New Voices Launches 100 Million Fund for Women of Color Entrepreneurs at ESSENCE Festival

Entrepreneurship among women of color has increased 322 percent, but only 0.2% of those women receive access to the funding needed to sustain and grow their businesses. But female-led businesses that receive funding outperform their male peers by 63 percent.

Now, these businesses will get a significant shot in the arm.

“The facts about investments in women of color entrepreneurs, particularly Black women, are astonishing,” said entrepreneur and social impact investor Richelieu Dennis, founder of New Voices.

The $100 million New Voices Fund, a next-generation fund that will make private equity investments in businesses owned and/or managed by women of color, officially launched Thursday at the 2018 ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans. During the ESSENCE Festival, New Voices will host a daytime pitch competition on Saturday, July 7 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, with the winners being presented at the Mercedes SuperDome in the evening. Prizes of $5,000 up to $25,000 will be awarded to the winners, for a total of $100,000.

The New Voices Fund provides women of color entrepreneurs with the access, capital and expertise that they need to grow their businesses and transform communities. The Fund focuses on investments from start-ups/Seed to Series C rounds and primarily invests in three verticals: consumer, technology and media/entertainment.

The ProjectDiane 2018 report recently showed that the median funding raised by all Black women is $0, in contrast to the average seed round for all startups in 2016 being $1.14 million. In addition, Black women raised just 0.0006% of the total $424.7 billion in tech venture funding since 2009.

“This is unacceptable,” Dennis says. “It is why the Fund is focused on making equity investments and creating an ecosystem that empowers women of color entrepreneurs to reach their full potential by addressing three of the most pertinent issues preventing their long-term success – access, capital, expertise.”

The New Voices Fund will deploy and ultimately raise additional capital to support women of color entrepreneurs as they build and advance their businesses. The Fund was announced in November 2017 as part of the partnership agreement between Sundial Brands (maker of SheaMoisture, Nubian Heritage, Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture and Nyakio”> and Unilever.

“The needs of women of color entrepreneurs span the entire spectrum,” Dennis said. “So, it was critical that we acknowledge and address those needs beyond just capital. The New Voices ecosystem will seek to ignite long-term social change and create a society and economy that support and value entrepreneurial women of color for their significant and innovative contributions today and tomorrow.”

Women of color entrepreneurs are encouraged to join the New Voices community and apply for funding or other resources by visiting and completing a business profile. Since the soft launch of the website in February, $30 million has been invested or committed in the following eight companies:

  1. Beauty Bakerie – Founded by Cashmere Carrillo, Beauty Bakerie is a cosmetics company with products sold in 60 countries and a motto of “better, not bitter.” 
  2. Beautycon Media – Founded by Moj Mahdara, Beautycon Media is a platform for inclusive beauty comprised of a diverse global community of creators redefining beauty with a mission to challenge traditional standards and redefine what beauty means.
  3. Envested – Founded by Isa Watson, Envested is a tool that enables connectivity and promotes meaning across workplaces. 
  4. McBride Sisters Wine – Founded by Robin and Andrea McBride, McBride Sisters Wine is the producer and distributer of wine grown in California and New Zealand – and the largest wine company owned by Black women. 
  5. Mented – Founded by Amanda Johnson and Kristen Jones Miller, Mented is a luxury beauty and cosmetics company targeted to women of color. 
  6. Sweeten – Founded by Jean Brownhill, Sweeten is a free service that matches people with major renovation projects to the best general contractors, offering personal support until the job is done. 
  7. The Honey Pot Company – Founded by Beatrice Espada, Honey Pot is a plant-based feminine hygiene products company with a goal to provide women with a healthy alternative to feminine care that is free of chemicals, parabens, carcinogens and sulfates. 
  8. The Lip Bar – Founded by Melissa Butler, The Lip Bar makes vegan and cruelty-free lip colors for multicultural millennials.

“There is no doubt that these women will shatter the stereotypical hurdles and ceilings they face. We are continuously reviewing applications and urge everyone to apply,” Dennis says. “It’s time to hear more voices that demonstrate measurable social and economic impact in a way that inspires more women of color to join the financial inclusion movement.”

Michelle Breyer

Michelle Breyer

As co-founder of, a website for curly hair she began with her business partner and friend, Gretchen Heber, Michelle Breyer helped create the leading community and resource for people with curly hair. Frustrated by the lack of information on curly hair and the limited products available in the marketplace, the duo launched the site in 1998 with the help of a 14-year-old web designer. When Procter & Gamble called three years later to advertise to the® audience, Breyer knew they had indeed created a force in the industry, providing helpful information and unparalleled expertise for what was then considered a niche market.

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