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Monica Smiley

Monica Smiley is editor and publisher of Enterprising Women. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Institute of Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW). To learn more about how you can become a mentor in the Peace Through Business program or donate to the organization, visit www.ieew.org. Contact her at msmiley@enterprisingwomen.com.

Ford Fund Invests in Women Entrepreneurs Making an Impact, HERImpact

One woman dreams of providing shelter to anyone living on the street. Another woman envisions every young black girl becoming a math wizard. And yet another sees an end to partying and vacationing college students falling victim to drug-spiked drinks.

These women aren’t just dreamers. They’re do-ers. They turned their socially conscious ideas into scalable businesses, and as a result, won investment capital from the Ford Motor Company Fund.

They need it. While women own 40 percent of all businesses in the United States, they receive just 2.2 percent of available venture capital funding.

Still, women entrepreneurs make an impact.

Consider these stats from “The 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report,” by American Express. Between 2007 and 2018

• women-owned businesses grew by 58 percent while all businesses grew by only 12 percent
• total employment by women-owned businesses rose 21 percent, while for all businesses employment declined 0.8 percent
• total revenue of women-owned businesses increased by 46 percent, while revenue for all businesses increased 36 percent. 

Making an impact, indeed. Ford calls it HERImpact

In the past two years, HERImpact, through Ford Fund, awarded $200,000 to 12 women entrepreneurs determined to solve a societal issue. What’s more, these 12 were among more than 400 women (and a few men) in Detroit and D.C. who benefited from untold hours of business development mentoring, technical and financial workshops and online educational tools to grow their businesses.

“We believe that when you invest in a woman, you are not only improving her life, but the lives of her family and the community around her,” said Yisel Cabrera, Community Relations Manager, Ford Fund.

HERImpact has held four projects in two cities, Detroit and Washington D.C. Each project lasts about three months, kicking off with a one-day Entrepreneurship Summit a call for entries. It concludes with a pitch competition, during which three winners are awarded cash infusions. In between, Ford Fund partners with local business professionals and women-focused advocates to offer business development assistance.

In November, HERImpact travels to Miami for kickoff one-day Entrepreneurship Summit. The pitch event is planned for early 2020. Meanwhile, Ford Fund is planning to expand the program with additional events in 2020 in other U.S. cities and globally. HERImpact winners are using their investment to make an impact.

LaQuida Chancey, a Baltimore real estate investor and property renovator, founded Smalltimore Homes in 2017 to give homeless a temporary roof over their heads. She was awarded a $5,000 early-stage investment in HERImpact’s September D.C. pitch competition.

Chancey’s business model involves volunteers help build insulated micro shelters, with windows, sleeping bag and storage shelves. Each shelter costs $1,250 to build and furnish.

“Last year, at least one tent encampment was dismantled in Baltimore every month,” said Chancey. “Clearly, this doesn’t solve an issue. It just displaces established communities and forces people out of their safe spaces. The micro shelter is on wheels and makes being a displaced transient person a bit easier.”

Chancey plans to seek assistance from churches and community groups to residents of her micro-shelters obtain addresses and identification so that “with time, they can transition back into what most of us know as ‘normal life,’” she said.

Brittany Rhodes majored in math at Spelman College before earning a Master of Business Administration at Carnegie Mellon University. As a mathematics tutor, she realized too many female students lacked confidence in their math abilities.

She developed Black Girl MATHgic, a subscription-box company dedicated to increasing math confidence in girls, especially black girls,

In May 2019, Rhodes was awarded a HERImpact Ideation Stage investment of $2,500.

“When I found out I was a semi-finalist… and found that it wasn’t just family and friends that thought Black Girl MATHgic was a good idea, it gave me validation,” Rhodes said. “I went full speed ahead.”

Black Girl MATHgic is dedicated to increasing mathematics confidence, aptitude and representation in girls. The product is is a monthly subscription box assembled for girls on a third to eight-grade math level (regardless of their age) containing a math activity book with several items to support the activities, an affirmation to inspire confidence, a profile of a black woman mathematician and a Caring Adult Guide

“Black Girl MATHgic Box is not only for black girls,” Rhodes said. “It is curated for black girls because of the unique circumstances they face as a double minority and their underrepresentation in STEM fields. But the exciting thing about the box is that ALL girls of all backgrounds can and will enjoy and benefit from the math confidence boost it provides, while learning more about black history (which is American history) every single month.”

Rhodes said she recently shipped MATHgic boxes to new subscribers across the United States, including a military base. Black Girl MATHgic also won the HER IDEA pitch competition at the 110th NAACP National Convention in Detroit in August 2019.

Danya Sherman is passionate about combining human rights and technology to create social change. That’s how she came up with KnoNap, a cocktail napkin designed to combat drug facilitated assault by detecting a rape-drug presence.

Simply place a few drops of one’s drink on a designated part of the napkin. If the drug is present, the napkin will change colors.
Sherman’s KnoNap received $25,000 HerImpact growth stage investment.

Sherman quotes a recent study: More than 1 in 13 college students report being drugged. Most, but not all, are women and 80 percent say of those drugged say they had a negative experience as a result – such as sexual assault, blacking out and getting sick.
When creating a detection device for rape drugs, Sherman said she wanted the tool to be discreet, portable, gender-inclusive, and something that could be incorporated into any social setting.

“After a lot of market research, we found that a majority of social settings had three commonalities: college and dating aged individuals, beverages, and napkins,” Sherman said.

“That is how we came up with the concept of KnoNap, the napkin that knows.”

KnoNap is patent-pending and can be ordered online.

“It is an honor to be able to shine a spotlight on these amazing women entrepreneurs who prove that social good and capital investment are not fundamentally at odds,” said Melissa Bradley, managing partner of 1863 Ventures, “We’re proud to help contribute to a nurturing ecosystem here in DC for women entrepreneurs committed to making a difference.”

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About HI - HERImpact DC

HI - HERImpact DC is a joint initiative between the Ford Motor Company Fund and 1863 Ventures to help female social entrepreneurs in the DMV area scale their enterprises in order to increase their impact and long-term sustainability. HERImpact DC offers educational opportunities, technical assistance, mentoring, coaching, and financial resources, and its Entrepreneurship Summits and Pitch Competitions are designed to build community and provide investment in early and growth stage companies in the region. For more information, visit https://herimpact.net/, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Ford Motor Company Fund

As the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, Ford Fund’s mission is to strengthen communities and help make people’s lives better. Working with dealers and nonprofit partners in more than 60 countries, Ford Fund provides access to opportunities and resources that help people reach their full potential. Since 1949, Ford Fund has invested more than $2 billion in programs that support education, promote safe driving, enrich community life and encourage employee volunteering. For more information, visit www.fordfund.org or join us at @FordFund on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

About 1863 Ventures

1863 Ventures accelerates new majority entrepreneurs from high potential to high growth by bridging entrepreneurship and racial equity. Our vision is to create $100B of new wealth and economic power for and by the new majority. Our work provides emerging entrepreneurs with access to money, markets and management training. We will achieve our vision through increased profitability, job creation and access to capital for our members.

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