Fearless Fund

In February, new research from GoDaddy found that Black women are starting businesses faster than any demographic in the country. Yet, only three percent of Black women-led businesses last up to five years, one of the highest failure rates of any demographic.  

We often hear of the success stories of women like Leslie Frelow, who started the Wine Concierge, a store that features women and minority brands; Takia Ross, who created a beauty empire for Black hair and skin tone with her company Accessmatized; and Sheila Johnson, a co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) and the first Black woman to become a billionaire. We celebrate these women and find them inspiring, but they are not the norm. 

At NOW, we recognize that fighting for economic justice is intertwined with our fight for racial justice. Black women-led businesses are not failing because of a lack of talent, creativity, or drive. These businesses are being failed by systems of institutional racism. Black women business owners are three times more likely to be rejected for funding than their white counterparts. Black women-owned startups receive less than one percent of the billions of venture capital raised yearly. 

That is why it’s so heartbreaking when an organization like The Fearless Fund, a venture capital firm led by women of color that facilitated a modest grant contest for Black female business founders, was forced to shut down. This month, a U.S. federal court of appeals suspended The Fearless Fund’s grant program, ruling that the program is “likely” to violate the Civil Rights Act of 1866 by not accepting applications from white men. Yes, that Civil Rights Act. The very same act that was meant to help black people be treated as equals in the aftermath of the abolishment of slavery.  

Once again, our fight for economic justice is intertwined with our fight for racial justice. Because injustice in all facets is perpetuated by the same discriminatory system. This Civil Rights Act, which was meant to enforce equality, is now being weaponized against the very people it was supposed to protect to justify inequity.   

But the fight isn’t over. Although the case in the appeals court is over, The Fearless Fund has announced its intention to continue its fight. In a statement to USA Today, Arian Simone, a founding partner of The Fearless Fund, said, “I am shattered for every girl of color who has a dream but will grow up in a nation determined not to give her a shot to live it.”  Now, it is on all of us as women to help them and any organization that empowers women of color to invest in themselves since the patriarchy won’t.