, people can expect to hear from Smith, Elmer Moore, Judy Cooper, Maria Khokhar and Ian Aley. Hanif Nu’Man, of ReSCI Consulting, LLC, will be the moderator. And Shayna Hetzle, of partnering organization and sponsor, The American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate & Social Impact, will be the opening speaker.
The theme of the summit, which is in its sixth year, is Race and Entrepreneurship and will focus on how entrepreneurial ecosystems respond to the call of diversity, equity, and inclusion without harming active and aspiring BIPOC entrepreneurs.
“There is a lot of focus and money spent on diversifying startups, hiring and things like that and we wanted to focus on what is beneficial, what works for people of color? Alnisa Allgood said, who is the co-founder of Social Good Madison that organizes the Social Good Summit.
Allgood said there are organizations that tout prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion, however, they continue with their same “game book” and simply try to add people of color to it.
“When they expect a person of color to fall in line – they are saying we don’t want your culture, we just want your color,” Allgood said.
“They say they want diversity but if they are not changing the organizational culture, and if they are a predominately white organization, they aren’t putting in the steps to make people of color feel welcome, respected,” Allgood later added.
Smith expects to discuss some of her own struggles as a Black entrepreneur in the Madison area.
Especially a Black entrepreneur who is looking for more than profit.
When she was starting her business that uses financial advising, wellness coaching education and empowerment to build wealth for Black women, she wanted to have a positive impact on her community. And sometimes funders or people were too focused on money. She said she felt there was a mistrust in her ability to support the economics of Black and Brown communities.
“I’ve often had to spend some time educating people on (the importance of having an impact) so that delays me in getting what I need. If you are going to create a system that you say you want to support, you ensure your system is intentional about being inclusive,” Smith said.
“I don’t want to be looked at as just a small business owner. I want to be looked at as someone who can create jobs and build infrastructure and impact my community.”
Both Allgood and Smith said that they hope the event will start and continue a conversation about redefining entrepreneurship, and how organizations need to be intentional about their efforts to be inclusive.
The panelists will discuss a list of prepared questions before going into a question and answer session with the audience. Allgood said she is expecting an opportunity for participants to speak one on one with panelists at the end of the event.
For information, visit socialgoodmadison.org/summit/.