Earlier this year, during the intersection of Black History Month and Women’s History Month, hundreds of founders, investors and supporters convened at the Microsoft headquarters in New York City to share knowledge, stories, networking and opportunities at the 2018 Black Women Talk Tech, Roadmap to Billions conference.
The conference, which took place from February 28-March 1, was hosted by Black Women Talk Tech founders and entrepreneurs Regina Gwynn, Esosa Ighodaro, and Lauren Washington who created BWTT due to the lack of diversity and representation of black women collectively in the business and tech worlds.
“We started Black Women Talk Tech because we see how hard black women
are working to create billion dollar businesses, but are still struggling to be seen, supported and funded. Black Women are the most educated, fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs. Together with allies, we can turn that “black girl magic” into the next tech unicorn.”
The ladies spoke about starting BWTT out of necessity and learning how to cultivate their own resources, share similar experiences and recognizing the challenges that occur when you are working towards building your business to the next level. “I’ve been to many events at Microsoft but no one looked like me. Black Women Talk Tech is about raising the profile of black women and pushing them towards next level growth where the powerful rocket ship is founded and funded by people who look like me,” Regina Gwynn, Co-founder BWTT and CEO, TresseNoire.
“As black women tech founders ourselves, we didn’t have the support; yet, we knew our tribe was out there. It’s very overwhelming yet inspiring to be able to assist in giving women resources, as well as an opportunity to promote themselves and their platforms,” Lauren Washington, Co-founder BWTT and CEO, KeepUp.
The goal of Black Women Talk Tech is to create an environment where women can surround themselves with like-minded founders and entrepreneurs who want to support each other on their way to the top. “We are a collective of black women tech founders who have a unique understanding of the challenges we face in the industry, but also of the advantages we can bring. We’re here to identify, support and encourage black women to build the next billion dollar business.”
“The three of us kept running into each other at the same events and tech circles and decided to collaborate,” said Esosa Ighodaro, Co-Founder BWTT and President, COSIGN. “ As black women, we have a unique lens to show the world and our value is priceless. We are prominent figures throughout the world and diaspora. When given resources, we excel and effectively build communities. A big component of our movement consists of promoting black women who are founders in all industries. We are excited to bring people together in this way and it is definitely true that when you invest in a woman, you invest in a community.”
The Roadmap to Billions conference included two full days of expert panels and workshops, keynotes, a $10,000 pitch competition, founder showcases, performances, celebrations and much more! Some of the speakers included Richelieu Dennis, Sundial Brands, Founder & CEO (New Owner Essence Magazine); Heather Hiles, The Hiles Fund, Founder and Deputy Director for Postsecondary Success, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Tonya Lewis Lee, Movita & ToniK Productions, Founder; Brandon Andrews, Shark Tank/Values Partnerships, Serial Entrepreneur and many more. The $10,000 pitch competition was comprised of six finalists and three winners. Angel Rich, 2017 Black Women Talk Tech Winner/WealthyLife Founder and CEO, gave the contestants solid advice and words of wisdom, during the competition introduction. The grand prize winner was Kobi Wu of VisuWall, an online platform that allows brand entities to find, book and install vacant storefront windows for short-term advertising use. Other contestants included Crystal McDonald of Acrew, Davielle Jackson of Femi Secrets, Elsie Amoako of Mommy Monitor, and Tami Garcia of Mully Lingua. Prizes were presented by Candice Matthews, Hillman Accelerator CoFounder & Executive Director.
The diverse group of speakers touched upon an array of different topics that are important when building a successful business, such as making practical decisions as you build your business, team and capital, creating brand loyalty, understanding your audience, building an effective network at your own pace and being comfortable approaching people outside of your comfort zone. Other topics included taking time out for self, cherishing and nurturing your personal relationships with family and friends and having “frentors”, mentors and advisory boards. “It’s important to take time to perfect the story around your “WHY” and try to future cast and have a vision of what your brand and company looks like now and in the future,” said Rakia Reynolds, Founder & CEO of Skai Blue Media. “It’s important to have the type of mindset that says I will create change, I will make an impact and this is the legacy I will leave.”