A note from our editor, Elizabeth MacBride:
Starting a business is somewhat out-of-style right now, as a vehicle for making the world a better place. Liberal policymakers are focused on labor. The right-wing, which used to be at least a nominal champion of small businesses, has disintegrated. Some big foundations have moved on.
In part, that’s because small business ownership – starting a business, startups – became conflated with tech entrepreneurship. The tech world is pretty tarnished these days. But should entrepreneurship more broadly be? I was out in Yosemite this past weekend, reporting on a handful of stories, including some about Evergreen Lodge. The B-corp company is built around a program that gives young people from troubled backgrounds a four-month internship including training, budgets and skydiving!, among other social activities.
I interviewed Egypt Noble, who took part in the program eight years ago, as a 25-year-old. Having kept in touch with the company for all these years, she returned as a regular employee last year when a job came up that she wanted, as a cook. Her dream is to own a restaurant. She’s working on saving $20,000 as a start. The majority of today’s entrepreneurs look like Noble. They are women and people of color, likely to be starting service businesses and food establishments. Women are by far the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs and small business owners.The fact that small business ownership is being dismissed now by elite thinkers, policymakers and by many investors fits a very old pattern: When women move into an economic sector, its importance, measured by the money flowing to it, declines. That pattern has been documented in large studies by researchers Asaf Levanon, Paula England and Paul Allison. Wages for biologists, ticket agents, designers – and any number of other professions – declined as they shifted from men to women.
I think a version of this is happening now.
Having grown up in Oakland, the daughter of a mother who used drugs, Noble emerged from the youth program at Evergreen feeling like “I could try anything and do anything.” She left a job as a cashier at Walmart, and over the next six years went on to work as a housekeeper, as a school aide and as a construction worker. Her heart kept coming back to the kitchen. “People ask me, ‘are you cooking today?’” she said. “I made some carnitas that were the bomb. I do try and make my flood flavorful and good.”
Noble hopes to save enough by next year to get off the ground in a lower-cost-of-living place. As I tried her chili (it was delicious) I thought about all the obstacles stacked against her: an unfriendly banking system; barriers to marketing thrown up by the tech platforms; onerous regulation.
Seventy years ago, a man who’d overcome Noble’s challenges, who was still dreaming her dreams, would have been seen as a potential hero. America in the mid 20th century supported millions of men like that to launch companies.
But today’s dreamers are women. And it’s way too easy to ignore women.
Times of Entrepreneurship
Stories of the Week
In Slauson & Co, Google Investor Ron Conway Is Betting On More Than Money
It’s one of the highest-profile of many recently formed firms, initiatives and funds – many started in the wake of George Floyd’s murder — that aim to diversify entrepreneurship. The premise is that Black venture capitalists will fund more Black founders, who in turn, as they succeed, will create jobs and wealth in Black communities. It’s a questionable, but interesting premise.
What You May Have Missed
Women Face Pressure To Look Beautiful Everywhere They Go. Here’s How To Set Them Free.
The onus is on those of us in leadership roles to embrace a fresh approach to beauty, says Shelley Hon.
A University In Topeka Recruited A Football Player. What They Got Was A Community Leader
The story of Michael Odupitan, whose nonprofit/for-profit is creating a holistic, innovative approach to community building, based on Odupitan’s own experiences rising out of poverty.
What I’m Reading
Deception, exploited workers and cash handouts: How Worldcoin recruited its first half a million test users. Eileen Guo and Adi Renaldi of MIT Tech Review investigate the practices of Worldcoin, a $3 billion crypto platform startup co-founded by Sam Altman (formerly of Y Combinator) and backed by Andreessen Horowitz. Worldcoin has said it will expand access to finance for everybody, but it turned out to be hiring independent contractors (paying on commission only) to convince poor people to submit to body scans for a giant database that supposedly will help in anti-fraud efforts. Uh-huh. I absolutely think we could trust Silicon Valley moguls to use biometric scans ethically, just like the frog thought that scorpion was a really nice guy. Story’s here.
Equally fascinating: Inside the Contentious Legal Battle at the Nation’s Largest Environmental Group. The culture wars erupt at the Sierra Club. The organization tried to “censor” a defense of John Muir written by the club’s first African American president, as this HuffPost article reports. Muir had been portrayed as a racist in a mea culpa piece published by the national Club. Meanwhile, the Colorado chapter has been suspended for four years after complaints of a toxic environment. Story’s here.
Etsy Seller Strike. Etsy Sellers are on strike this week to protest an increase in fees to 6.5% from 5%. From a blog post at the site: www.etsystrike.org “I get to cosplay an entrepreneur on social media … For those of us in the gig economy, our boss is a digital platform. Our boss is an overreaching all-powerful AI, and we are mere numbers in an automated system. If we are mistreated, we have no one we can complain to. Nowhere we can go.”
Living the dream
Best Practices: With concerns rising about continued inflation and possible recession – the Federal Reserve has rarely been effective at engineering a soft landing – most businesses are considering increasing prices. McKinsey has this guide; if you ignore the corporate speak, there are guidelines for businesses of all shapes and sizes. A couple of do’s: Consider the out-the-door cost, not just the sticker price, and pilot some price changes. A don’t: Forget to advertise the items you’ve cut prices on.
Buzzworthy: Vanessa Friedman, The New York Times fashion critic, takes on the question that has been plaguing many high-powered women. Are there limits for leggings? Yes, but the pandemic shifted them. Leggings used to be gym clothes; now they’ve graduated to capri pants level.
I wrote this piece this week in Washington Independent Review of Books, about my friend Adrian Spratt’s novel, Caroline. It’s one of the most mind-expanding books I’ve read lately; if you want more of a recommendation, Kirkus called it “searing.”
4.5 Hour Workweek: A Productivity Hack
If malaise is threatening your productivity, consider five ideas to help yourself out of it: remind yourself why your’e doing your job or your company; take a class; adopt a pet project, take a mentee; or phone a friend, says Art Markman, a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin, writing in Fast Company. He’s the author of Bring Your Brain to Work.
Wanderlust: a glimpse of entrepreneurial life in one of our Top Ecosystems
Flash forward to the post-pandemic summer of concerts we’ve been dreaming of: Sarah McLachlan comes to Bend with the Indigo Girls on June 10. Lady Gaga will be in Atlanta in August, and Mavis Staples is in Helena, Arkansas, in October (not on our list, but a place we’ve visited).
There are more than 400 million small arms in the United States. The number itself poses a problem. Because the United States hasn’t had effective gun regulation for so long, it’s next to impossible at this point to create a system to keep existing weapons from falling into the hands of criminals. If you want to fund the destruction of one gun at the same time you support teens who are at risk of violence, check out jewelry made by https://libertyunited.com/#, at, for instance, $79 for a bracelet. The guns used come from police forces. In some jurisdictions, police are legally required to resell illegal guns, putting them back into circulation.
Upcoming Opportunities ⭐
To list an opportunity in our newsletter that reaches 13,000 influencers and entrepreneurs, check out our rates here. We cover the emerging economy of diverse founders:
1. A Course To Reach the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs
In this free course developed by entrepreneurship professor John Lynn, professors and other entrepreneurship educators get a curriculum and supporting materials based on the influential book, The New Builders.
2. Black Ambition Prize
The Black Ambition Prize is a tiered opportunity for early-stage Black and Latinx founders to compete for more than $2,000,000 and learn with a network of talented founders and cross-sector business leaders. There’s also a separate Black Ambition HBCU Prize.
Date: May 8
3. African Heroes
Applications opened for Jack Ma’s Africa Business Heroes competition. (Scroll down to Apply Now on the slightly confusing web site). The competition choses 10 “heroes” from across the continent and awards mentorship, networking and cash prizes.
Application Deadline: Application Workshops run in April and May
4. New Majority Capital Launch
New Majority Capital is raising a community round on the investment platform Wefunder. The company aims to be a platform that helps immigrants buy existing small businesses.
Application Deadline: N/A
Minimum Investment: $200
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This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.