Serial entrepreneur, Shelly Bell, launched Black Girl Ventures (BGV) because she wanted to create place-based initiatives to provide access to capital for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs. Her organization's mission is to use entrepreneurship support and training as a vehicle for poverty alleviation and wealth building. Black and Brown women founders are underserved, unbanked and underfunded… and Shelly says its time to change that!
Black Girl Ventures currently hosts pitch competitions in Washington DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia. However, their pitch competitions are quite different. They are a collaboration between the community, funders and entrepreneurs. In addition, they flip the traditional pitch competition on its head by charging at the door (creating their own micro fund), eliminating the judges and empowering the community (audience) to ask questions and vote for the winner.
How it all got started
It all started in a house in southeast, Washington, DC in 2016 when Shelly noticed that women entrepreneurs were not being treated fairly. She proclaimed, "Women are not getting access to capital for their business. Well, let's get them access to capital for their businesses." She then created a Meetup.com group, and within a couple weeks the membership went from 0 to 150 and kept climbing.
Shelly then launched the first event called "Eat, Pitch, Vote" with the simple idea to bring women of color (WOC) together to discuss entrepreneurship, partnership, and support through collective economics. About 30 women were in attendance and ready to support each other with the intent of growing their businesses.
Evolving into what it is now
Since then, visibility has grown rapidly… and "Eat, Pitch, Vote" is now called "The Black Girl Ventures Pitch Competition."
Event attendance has grown from 30 to over 100 people per event, and the number of applications received has grown from 20 to 300 applications a year.