Our Village United (OVU) announced the launch of a Pro Bono Program with support from Walmart. Through the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity, they focus on serving Black women founders in the Southeastern region. Supported by a $500,000 grant from Walmart, the program will offer technical assistance for retail-facing small businesses led by Black women.
“Black women founders are leading the tide when it comes to growing rates of entrepreneurship,” said Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon, founder & Executive Director of Our Village United. “However, they are significantly underserved when it comes to the technical assistance, resources and capital needed. This program is an opportunity to give them the tools and resources they need to build a solid foundation for opportunities that lead to sustainable, thriving businesses. It opens a cycle of economic possibilities for the Black community as a whole.”
Statistics about black women businesses
In 2021, 17 percent of Black women started or ran a new business compared to 15 percent of white men and 10 percent of white women. However, only 3 percent of those women reported operating a mature business. The disparity between Black women starting businesses and business maturity is an indicator of larger issues to building sustainable businesses. In addition to technical challenges, Black women experience disproportionate hurdles to accessing capital. According to reports, female founders only received 2.3 percent of global venture capital funding in 2020. Those numbers are even lower for Black women, who only received about 0.35 percent the same year. In fact, 61 percent of Black female entrepreneurs are self-funded. This lack of access to capital significantly impacts Black female entrepreneurs’ ability to grow and sustain at a rate comparable to their counterparts.
Our Village United’s support
OVU provides an ecosystem of support for solopreneurs and microbusinesses. It offers targeted technical assistance, shared professional services and a holistic approach. It’s dedicated to empowering business owners to grow their operations and scale their businesses. OVU’s Pro Bono Program funded by Walmart will focus on helping Black women founders across Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia strengthen their business infrastructure. It will prepare them to sustain their businesses long-term, while also positioning them to become credit and capital ready. OVU will connect businesses to service providers who will help identify challenges to growth and put solutions in place.
“Supporting Black women founders, who are sparking growth in Black entrepreneurship, is key to the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity. Our aim is to reduce the racial wealth gap by strengthening Black businesses in the retail industry,” said Monique Carswell, Director, Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity. “We are excited to support Our Village United’s Pro Bono Program. We want to learn more about how targeted assistance and resources can help Black women founders overcome challenges to growing their businesses.”
The future of Our Village United
“Every day, Black women are making strides in innovation. They simply need the opportunities and allies in their corner to amplify their excellence,” said Dr. Hallmon. “As a Black female founder who started a business with zero start-up capital, I understand the challenges these founders face. However, it is clear that when key stakeholders take a holistic approach to ensuring these businesses have access to capital, technical assistance and resources to grow and sustain, the economic value for themselves and the communities they serve is limitless.”
Since 2020, OVU has impacted entrepreneurs across the country and graduated 100 businesses through their ELEVATE program. ELEVATE is a 12-week incubator that connects Black business owners to technical assistance, professional services, mentorship and novice capital. It addresses gaps in operations, marketing, sales and fundraising. OVU also focuses on providing wellness support by partnering with licensed wellness coaches and mental health practitioners.
For more information about Our Village United, please visit ourvillageunited.org and follow them on Instagram @ourvillageunited.
About Our Village United
The work of Our Village United is grounded in a theory of change. It focuses on building strong, resilient communities through the delivery of culturally competent training and business solutions. Our Village United’s mission supports the growth of Black solopreneurs and microbusinesses by delivering targeted technical assistance. Shared professional services empower business owners to grow their operations and scale their businesses.
About the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity
The Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity was founded in 2020 by Walmart and the Walmart Foundation. Through a $100 million commitment over five years, it addresses the drivers of systemic racism in society and accelerates change. The center’s initiatives fund research, advocacy, innovation of practices and tools, stakeholder convening and non-profit capacity building with a focus on four systems: finance, health, education and criminal justice. The mission of the center is to complement and extend the societal impact of Walmart business initiatives to advance racial equity within these four systems, and its work extends the overarching philanthropic work of Walmart.org. To learn more, visit Center for Racial Equity.
What other resources can entrepreneurs count on to overcome systematic obstacles? Read more about them on Lioness Powerbrokers: How AI Can Solve the Gender Funding Gap.