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Winners of the nonprofit Baltimore Creative Acceleration Network’s Scale Your Passion initiative are set to begin their eight-week fellowship on Monday.
From September 26 to November 15, the Scale Your Passion, also known as SYP, fellows will get the opportunity to learn how to grow their Baltimore-based businesses. Throughout the course of the eight-week initiative, they’ll learn about legal services, accounting and financial support through mentors. The winners of the fellowship will also get the chance to connect with potential partners through events like CultureCon, a creative conference for people of color who are looking to make a difference and will get $5,000 in investment for their businesses.
2018 BCAN Founder fellowship alum and mentor, Takia Ross, will be participating in facilitating the sessions. In 2013, Ross became the owner of her own makeup business, Accessmatized, after getting encouragement from her students in her history class who she would teach through makeup and dressing up in period costumes. After initially treating makeup as a way to make extra money, Ross’ popularity grew through word of mouth, prompting her to begin her own official business.
Nine years later, for the second time now, Ross will help the new SYP fellows with navigating the business world, specifically when it comes to promoting their businesses.
“What they [BCAN] do is they help creatives here in Baltimore turn their passions and what they do into naturally viable businesses that they can grow in scale,” said Ross in conversation with The Hub New. “What I’ve been honored to do with them is to be able to share my expertise when it comes to pitching your business.”
In the early stages of her business launch, Ross quickly learned the importance of knowing how to pitch a business, starting a business from scratch and eventually winning over $100,000 in investments for her business.
“When I first started, I didn’t have money,” Ross added. “I didn’t know about getting capital for my business, so what I did was I started participating in business pitch competitions and what that helped me do was to hone my skill into pitching my business.”
According to Ross, learning how to get capital is particularly important for Black women who are often disregarded when it comes to earning capital.
As the rate of businesses owned by Black Americans increases to more than 30% since before the COVID-19 lockdown, the Harvard Business Review reported in 2021 that 17% of Black women in the U.S. are opening up their own businesses, outpacing both the 15% of white men and 10% of white women who are doing the same.
Still, only 0.27% of venture capital funding goes towards businesses started by Black women, according to investment banking company Goldman Sachs.
“Sometimes, in the places of power, there are no Black women sitting there. Sometimes they are there by themselves and that can be hard as well when you’re the only one sitting at the table,” said Ross. “As we see more and more Black and brown women who are CEOs and executives, we need to make sure that we are also being the voice of ‘this is what is happening and we will not stand for it anymore.’”
Along with teaching the fellows how to pitch for capital, Ross will be teaching them things like how to create a working plan and get people to join their companies. Of all the conversations they’ll be having, however, Ross looks most forward to building a community and finding out what the fellows can teach her.
“It’s really good to be in a room where you’re with other entrepreneurs who get it,” said Ross. They can help you get through your challenges and you can help them because it’s like a built-in focus group. I’m really excited about sharing my expertise with them, but I’m also really excited about them sharing their expertise with me.”