Houston startup nonprofit partners with local initiative to bolster Black entrepreneurs

A new initiative between two Houston organizations is dedicating resources to Black entrepreneurs. Photo via houston.impacthub.net

Impact Hub Houston has partnered with the Black Marketing Initiative to offer a new training, mentoring, and networking program for local black entrepreneurs in honor of Black History Month.

Dubbed MarketBlack, the program will provide participants with 7 weeks of workshops and interactive training modules designed to help them create successful business plans and foster growth through practical lessons from educators and fellow entrepreneurs, according to a statement from Innovation Hub Houston.

The idea was born in June of 2020 when BMI conducted its Community Checkup campaign to assess the vitality of minority-owned small businesses in Houston amid the pandemic. The campaign surveyed 226 mostly Black-owned businesses, according to Impact Hub Houston's website. Nearly half of those surveyed reported that they needed business and marketing support.

The program will aim to provide participating entrepreneurs with the skills to keep their businesses alive through the remainder of the pandemic and beyond.

"The Black Marketing Initiative is not just about being Black — it is also about the belief that community can positively impact us all," says Action Jackson, a leader and organizer of MarketBlack. "Successful Black entrepreneurs are good for business. Good for community. Good for everybody."

The program is open to Houston-based small businesses that make less than $50,000 a year, are less than 5 years old, and are majority Black-owned. The owner must be at least 18 years old. Interested business owners can apply here.

According to ImpactHub, the majority of businesses that have participated thus far have not had a business plan and make less than $25,000 in annual revenue. Participants have ranged in age from 20 to 47, are split about evenly between male and female, and have all been Black with one participant also claiming American Indian or Alaskan Native Heritage.

Impact Hub Houston is sponsoring and raising funds for the program, as well as opening its network and community to participants. According to the nonprofit's website, a donation of $100 can support one entrepreneur through the program.

Houston-based Sankofa Research Institute is providing BMI with progress and outcomes to give the organization a snapshot of Houston's Black business community and determine the efficacy of the program.

Other partners and participants in MarketBlack include Action One Media, Marcus Bowers of Marcus Bowers TV and She's Happy Hair, Choose to Do Inc, Emergent Business Solutions, and South Union CDC of the Sunnyside Energy Project. These organizations and other local business owners act as panelists, instructors, and even financial partners to the participants.

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Building Houston

 
 

Here's what companies are in the latest cohort for gBETA. Photo courtesy of gBETA

An early-stage accelerator has picked its latest cohort of five Houston companies.

The Fall 2020 cohort of gBETA Houston includes:

  • AllIDoIsCook is founded by Tobi Smith and focused on exposing the world to Africa's cuisine by manufacturing gourmet food products delivered directly to customer doors and available at grocers. Since launching, AllIDoIsCook has built out a manufacturing facility, shipped over 8,000 boxes and generated $1.1 million in revenue all without outside funding.
  • Chasing Watts makes it easy for cyclists to coordinate or find rides with fellow riders in their area with its web-based and native application. The company has over 3,000 users and grew 135 percent from Q2 to Q3 in new ride views.
  • DanceKard, founded by Erica Sinner, is a new dating platform that connects individuals and groups with one another by bringing the date to the forefront of the conversation and making scheduling faster and easier with special promotions featuring local establishments. Since launching in August of 2021, DanceKard has over 170 users on the platform.
  • Dollarito is a digital lending platform that helps the low-income Hispanic population with no credit history or low FICO score access fair credit. Founded by Carmen Roman, Dollarito applies AI into banking, transactional and behavioral data to evaluate the repayment capability more accurately than using FICO scores. The company has1,000 users on their waitlist and plans to beta test with 100 or more customers in early 2022.
  • SeekerPitch, founded by Samantha Hepler, operates with the idea that jobseekers' past job titles and resumes are not always indicative of their true capabilities. Launched last month, SeekerPitch empowers companies to see who jobseekers are as people, and get to know them through comprehensive profiles and virtual speed interviews, and the company already has 215 jobseekers and 20 companies on the platform, with one pilot at University of Houston and three more in the pipeline.

The companies kicked off their cohort in person on October 18, and the program concludes on December 14 with the gBETA Houston Fall 2021 Pitch Night. At this event, each company will present their five-minute pitch to an audience of mentors, investors, and community members.

"The five founding teams selected for our gBETA Houston Fall 2021 cohort are tackling unique problems they have each experienced personally, from finding access to cultural foods, fitness communities and authentic dating experiences to challenges with non-inclusive financing and hiring practices," says Kate Evinger, director of gBETA Houston, in the release. "The grit and passion these individuals bring to their roles as founders will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact in the Houston community and beyond."

The accelerator has supported 15 Houston startups since it launched in Houston in early 2020. The program, which is free and hosted out of the Downtown Launchpad, is under the umbrella of Madison, Wisconsin-based international accelerator, gener8tor.

"Downtown Launchpad is an innovation hub like no other, and I am so proud of what it is already and what it will become," says Robert Pieroni, director of economic development at Central Houston Inc., in the release. "The five startups selected for the gBETA Houston Fall 2021 cohort are exploring new challenges that can become high-impact Houston businesses."

gBETA announced its plan to launch in Houston in September 2019. The program's inaugural cohort premiered in May and conducted the first program this summer completely virtually. The second cohort took place last fall, and the third ran earlier this year.

"These founders are building their companies and benefiting from the resources Downtown Launchpad provides," Pieroni continues, "and the proof is in the data – companies in these programs are creating jobs, growing their revenues and exponentially increasing their funding, which means these small starts up of today, working in Downtown Launchpad, are growing into the successful companies of tomorrow."

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