April 9, 2020

The Reality of Being a Womxn of Color Startup Founder during COVID-19 — And Funding Opportunities

Last summer I gathered over a dozen womxn of color startup founders and small business owners to connect in Seattle, Washington. We shared our backgrounds, experiences, expertise, challenges and successes as a collective given the historical and systematic exclusion in the business ecosystem. We bonded on our common experience of being ‘the only’, steadily pioneering our own industries. We would have never thought that six months later the world would be facing a global health crisis and we’d be scrambling to secure funding to survive.

On average, womxn of color founders (in particular Black female founders) are only able to raise $36,000 in startup capital and receive less than .00002% of Venture Capital funding — that’s less than 1%. The stats prove that we are already at a huge disadvantage from the beginning, yet, we still are at the batting plate — ready to swing.

I’m a womxn of color startup founder who co-founded Future for Us, a platform dedicated to advancing womxn of color at work. Since launching in January 2019, we’ve cultivated a community of over 7,000 womxn of color professionals across the U.S., worked with over a dozen companies to re-think their diversity, equity and inclusion strategies, and curated and produced three large signature events that centered on the needs and experiences of womxn of color at work. Like many companies, COVID-19 has required us to pivot quickly, moving our services digitally, including our upcoming Virtual Assembly, a conference for womxn of color at work on May 22nd (Forbes).

However, I have to admit this pandemic hit us hard. The past three weeks have been absolutely chaotic with 40% of our expected revenue was gone overnight. With the slow, ineffective action from our federal government, many of us small business owners are left in a panic, picking up the pieces while large corporations are given historically huge bailouts. The institutional inequities in our country continues to reveal itself.

I’ve been on Zoom calls after Zoom calls trying to stabilize and secure our funding, hopped on over 50+ webinars trying to do as much research as possible to gather the important information to sustain our company — only to come to the conclusion that all of this information is still unclear and muddy. Now the very familiar ‘survival mode’ has been fully activated.

So for all of the other womxn of color founders out there, who are in survival mode like myself, I’ve listed funding opportunities for us to apply for and to advantage of. Since we can’t rely solely on these government loans or the banks, we can at least lean on our communities to pull together helpful resources as much as we can. Check out these available grants below:

For additional information and resources, check out The Helm’s helpful blog that breakdowns different opportunities. If you know more grant opportunities, please email me at sagequiamno@gmail.com and I’ll add to this list.

We are in this together and we can all do our part in supporting one another at this time. I’m right there in the trenches with you.

In solidarity,

Sage Ke’alohilani Quiamno

Co-founder of Future for Us

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Sage Quiamno

Co-founder of @futurefor_us / Native Hawaiian / Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Champion / Adventure Capitalist

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