June 23, 2023

Fashion Designer Aurora James Launches New VC Fund For Black Founders

Aurora James

The Fifteen Percent Pledge was launched three years ago by creative director, activist and fashion designer Aurora James to urge major retailers and corporations to commit 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses.

Since then, more than 625 Black-owned businesses have developed business relationships with 29 companies across three countries that have taken the pledge such as Ulta, Sephora, Vogue, Macy’s and Old Navy.

According to Forbes, the Pledge’s work with its partners has created the potential to shift $14 billion to Black entrepreneurs and businesses. 

Now, to mark its third anniversary, the Pledge has set its sights even higher, with hopes of Black entrepreneurs driving  $1.4 trillion of wealth generation by 2030, increasing Black business representation by 14.6%.

She has also partnered with private equity firm VMG Partners to launch a new venture capital fund for Black founders.

What is the Fifteen Percent Pledge?

Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, many were underwhelmed by corporations’ pledges for diversity and their anti-racist donations.

James was included in this group and went to her Instagram to share her frustration and call out to the world’s largest retail brands.

Tagging the brands in her post, she wrote “Here is one thing you can do for us.”

“I am asking you to commit to buying 15% of your products from Black owned businesses… we represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space.”

Her message did not go unseen and was shared across the Internet, which saw her interviewed on CNN that same week.

The request turned from an Instagram post into a racial and economic justice nonprofit organization and a global movement, now known as the Fifteen Percent Pledge.

“It’s really about continuing to build on what we’ve already started and taking it to the next level,” said James.

“There’s been so much progress made, but there’s still work to do.”

Launching A Fund for Black founders

Following this, on Juneteenth this year, James launched the Friends and Family Collective. In partnership with Alisa Williams, a partner at private equity firm VMG Partners, the collective hopes to tap into an $850 million VC fund, focusing on founders of Black-owned businesses.

Last year, only 1 % of all venture capital went to Black-owned companies.

“People in private equity and venture capital are making bets on founders that they feel are going to be successful. But there’s a lot of unconscious bias in that process,” James told Fast Company.

“If Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page is their archetype of a successful founder, where does a Black founder fit in?”

James and Williams are now focused on finding businesses that already have a proven track record, but are at a point when they are ready for some growth. 

They have already begun investing $25 million into brands like Ghetto Gastro, Beauty Stat, Melanin Hair Care, Proudly, and Danessa Myricks.

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.