1863 Ventures was created two years ago to support what founder and general partner Melissa Bradley calls the New Majority, Black and brown entrepreneurs who have historically faced barriers as they’ve tried to build and grow their companies.
WorkingNation sat down with Bradley at the Milken Institute Global Conference 2021 in Beverly Hills as part of our #WorkingNationOverheard interview series. With Charting a New Course as the guiding theme, thought leaders and innovators shared ideas about the changing economy, worker development, education, tech, philanthropy, and more.
1863 Ventures has its roots in a student-led project that Bradley headed in 2015 to help new businesses in southeast Washington DC. In just four years, it evolved into a national initiative that now has helped more than 2,500 early-stage and growth-stage founders across various industries, through business training, mentorship, and access to capital.
Bradley notes that the success of New Majority entrepreneurs is good for the community. “When entrepreneurs make money, they tend to reinvest in new companies. I know many entrepreneurs who’ve gone on to become angel investors or start venture capital funds because they want to reduce the friction that they experienced in the process.”
Women are real drivers in entrepreneurship, notes Bradley. “Recognizing that Black women are the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs and Latinx businesses are the fastest growing businesses. We saw there was a gap in the market.” She says these business owners, in particular, are targets of the organization’s support.
“Entrepreneurship – as businesses grow – creates jobs, which is huge. You’re not only creating wealth for the individuals in the company, but you’re creating wealth in communities where you’re located. You’re creating wealth through employment, pension funds, and retirement funds. I think we see that there is a trickle down, or multiplier effect, when that happens. Particularly within communities of color, we find that entrepreneurs skew not just toward creating individual wealth, but really thinking about the community writ large.”
Bradley says the organization was named after the year of the Emancipation Proclamation. “The year signified the opportunity of freedom and, ideally, access to wealth, and the American Dream for former slaves. So, we continue to carry that on to signify that we are seeking changes in our current structures that have historically marginalized Black and brown entrepreneurs, and to make a shift as they serve as our great economic opportunity moving forward.”
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