It can be incredibly tough to thrive in the world of business – it is even tougher for black women.
Studies show that black women have to push through a ‘concrete ceiling’ in order to reach the upper levels of success in the workplace, and in business.
Black women are less likely to be granted access to funding for business ventures through traditional means, and minority business owners are denied more loans and pay higher interest rates than their white counterparts.
But one couple from Manchester are attempting to redress the balance and level the playing field for women of black origin in business.
DamiLola and Akin Soyoye have created a crowdfunder platform specifically for supporting and funding black women in business. BuildHer aims to give black women an opportunity to receive financial funding for their business ideas, projects, causes or products from people all over the world.
‘BuildHer was born out of a necessity and personal experiences,’ DamiLola tells Metro.co.uk.
‘This platform was in defiance against the current status quo of black and brown women across the world being “limited”. I have seen the high levels of inequality and how this has impacted the socioeconomic status of women of black origin worldwide.
‘I have seen the disrespect often afforded to women of black origin, not getting their dues when it was highly deserved and often long overdue.’
Akin says his inspiration came from seeing what his, mother and sister had been through in their lives.
‘I’m proud to champion woman empowerment and helping women to be their own pillar,’ says Akin.
‘BuildHer is not only for women who want to create businesses, it is for women who want to start creative projects. It is for women who want fund a movie that needs to be made through our eyes. It is for women who have an amazing idea, for perhaps a tech innovation or product and it would not otherwise become reality without the help of many of us coming together to contribute.’
The couple, who are both 28, believe it is vital for there to be specific resources available for black businesses. They say that the impact of spending in the black community shouldn’t be underestimated.
‘Black and ethnic minority businesses contribute £32 billion per year to the economy,’ explains DamiLola. ‘This is never to be ignored. We are spending money.
‘We believe that money should circulate for much longer within our own communities. Black people, and women in particular, are establishing businesses at much higher rates than others. Why not have our own resources and our own platform geared towards raising much needed capital to kick off these ideas?’
There is a real and pervasive gender pay gap affecting women in the UK. This gap is currently at 18.4%, however black women are disproportionately affected and face an even wider gap of 19.6%, meaning they would have to work for 19 months in order to earn the same amount as a white man does in 12 months.
DamiLola and Akin want to do what they can to close this gap. The couple say that entrepreneurship for many black women is born of necessity caused by a lack of representation. They are forced to provide their own solutions and build their own platforms.
‘A lot of mainstream businesses and platforms do not cater to black women,’ says DamiLola. ‘We are the pioneers of popular culture, but we are often erased and stripped of the benefits of said culture.
‘Black and brown women provide solutions and therefore we cannot afford to have a lack of money, cash flow or funding to be a reason in 2020 that more women don’t have the ability to provide more solutions to problems in the world.’
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The unique thing about BuildHer is that before being able to raise money from a crowdfunding campaign, members must have contributed to the BuildHer community and other women’s campaigns with their money or time. This ensures no one can take from the platform without putting something in first.
‘We hope to be the platform that helped launch the next million or even billion pound idea,’ says DamiLola. ‘We hope to be a catalyst for innovation, creativity and change.
‘We hope to level the unequal playing fields between men and women, and black women and everyone else.
‘Currently, black women are at the bottom of the totem poll, but we are striving, working hard and reaching for the top.’
BuildHer has only just launched, and the couple are about to put through their first few campaigns. The campaign owners will be working with the team, being coached and supported throughout the entire process.
‘The response has been overwhelmingly positive,’ says Akin. ‘Most people get it, they get why its necessary. They know that a white male has more opportunities that most, and they are happy to see this attempt to spread wealth and opportunity more evenly.
‘Black women in particular are very supportive. We have had some men asking why they can’t also get involved, which is amusing, but black women’s struggles are even greater than those of black men.’
The couple are reacting to the current situation with the coronavirus pandemic by launching a ‘fast track’ period – meaning women can submit their campaigns straight away for consideration.
‘We wanted to do our bit to help in this current economy,’ says DamiLola. ‘We believe that new businesses, projects and ideas – particularly those that can thrive online and remotely – will be born during this era.’
If you’re a woman of black origin with a business idea, you can put your innovations forward for consideration on the BuildHer website.
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