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Empowering Black Women Entrepreneurs: A Call to Action for Women Executives

Support should be part of an organization’s belief in equity and embraced by senior leadership teams

By Mona-Lisa Prosper


The entrepreneurial journey is fraught with hurdles, leaps, and uncharted territory full of moments that reveal the true test of a person’s resiliency and mindset. 

For Black women entrepreneurs, these challenges can be even more complex. Often plagued by the “sticky floor” experience — a metaphor that describes a type of job discrimination that keeps disadvantaged groups on the lower employment rung — in corporate work environments, Black women are frequently motivated to start their own businesses.

The number of Black women creating their own opportunities to circumvent corporate roles that cap their career progression and earning potential is taking place at an accelerated rate. A 2021 study facilitated by the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA), Casa Foundation for International Development, and De Sedulous Women Leaders with researchers from the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) highlighted the realities Black women entrepreneurs face. Though many women are taking action and making their vision come to life, they face significant challenges like systemic racism, anti-Black racism, unequal access to resources for business support, and a lack of funding. 

In the last four years, I’ve seen progress when it comes to supporting Black entrepreneurs, especially since the massive societal reckoning we saw in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Corporations, governments, banks, and venture capitalists have all been forced to look at structural bias, and many of the organizations I come across in my work as Futurpreneur’s Director of the Black Entrepreneur Startup Program have tangible data they can use to demonstrate the strides these respective organizations are making. 

Organizations committing to funding Black entrepreneurs sounds promising, but initiatives of these kinds are not signals that there is no longer a need to keep pressing on. Supporting Black entrepreneurs isn’t a trend, nor should it be a business decision that is prioritized for only a fiscal year. Instead, it should be part of an organization’s belief in equity, embraced by senior leadership teams. As women executives, we wield tremendous influence and power, and we can leverage our positions to support and champion the success of Black women entrepreneurs.


Embrace The Transformative Power of Mentorship

Mentorship relationships can be completely transformative. The beautiful thing is that it’s a two-way street that offers growth and learning opportunities for both mentors and mentees. The most common feedback I get from mentors is that they could never have expected how much value they would get out of it.

Mentors share vital knowledge and experience to help entrepreneurs avoid costly mistakes and offer clarity on strategic decisions. Additionally, research shows that mentorship directly influences an entrepreneur’s chance of success. An incredible 70 per cent of small businesses that received mentorship survived more than five years — double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses. Furthermore, 92 per cent of small business owners agreed that mentors have a direct impact on growth and survival.

As women executives, mentorship is a great way to uplift Black entrepreneurs. If you’ve never been a formal mentor before, you should connect with organizations that offer a mentorship program. Organizations like Futurpreneur and other non-profits that run formal mentorship pairings are a fantastic way to start and get paired with an incredible entrepreneur.


Promote Financial Access

The investment and finance industries are still predominantly male and white. A mere 2.3% of VC funding goes to women, and worse, only 0.35% to Black women

While these stats can be discouraging, as women leaders, we hold the power to offer a vital boost to equity-deserving, women-led businesses in our networks. Even if you’re not in a position to invest, introductions, connections, and endorsements are a powerful way to help reduce barriers that surround accessing capital.

The other aspect of financial access I emphasize is entrepreneurs having financial literacy. I’ve seen so many women entrepreneurs who never thought of themselves as financially knowledgeable build incredible cash flow models and financial projections through the loan process. Too often, once these women secure that first cash injection, they go back to shying away from their business financials, and it ends up hurting them in the end.

As women, we can encourage each other to confront any potential discomfort with managing business finances head-on. For the Black women entrepreneurs I work with, I stress to them that this kind of financial empowerment is critical to overcoming the growth cliff too many Black-led businesses face, often when they struggle to secure that next round of financing.


Be Intentional About Inclusion

Equality will only be accomplished through deliberate and sustained efforts. As a leader, you can play a role by remaining open and being willing to learn. I’ll never forget a moment early in my career when I was the president of the Young Chamber of Commerce of Women of Québec. I was sitting alongside my board members, a diverse group of women, and we were brainstorming names of inspiring women entrepreneurs we’d like to have as speakers for our events. As I was jotting down their suggestions, I noticed that every single name that came up was a white woman — all incredible entrepreneurs who had built a high profile. Knowing it was a safe space, I felt comfortable addressing the situation and making us realize what had happened, which was eye-opening for many of us. It was essential to take on the work of doing research and finding  Black and other entrepreneurs of colour who also deserved that spotlight, and genuinely reflected our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We all have to be willing to have uncomfortable conversations and be intentional about our approach to DEI work.


A Call to Action

As a leader, you’re in a remarkable position to champion equality through your very actions. Join me in working to ensure that Black women can see themselves as entrepreneurs — and thrive while doing it.


Mona-Lisa Prosper lives in Montréal and works as the Director of the Black Entrepreneur Startup Program at Futurpreneur, a national nonprofit dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs ages 18-39 with loan financing, mentorship, and business resources.