Musician Pharrell Williams is expected to award $2.5 million to Black and Latino entrepreneurs in his upcoming leadership event.
Thirty-one business people with an idea for a potential company will receive a portion of the $2.5 million as early funds for their business. The awards are part of Williams’ Black Ambition program.
Through the initiative that was launched late in Dec. 2020, he and his team focus on giving Black and Latino entrepreneurs prize money to help people from marginalized communities reduce the wealth gap. Last year’s winners include leaders behind companies such as Boddle Learning, a gaming-inspired learning platform, and Caire Beauty, a skincare company.
“Recent events and tragedies have illustrated the always existent stark divisions in the American experience, and while entrepreneurship has long been a tenet of the American dream, marginalized people have faced long-standing barriers to success,” said Williams in a statement. “With Black Ambition, the goal is to help strengthen the pipeline of talented entrepreneurs and close the opportunity and wealth gaps derived from limited access to capital and resources.”
The winners for this year’s Black Ambition prizes are set to be announced at Williams’ “Mighty Dream Forum.” The three-day forum will take place on Nov. 1 in Norfolk, Virginia and will feature discussions about business with Formula One World Champion Sir Lewis Hamilton, comedian Hannibal Buress and the CEO of Black Ambition, Felecia Hatcher.
“Mighty Dream is going to be a gathering of some of the greatest minds in business and leadership,” Williams said in a statement per Complex. “We’re going to have open and honest conversations about the importance of representation, equity and inclusion in business and entrepreneurship, and we’re going to hold each other accountable to follow through with those changes.”
Recently, there’s been an increase in Black-owned businesses. According to data from the Census Bureau that was interpreted by University of California professor Robert Fairlie, there’s been a 38% increase in Black-owned businesses from February 2020 to August 2021.
Still, the racial wealth gap remains large. According to a 2022 report by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the gap between Black families and white families has remained the same over the past 20 years. In their report, they pointed to dara from the Survey of Consumer Finances that estimated that, while the median wealth for a white family in 2019 was $184,000, the median wealth for Black Americans was $23,000.
Among the things contributing to this large gap include lack of access to programs that invest in education, infrastructure, transportation and technology.