May 19, 2022

Teacher Turned Software Engineer Turned Founder Made $140K In Under A Year Supporting Black NFT Artists

In 2017, Iris Nevins decided to leave her job as a teacher in Florida to attend a bootcamp in the Bay Area – but it was not without its struggles.

On a Go-fund Me page – where she asked for support – she said: “I began learning how to code through online tutorials, and 7 months later, I quit my job as an 8th-grade history teacher, left my organization, and moved to the Bay Area to attend a coding BootCamp.

“Making such a transition is very costly as I had to take out loans for my tuition as well as for the cost of living–but my loans were not going to be enough to cover everything. Fortunately, I received a scholarship that covered 50% of my tuition but surviving in the Bay Area has proven to be very challenging. “

She raised more than $4,000 to get her through the boot camp, and a year later – she landed a job as a software engineer at MailChimp, an Atlanta-based marketing automation platform.

But in February 2021, Nevins and her team of volunteer tech lovers launched NFT studio Umba Daima, which promotes artists and educates people about Web3.

Nevins left her engineering job to scale her startup.

Among its many services, the Umba Daima team manages and consults with artists, earning a percentage of their sales, and helps build online communities for marketplaces.

It also provides a 3-week artist development program with bi-weekly workshops, homework assignments, and art projects.

But that’s not all – Umba Daima has several sub-brands, which it oversees. The first was Black NFT Art, followed quickly by the NFT Roundtable podcast and virtual exhibit, The Unseen Gallery.

The team’s hard work meant their client artist Andre Oshea, who started at the bottom, became one of the best performing artists in the NFT space, and in 2021, Umba Daima made $140,000 in revenue from all of its brands.

But the journey wasn’t easy.

Despite making that much in under a year –  the team was still bootstrapping. Nevins hadn’t paid herself, even though she quit her day job to focus on Umba Daima full-time and most of her team members were essentially volunteers, she told CNBC, although she paid them when she could.

“We’re a good way from being profitable, but I’m hoping that it can happen soon,” she told the broadcaster this year.

Nevins also believes artists will gain the visibility they rightfully deserve if platforms are more intentional with outreach. For example, early on, she recognized various platforms failed to invite or accept creators of color. 

“The marketplaces all benefit from the work that people like myself do,” Nevins told the outlet. “It’s disappointing when a lot of these platforms don’t make an effort to collaborate with us. [They] can do more to partner with grassroots organizers.”

We've reached out to Nevins for an update on how things are going!
Abbianca Makoni

Abbianca Makoni is a content executive and writer at POCIT! She has years of experience reporting on critical issues affecting diverse communities around the globe.