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Dear Investors: Why are Black and Brown Founders Not Good Enough for You?

7 min read
Business

My mission as a founder has always been to add to the bottom line of people's businesses because at my company we know that's the only way for them to grow and scale as a business. I set out with a mission. I wanted to build something for the communities that are so often left out of mainstream "success" — immigrants, women, and other minorities.

I tried building a third-party consumer delivery app that would help our community and look at where we are now: in a pandemic with restaurants everywhere hurting.

I had an idea and a passion to help an underrepresented community that needed support. I saw that most companies don't set out to build for people like this, and I thought it was really important to build that in mind. I needed to go and listen to them as opposed to building for convenience culture.

But here's the thing.

I didn't go to an ivy league school or work at a big corporate bank or a fancy consulting firm. I built everything on my own. In 2011, I had traction and media attention and yet I was being asked when I'd be having kids (flat out inappropriate and super personal) or what the size of the market was.

They said I was crazy because Seamless and Grubhub dominated back then. Meanwhile, companies like Postmates and Uber Eats were still getting started by people that just happened to speak their language, have the right credentials, or look the right way. Investors didn't like that I actually had a mission — that I actually gave a shit about restaurants existing five years from now.

FoodtoEat 1.0 started as an online ordering platform for local restaurants and food trucks in NYC. When we got push back from investors about our business model and didn't see enough consumers caring about how much restaurants were hurting from third-party fees we decided to pivot with the same mission. FoodtoEat 2.0 transitioned as a high-touch catering service with the largest curated network of women, immigrant, and minority-owned restaurants across New York City. We started to feed some of the world's most innovative companies from The Skimm to Warby Parker in accordance with our mission to support diverse communities through food. No one was thinking about diversity and inclusion through the lens of food and beverage, so we decided to focus our work through our b2b efforts. I tried building a third-party consumer delivery app that would help our community and look at where we are now: in a pandemic with restaurants everywhere hurting.

In 2011, I had traction and media attention and yet I was being asked when I'd be having kids (flat out inappropriate and super personal) or what the size of the market was.

So, investors, remember that it's not about funding folks you know or who have the familiar resume. It's about the ones that actually care about building something that matters. Because I'm tired of folks coming in and raising millions of dollars no questions asked without even having launched.

Why are Black and Brown founders not good enough? Why do we have to keep convincing people that we are worth the investment? Why do we have to go the extra distance to show that we are good enough? Unless we are literally the best in the entire world at something we aren't on the covers of magazines, and we aren't raising the funds that other investors are seemingly getting with ease.

A couple of months back I read the below and was appalled because I know this is just one of many instances where Black and Brown people have to listen to ridiculous comments based solely on their race or identity.

Honestly, I'm still pissed. Clearly, this decision (and many more) not based on the quality of the opportunity or the founder themselves but based on having "a [B[lack" as part of the portfolio. It is just some check the box bullshit and not actually caring about investing in diverse founders who can build billion-dollar businesses when given the opportunity.

Why are Black and Brown founders not good enough? Why do we have to keep convincing people that we are worth the investment?

The numbers for venture dollars being given to women today represent less than 2% of all VC capital and for Black and Brown women it's even less: 0.0006%. Let that sink in. Capital, network, and resources are always lacking for marginalized communities and are essential for the start of any new company. Furthermore, this issue of representation exists at every level of the business world, no matter how new or old your company may be.

This year 37 of the fortune 500 companies have women CEOs. This is considered "progress." Only three of those women are people of color and none of them are Black or Latina. We need to demand more representation everywhere because it is necessary. It's also not just on us as women to drive the change. We must be able to count on men to help us. We need them to champion us by standing up to older institutions as well as investing in new diverse-founded startups.

As for venture capital firms, my real question for them is: When will you realize that Black and Brown women are worth investing in? Why do I have to have a certain degree or set of accolades to be trusted? It wasn't until I was listed as a Forbes Under 30 recipient that I felt like I was even worth listening to. I have seen a number of white women who have been able to raise funds from VCs and angels; they are considered "worth" investing in because they've simply worked at other successful startups as employee number 20, 50, or 100. But what about having worked at a start-up gives them the qualifications to be successful founders?

This year 37 of the fortune 500 companies have women CEOs. This is considered "progress."

Imagine what it would be like if you were able to raise $1 million without any traction or even a product officially launched?

Capital is a key ingredient for businesses to get off the ground. And, right now, that capital is not going to Black and Brown women founders. I will continue helping other underrepresented founders because I know what it's like to be in their shoes. If you're in a place of power or privilege, please do the same. Because I am tired of having to fight so hard for every little thing. I'm exhausted from having to prove myself constantly for every single opportunity. People of color are forced to prove they're the absolute best, and even when they do make it, their contributions are minimized.

I spent a long time thinking I wasn't good enough or smart enough when facing rejections. I had traction, I had press, and I had validation from customers. I've seen people raise millions with no product or real market validation, either because of their networks or because they apparently "have what it takes" from being an early employee elsewhere. I'm tired of Black and Brown founders being underestimated. It's time to change the narrative by investing in people that actually have a passion and unique insight into what they build.

Here are some ways that you can help the diverse business owners, no matter who you are:

1. Buy from Black and Brown Businesses

People would hear about our business and would say, "Oh that's so nice." This always annoyed me because that didn't help me or my business. I always say to folks, "Don't tell me I have a nice business — buy from me."

2. Give Us an Opportunity

I'm a public speaker, and I do my own pitching. If I got accepted for an engagement I started to recommend other Black and Brown speakers. If someone reached out and I wasn't the best fit for it I would recommend someone I knew.

3. Make Introductions.

Know someone who could benefit from an introduction in your network? Don't just pass on the introduction to someone in your "clique" — they usually end up looking like you or being in a similar position. Make sure that the opportunities you create are for a more diverse set of friends and connections, or to folks who are where you were earlier in your career. Networking and connections don't have to come with some quid pro quo — pay it forward to someone who doesn't look like you or isn't in your inner circle.

5 min read
Lifestyle

Working From Home While Parenting in a Pandemic. The Juggle is Real.

I had just finished putting my toddler down for a nap when my 3-month-old cried out from the next room — hungry. Again. As I slowly backed out of the room so as not to disturb the nap that took five diligently-read books to achieve, I glanced at my watch — just five minutes to spare before my scheduled Zoom meeting.

As a mom, I'm in this like everyone else — not knowing what tomorrow will look like and doing my best day by day.

While I was going through these familiar motions, I thought how am I making this work? After talking to more moms just like me, I've come to learn that I'm not alone. Left without childcare in the middle of this pandemic, we've just been forced to improvise and expected to do the impossible, usually, while worrying about how long we can keep this up. In fact, instead of worrying about making it work, some parents have decided the best way to deal is to give up parenting for the time being altogether. At least, half-jokingly anyway.

This is working from home while parenting in the time of COVID-19 — a messy juggling act.

A Near Impossible Job: Full-time Parent and Full-time Employee

Working parents, unemployed parents, single parents, essential worker parents — all of these parents and situations have their own set of challenges. The circumstances of the pandemic have placed many parents at a crossroads to find alternative childcare in order to return to work or otherwise give up their employment and thus their financial security. More than 4 in 10 parents of children younger than 19 reported that they or someone in their family lost a job, work hours, or work-related income because of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Urban Institute's Health Reform Monitoring Survey (HRMS).

Working From Home While Parenting in a Pandemic

I established my career in Silicon Valley as a remote professional, and have for the last decade believed strongly that location-independent work is the future of work. As I became a mother and made that first transition back to work from maternity leave (albeit a leave way too short, but that's a topic for another day), I realized this remote work arrangement was the only thing that enabled me to continue to work.

I could meet the demands of my job while caring for a newborn. I often worked outside of the usual 9-5 and while the days were long, I was just so grateful to have a work-life arrangement that allowed me to be near my child when I needed to be. Turns out, that's a familiar story to many parents. A flexible job is really important to parents of young children. In fact, 82% say that having school-age kids affects their interest in finding a flexible job.

While the lines between work and home life are blurring, be flexible, communicate effectively, and lead with empathy.

Many workplaces have turned to remote work during this pandemic but with childcare and school closures, working from home with kids doesn't look like the "flexible" work arrangement it had once been. Parents have been handed the near-impossible task of balancing the responsibilities of full-time caregiver, full-time educator, full-time employee, and first-time remote employee.

As a mom, I'm in this like everyone else — not knowing what tomorrow will look like and doing my best day by day. I wish there was an easy answer to the childcare predicament all working parents face. In the meantime, I have figured out a few things that have really worked for me in order to have a productive day, lead from a physical distance, and maintain some sense of order in my home from 9-5.

My 3 top tips for working from home while parenting in the time of COVID-19.

1. Maintain A (Flexible) Routine

One of the major changes that comes with working from home is that without an office environment routines can get thrown off. Be sure to create a routine for both you and your children. I would also opt for a time-blocked routine rather than a rigid to-the-minute schedule. For example, mornings are for your meetings and the kids' quiet busy work (be that school assignments or other activities). A routine gives everyone an expectation of how the day will go and this can help decrease stress. Furthermore, using a routine rather than a rigid schedule also sets you up to be more successful because it allows flexibility for you all to make changes when needed.

2. Create a Designated Workspace

Control the things you can and don't spin your wheels on the things you can't. While there are few things that can be controlled, your workspace is one of them. It doesn't have to be an office, but your workspace should be a space that is your own. This isn't a space anyone in the house can simply drop off their things or fiddle with yours. Ideally, this space will be organized and clutter-free so you're not losing time finding what you need to get to work, or being distracted with anything else. Studies have found that work environments have an effect on satisfaction and productivity. If you work in a place that inspires instead of distracts you, you are more likely to be efficient, productive, and happier.

3. Communicate

Over-communicate with both everyone in your house and the remote team you are collaborating with. In the house, be sure everyone knows your schedule especially if you're co-parenting and co-working with a partner in shifts. It could help to post your weekly schedule, so everyone knows when a big meeting is coming up and you're in the do-not-disturb zone. With your remote team, take advantage of platforms for video communication to help recreate face-to-face interaction. General rule of thumb, if you find yourself writing an email that's become a novel or you're responding to a thread that's gone too long, the clearer route to communicating is likely a video conference.

While the lines between work and home life are blurring, be flexible, communicate effectively, and lead with empathy. And most importantly of all, give yourself the space to make mistakes, try again, and learn what works best for you.

P.S. Are you finding yourself overwhelmed by the challenges of parenting through the pandemic and keeping up with the work-life juggle? In a time when moms need a support system more than ever, I've founded Hey Mom Co., a new kind of wellness and mindset development community for working moms. Visit our website to learn more: http://heymom.co