teamwork

New startup accelerator emerges in Houston to promote collaboration between Black and Hispanic communities

BH Ventures is seeking Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs for its inaugural cohort. Photo via Getty Images

Two local business leaders have teamed up to create a Houston-based accelerator focused on Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs.

BH Ventures has applications open for its inaugural cohort until August 21, and co-founders Sharita M. Humphrey and Enrique Castro are looking for founders who have hit the revenue-generating phase with their business but are looking for mentors and support as they grow.

"Enrique and I know that there can sometimes be a barrier between Black and Hispanics doing business together," says Humphrey. "This is why I wanted, as an African American woman, and him, being a Hispanic male, to be able to show that we should be doing business together — especially in the city of Houston."

Humphrey and Castro met at an alumni event for the University of Houston's SURE program, which creates educational programming for entrepreneurs from under-resourced communities. The duo thought that they could create a program that built upon UH's. In February, after building out the curriculum, BH Ventures ran a successful pilot program in collaboration with UH.

Enrique Castro and Sharita M. Humphrey met at an alumni event at UH and decided to work together on an inclusive accelerator program. Courtesy photos

The seven-month program will launch virtually at the beginning of September and will work with 15 entrepreneurs across the country. Additionally, The Cannon is a partner and a resource for the program.

As of now, the program has over 20 mentors and speakers lined up, and sessions will occur virtually every other Saturday and will be a mix of presentations and Q&As with an emphasis on fostering networking connections.

"Sometimes for a Black or Hispanic entrepreneur, just being able to have that conversation or be able to ask (a mentor) certain questions and get feedback about their particular business — it's better than money," Humphrey says. "The right relationships can open up doors that money can't."

After the programming, Humphrey says BH Ventures will continue to follow each company from the cohort for 90 days in a sort of incubation period to make sure they have support after the accelerator.

"It's a lot to get the information — but how do you execute it? We're going to still follow their path," Humphrey says.

While Houston has been renown for being the most diverse city in the country, Humphrey says she's seen a shift in leadership diversity across the greater Houston area. This has motivated her to do everything she can to promote inclusion and business growth across demographics.

"(Blacks and Hispanics are) not doing as much business together as we could," Humphrey says. "And that makes no sense when we are normally at the bottom of things when it comes to finances — personal, savings, credit, wealth, business. I think that this is something that's going to be amazing for the city."

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Building Houston

 
 

Emily Cisek, CEO and co-founder of The Postage, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss tech optimizing after-life planning, B-to-C startup challenges, and a national expansion. Photo courtesy of The Postage

Anyone who's ever lost a loved one knows how stressful the process can be. Not only are you navigating your own grief, but you're bombarded with decisions you have to make. And if that loved one wasn't prepared — as most aren't — then the process is more overwhelming than it needs to be.

On top of that, Emily Cisek realized — through navigating three family deaths back to back — how archaic of a process it was. Rather than wait and see if anything changed, Cisek jumped on the market opportunity.

"I just knew there had to be a better way, and that's why I started The Postage," Cisek, co-founder and CEO of the Houston-based company, says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "My background had historically been in bringing offline businesses online, and I started doing some research on how I could make this space better. At the time, there really wasn't anything out there."

The tech-enabled platform allows users of all ages to plan for their demise in every way — from saving and sharing memories when the time comes to organizing pertinent information for the loved ones left behind. And, as of last month, users can no generate their own last will and testament.

"We launched the online will maker — it wasn't in my roadmap for another six months or so — because every single person that was coming in was looking at something else on our platform, but then going to the will part and asking, 'Hey is this something I can create here?'" Cisek says.

Recognizing that this was a good opportunity to generate new users, Cisek quickly added on the feature for a flat $75 fee. Then, members pay $3.99 a month to be able to edit their will whenever they need to and also receive access to everything else on the platform.

Cisek saw a huge opportunity to grow with the pandemic, which put a spotlight after-life planning. The silver lining of it all was that more people were discussing after-life planning with their family members.

"We're having more open dialogue about life and end-of-life planning that I don't see any other scenario really bringing that to light," she explains. "In some ways, it's been positive because having the conversation with people has been easier than it had been before."

While anyone can access The Postage's platform, Cisek says she's focused on getting the word out nationally. Following some imminent funding and partnerships, national marketing and growth campaigns are on the horizon.

Cisek shares more on her career and he unique challenges she faces as a B-to-C entrepreneur on the podcast. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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