Building Businesses & Wealth in the Black Community

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There’s been an outcry for the black population to invest in its own in order to build wealth in our communities. I even published posts laying everything out on the table for black business owners and black patrons so we can acknowledge and correct some things that keep black dollars from circulating among black businesses. But what if we could do more? What if we could not only support Black-owned businesses as patrons, but what if we could help fund Black-owned businesses and generate wealth as investors? That’s where The Greenwood Project comes in.

Founded by Howard University alum, Rashaan Everett, The Greenwood Project is out to fund Black-owned businesses and build wealth in the Black community using former [and dearly missed] President Obama’s Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. In a move to support the funding of small businesses and startups, the JOBS Act eased up on the regulations that allow individuals to be investors. The Greenwood Project takes advantage of this by providing a platform for black individuals and families to invest in black-owned startups. I immediately became interested in The Greenwood Project when I came across it, and was able to get the deets on the organization from founder, Rashaan.

YB:

In the most layman terms possible, what’s The Greenwood Project?

Rashaan:

The Greenwood Project is thousands of Black families chipping in $100 to invest in Black businesses. We figure if all of these families own stock in a profitable, successful Black company, they’d be more likely to be a customer and support that same company with their own money. In fact, since each family or individual would really want big return on their investment, they may even be inclined to make sure their friends, family, and social network support these quality black businesses that they own a percentage of. Pretty soon, a culture and attitude shift occurs that leads to more  support of Black businesses. On top of that, you could argue that today we’re more connected than ever via power of social media, culture, and influence from the right celebrities, so maybe we have the potential to scale this culture shift into something powerful.


YB&:

What inspired you to start The Greenwood Project? Specifically, can you identify three pivotal moments that confirmed it needed to happen, and that you were going to make it happen?

Rashaan:

I think the first was the lack of results from movements like Black Lives Matter. It was obvious that the movement wasn’t as efficient as it could be, and not for lack of skill or passion, but for lack of funding and economic leverage. The disrespect was only more obnoxious during the election, our political requests weren’t acknowledged. Except for a few obligatory soundbites, African Americans were ignored, and if that wasn’t bad enough, well, we lost. I think it’s becoming more urgent and transparent that something significant in our national approach to politics has to change.


YB&:

What has been the biggest learning lesson for you since you’ve launched The Greenwood Project?

Rashaan:

I’ve learned that, contrary to popular belief, people are willing to take risks, and truly want to accumulate assets and build a solid financial future for themselves The missing ingredient has always been education, or financial literacy specifically. I’ve learned that my biggest responsibility is to educate people on how to make investments and take other steps to work toward reaching their financial goals.


YB&:

How important is it for The Greenwood Project and other initiatives like it to receive funding?

Rashaan:

It’s critical to prove that we can create our own companies. The Greenwood Project is so unique because it empowers entrepreneurs with Black dollars. Even some of the minority-focused venture capital  firms are still powered by White people simply aware of the fact that they could make even more money by capitalizing on Black culture. Obviously, we accept money from everyone and have investors of every race; but the point is that real wealth retention in the Black community can’t be earned until profits from Black enterprises are returned to Black investors.


YB&:

The Greenwood Project will fund Black startups. Are there any current Black startups that you keep up with?

Rashaan:

There are several! We’re really engaged with WeBuyBlack, as they’re already profitable and have a model that can scale. We’re conscious of things that are already gaining momentum like Moovn, the black-owned uber; and new Black media companies like Blavity; who published a fantastic piece on us at the top of the year.


YB&:

Many Black people aren’t taught the value of investing, and some simply afraid of all the associated risks. What do you say to those people about why investing is a smart thing to do, and why it’s worth the risk?

Rashaan:

I’ve never met a wealthy person who hasn’t lost money investing. But I have met a lot of poor people who’ve never lost money, investing that is. You can’t let the fear of losing supersede the excitement of winning when it comes to investing. It’s a game where you have to keep playing to win, and you’ll naturally become better as you go along. The most important part is to just start. The hardest investment to make is your first one.


YB&:

You’re a recent Howard grad. How did your time at Howard prepare you for your work with The Greenwood Project?

Rashaan:

Howard was the best decision of my life. I was a student entrepreneur, and after learning how to market my business to college kids–the most frugal and skeptical customers of all–I was confident I could sell anything to anyone. In all seriousness, the talent in Howard’s School of Business is contagious and inspiring. The faculty helped connect me with prestigious internships each and every summer that also bolstered knowledge acquired in the classroom.


YB&:

When you’re not working full-time or handling business for The Greenwood Project, what are you doing?

Rashaan:

Reading or exercising. I couldn’t advocate strongly enough for the power of self-help books! For personal: 7 habits of highly effective leadership; for business/entrepreneurship; The Lean Startup, and for inspiration, The Simple Path to Wealth.

If I’ve been especially productive, I’ll reward myself with Happy Hour or Brunch. There’s lots of great options here in sunny LA.

 

To learn more about The Greenwood Project, visit thegreenwoodproject.org.


Rashaan EverettRashaan Everett, founder and CEO of The Greenwood Project, is a serial entrepreneur and digital marketing strategist with an emphasis on analytics for maximizing return on investment. Rashaan is currently practicing Management Consulting for Accenture’s Communications, Media, and Technology group. Previously, Rashaan worked for Capital One, developing statistical risk models for Mortgaged Backed Securities for their Market Risk & Liquidity group. Additionally, he’s spent time on Wall Street, as a Morgan Stanley Richard B. Fisher Scholar. He has also worked for Mattel’s marketing team.  Rashaan has a B.S. in Finance from Howard University.

 

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Southern girl with a soft spot for Harlem. Biggie enthusiast with kindred spirit ties to Beyonce. Martin's Gina. Jerry's Elaine. Too complex for anybody's box.