Pharrell Williams Launches Nonprofit to Support Diverse Entrepreneurs

It can be incredibly difficult for entrepreneurs to make a name for themselves in a variety of different industries. There is a great deal of competition existing between entrepreneurs. Even within growing industries, there is only so much space available for new business owners. It can take years for an entrepreneur to find a successful concept, during which time they may try and fail to launch different businesses. This will result in money lost and in some cases the potential loss of connections. Becoming a successful entrepreneur, therefore, requires more than just drive, determination, and great ideas. It also requires a base of money, as well as connections with successful people within the industry that the entrepreneur is interested in. While it’s difficult for any entrepreneurs to successfully launch, it is especially challenging for black entrepreneurs. This is why Pharrell Williams has launched a nonprofit that will offer resources for black entrepreneurs as well as Latinx entrepreneurs, with the intent of making success more attainable for them.

While all entrepreneurs face the same basic challenges, black and Latinx entrepreneurs face additional issues that do not necessarily affect white entrepreneurs. Ingrained generational poverty is more common in communities of color in the United States, and especially within black and Latino communities. Although it is by no means guaranteed that a black or Latinx business founder will come from an impoverished family, it is statistically more likely that they will come from lower income families than white entrepreneurs. This means that it is more difficult for these entrepreneurs to afford college or even trade school, where they can not only receive valuable educations but make important connections in their desired industries. They also lack the seed money that many white entrepreneurs gain from their families or simply from not facing the same economic challenges.

Entrepreneurs of color also must deal with prejudice and lower expectations in the United States. Successful white business owners may not be as inclined to offer the same resources for black entrepreneurs and Latino entrepreneurs that they would offer white entrepreneurs. Furthermore, due to ingrained poverty and obligations to financially sustain their families, potential black and Latinx entrepreneurs simply may not see starting a business as realistic. Every entrepreneur has a unique experience, but the statistics make clear that there is a divide present. Although black and Latinx people comprise roughly 30% of the American population, they make up just 20% of its entrepreneurs. In order to make the number of entrepreneurs reflect the populations, systemic changes will likely be required, beyond entrepreneur tips.

Pharell Williams is himself not only a Grammy award-winning record artist and producer but also an entrepreneur. Following the release of his song “Entrepreneur” with Jay-Z, in which he recites the lyric “I am black ambition”, Williams has started a nonprofit organization reflecting the song’s message, literally called Black Ambition.

The nonprofit was launched in response to the social issues being faced by people of color throughout the history of the United States, but especially during 2020. Although all Americans have struggled with the health and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, black and Latinx Americans have suffered at a much more pronounced rate. In fact, the coronavirus has been killing black and Latinx patients at a rate higher than that of white Americans. Additionally, the economic downturn caused by the virus has been causing higher eviction rates and homelessness rates in these communities, likely in part due to the fact that these communities were already struggling financially. Additionally, the killings of individuals like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor highlighted racial inequalities in the U.S. and sparked global protests. In his statement announcing the launch of Black Ambition, Williams highlighted the reality that black and Latinx entrepreneurs face unique barriers to success. Even being approved for business lending opportunities can be more difficult for black and Latinx entrepreneurs.

Black Ambition: Enabling Growth for Entrepreneurs of Color

Black Ambition is offering resources for black entrepreneurs and Latinx entrepreneurs in a manner that was previously difficult for potential small business owners to find. The simple notoriety of Pharell Williams makes the organization more prominent and easy to access. Its initial launch includes two competitions that offer prizes in the form of seed capital as well as pitch feedback and mentorship. One of these prizes is known as the Black Ambition Prize, while the other is called the Black Ambition HBCU Prize. The second prize is targeted towards students and former students of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The grand prize winners for the Black Ambition HBCU prize will receive up to $250,000 in funding. This amount of funding can be major for new entrepreneurs, allowing them to expand their business acquisition efforts at a rate exponentially faster than would be available to them without funding.

There are obviously requirements that applicants must meet in order to be considered for the Black Ambition prizes. Applicants for both prizes must be black or Latinx, and their startup ideas should focus on design, technology, healthcare, or consumer products and services. The Black Ambition grand prize winner will receive even more funding than the grand prize winner for the Black Ambition HBCU prize. The grand prize will total up to $1 million in funding. Additionally, nine other teams will receive smaller prizes.

The idea behind Black Ambition’s prizes is to not only provide resources for black entrepreneurs and Latinx entrepreneurs but long term change. Ideally, this will make it easier for inclusive entrepreneurship to become more normal. Black and Latinx entrepreneurs will no longer seem unusual. This could have a marked psychological impact, not only forcing white business owners to work with and rely upon black and Latinx business owners at a higher rate than they once did, but making clear to young people of color that entrepreneurial success is possible. In terms of the Black Ambition HBCU prize, it will also highlight these universities and making it clear that they are available and ready to offer resources to young black Americans. Williams hopes to furthermore uplift these universities, which will ideally make clear the resources for black entrepreneurs that they can offer.

Black Ambition is backed by a number of different major businesses and organizations. This includes Adidas, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Rockefeller Foundation, Chanel, Tony’s Chocolonely, and the Visa Foundation. Individual donors have also made donations to the nonprofit, demonstrating an understanding of the importance of providing resources for black entrepreneurs and Latinx entrepreneurs.

The Prizes: Understanding How They Work

As with any prize competition, Black Ambition offers many resources but also must take steps to ensure that it is fair and equitable. Just as the nonprofit is attempting to provide resources for black entrepreneurs and Latinx entrepreneurs in order to ensure a more inclusive and equitable future, so too is it implementing fair selection processes. The organization is reaching out to diverse networks focusing on inclusive entrepreneurship. It is also building a team to review applicants that reflects the diversity of the applicants themselves. Additionally, the mentors presented to prize winners will be business owners from diverse backgrounds, and applicants are asked to sign to Kapor Capital Founders’ Commitment. This is a pledge to build diverse and inclusive companies, ensuring that the goal of Black Ambition is carried through beyond the initial awarding of the prizes.

It is important that the winning entrepreneurs are not where diversity ends. Their businesses also need to hire employees from diverse backgrounds. In this sense, the winners could someday provide resources for black entrepreneurs as well as resources for Latinx entrepreneurs. Their employees could very well move on to launch their own businesses in the future, inspired by the success of their employers.

An additional consideration for these entrepreneurs to make is how they will use the prizes that they receive. While some portions of the prizes will be awarded in the form of cash, others will come in the form of investments. Black Ambition will use any earnings from investments to support future prizes, further ensuring resources for black entrepreneurs and Latinx entrepreneurs remain available. Winning entrepreneurs can use this funding to develop presentation products for future investors, or offer benefits packages and work resources to attract more qualified employees. Funding is perhaps one of the greatest challenges for entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, as previously discussed. Therefore, if this initial hurdle is crossed through prize money and investments provided by Black Ambition, many entrepreneurs can speed up their progress exponentially.

In terms of non-monetary prizes, there are also different mentorships and resources offered through Black Ambition. These do not solely come in the form of prizes for winning applicants. All eligible applicants will be offered a virtual membership to Betaworks Studio. Betaworks Studio gives members access to a network of business experts and entrepreneurial content. They will also all receive written comments on their applications, allowing them valuable feedback that could help those that do not win prizes improve their pitches for the next round of competitions in the future. The semi-finalists will be able to participate in Black Ambitions Circles hosted by Betaworks. This will act as a peer to peer mentorship program and allow applicants to learn from experienced entrepreneurs. Finalists will additionally have access to one on one coaching and as they begin to develop their pitches for the final judges and panelists. Even those who do not win prizes, in other words, will finish the competition as far stronger business people than they were when they began.

It’s important for entrepreneurs considering applying for Black Ambition to understand that the process moves far beyond simply applying for a prize. In July 2021, the nonprofit will host Demo Day, at which point the finalists will share their ideas with not only judges but potential investors as well. They should treat this opportunity as they would any pitch opportunity with investors.

Applicant Eligibility: Understanding Further Requirements

Black Ambition is offering resources for black entrepreneurs and Latinx entrepreneurs, but not without certain requirements. Although the basic requirements were mentioned above, more detailed requirements move beyond the backgrounds of the applicants. For example, although there is no maximum amount of team members allowed, each team must have a minimum of two members. Although the lead of each team can only be on one team, other team members are allowed to participate in a maximum of two teams. This means that if a secondary team member is on a team pitching a CBD business, they could also participate in a team pitching a tech business.

The lead of the team is typically the business president or CEO, or otherwise the most senior member of the team. Leads should ensure that their team is applying for the correct prize, as teams may only apply for the Black Ambition Prize or the Black Ambition HBCU Prize, not both. Their business does not need to be legally incorporated before the teams begin applying, and teams that did not receive funding for one year can apply for the next year.

Although teams do not need to have fully incorporated businesses ready when they apply for these prizes, they should ensure that they are ready to answer complex questions. Investors will be putting their money at risk when committing to prize winners, just as they would if they were investing in businesses in a more normal context. If a business owner cannot answer questions as simple as “What is a hybrid company?” they may not be ready to apply for Black Ambition prizes. However, this does not mean that they cannot learn and apply for prizes in the following years.

Black Ambition not only is benefiting black and Latinx entrepreneurs but people who will benefit from their ideas. It’s quite possible that these entrepreneurs will be able to offer new healthcare solutions, as well as breakthroughs in technology and social welfare.

Launching a business is challenging and expensive. Entrepreneurs must pay for development costs, employee salaries and benefits, web design services, and much more. Black Ambition and similar nonprofits are simply making it easier for the pool of entrepreneurs in the U.S. to become more diverse.

Why You Should Book an Escape Room for Your Birthday Party

Are you tired of planning the same birthday party every year?

Although it’s fun to host a backyard barbecue party or invite your friends to a restaurant for your birthday, it can sometimes be too boring to be even called a party. Some of your friends might even dread going to your birthday celebration and make excuses to skip it this year.

When you book an escape room for your birthday party, expect your family and friends to be excited and look forward to showing up.

Escape rooms are not just for adults, but for kids as well. In fact, you can find an escape room for kids if you’re planning a one-of-a-kind birthday party for your child.

Learn more about why you should book an escape room for your birthday party that will ensure everyone can have a fun experience this time around.

Unique Experience for Everyone

If you’re looking for something different for your birthday this year, then reserve an escape Continue reading “Why You Should Book an Escape Room for Your Birthday Party”

Quarantine Crazy? Here Are Some Fun Ways to Keep Kids Engaged While Social Distancing

It seems like decades ago that huge family and neighborhood gatherings with lots of kids running playing around was the norm in the world, but we know better now. Thanks to the royal virus that you have already heard too much of, social distancing has become the new normal, sending once-active families into a lockdown that is so much less fun than playing with friends and extended family members. It’s sad, but it’s necessary for our health — but unfortunately, not all kiddos understand that.

Having fun while quarantined has been a challenge for everyone, but for the 40%+ of US parents with kids under the age of 18, it’s especially tough. It’s essential for young children to be socialized with other kids their own age, taking part in activities that will help them learn and grow. If you’ve got an army of tiny humans begging you for socially distant activities, it can seem like an endless task to keep them entertained. Fear not, though. We’ve got a slew of fun things for them to do while social distancing, and sourdough bread and Netflix documentaries are not even included here.

Allow Video Game Time, But Be Picky

Most kids love to play video games. It’s been a blessing and a curse since the days of NES and the Duck Hunt/Super Mario Bros game combo. While two-player games have always been fun, video games today are different and more interactive today. You can play with your friends from across the reach of game servers, allowing your little ones to have some socialization while quarantined.

A problem with video games is that they can be too much fun, however, and before you know it, six hours have passed. Be picky about which games you let your kids spend their brain power on. While war games like Call of Duty, Titanfall, and Battlefield offer a story and a history lesson, they are also incredibly violent with strongly adult themes and language. You know your kids better than anyone else, so it’s on you to decide what they can and cannot handle — but in the meantime, consider other games for them to fall into.

Open-world simulation games have been a staple in the gaming world since Maxis released SimCity in 1989, but today, these games are more inclusive than ever. Kid-friendly simulation games like Animal Crossing and Minecraft have seen a surge in popularity all over the world, and for good reason: The more you play, the more active the worlds become. Best of all, these games can be educational and creative. You can build everything from toothpick-legged shacks to sprawling castles, and kids have fun using their imaginations while spending time with friends.

Older kiddos and teens might like The Sims franchise. These are available on Xbox and Playstation, but the OG Sims games are on the PC. The Sims lets you custom design your own family, build them a home, furnish it however you want, and simply live day-to-day life. You can get a job or be a bum who doesn’t pay the bills. You can decide to travel to space or prank your neighbors by putting dye in their shower. It’s insanely addicting with a huge following and community, letting those creative minds come up with whatever their imaginations can fathom.

Get Creative

Arts and crafts are fun for anybody, even those people who claim not to have a creative bone in their body. There’s something about a mass of craft supplies that starts the brain ticking and gets the juices flowing. Let your kids spend their days at their very own creation station, loaded with a variety of bits and pieces to happily pass the time. Our favorite ideas include:

  • Beading, faux jewels, and anything sparkly. Little girls especially can have fun making fashion jewelry, hair accessories, and gifts for their friends and family. What’s sweeter than a pair of lopsided earrings given to you by a proud little one? Remember to exercise caution: Kiddos aged four and younger should not be playing with anything that presents a choking hazard.
  • Paper crafting. This doesn’t have to be anything specific, but a variety of colored craft paper, markers and crayons, glue, and glitter can make magic happen. It’s incredible to see what kids can come up with when they have nothing but creativity on their side. Remember that a mess is just a mess and can be cleaned up. Moments like these are fantastic and fun memories for everyone involved. Encourage them to make whatever their sweet hearts desire so that you have something new to hang on the refrigerator.
  • Painting, and we don’t only mean birdhouses and pretty pictures. Get your kiddos working their gross motor skills by letting them help with some of the bigger creative jobs around the house: Allow them to paint a mural on the fence, or to color Rover’s Amish dog house with a fresh new color. Painting is awesome for development in so many ways, letting kids focus on large and small details while creating a work of art.

You might have already tried some of these, but hopefully these ideas have stimulated new ones for you. Think outside the craft box and think of fun and interesting ways to get their little minds working creatively. Kids have endless imaginations. It’s easier to entertain them than you might have thought at first.

Go Play Outside

Extracurricular activities might be shut down in most schools right now, but that doesn’t mean that you need to stay inside all the time. In areas with bad weather, this can be hard during the winter months — but not impossible. Being stuck inside all the time is not fun for anybody, and fresh air is good for the mind, body, and soul. Get the little ones bundled up and toss them outside for some safe outdoor fun.

Riding bikes is a pastime that most kids love, plus it’s a way to expel energy while socially distancing. Kids riding bikes can stay a safe distance apart, but can also socialize and have fun playing with their peers at the same time. Think of ways to mix it up than just riding up and down the street. Have races or competitions, have a bike decorating contest, etc. There are so many ways to mix up the regular, and kids are even better at thinking of fun new ideas.

If you have the time, space, and resources, consider having the little ones build a fort outside. This is a fantastic way for kids to get the pink in their cheeks by gathering supplies, then using their brains to figure out how to get it standing and sturdy. A combination of engineering and creativity goes into this activity, and your kids can play with it and add onto it for as long as it’s standing.

Nature walks and scavenger hunts are also fantastic for kids of all ages. You can do these in the safety of your own home, or you can hike to a local trail or state park to partake. (Remember to look at specifications regarding opening and closing times at your parks, or whether or not they’re open at all. It varies county by county, so it’s worth looking into.) You can find awesome scavenger hunt bingo cards or printables online for free, and you can even customize your own. If it’s especially rainy or snowy outside, an indoor scavenger hunt works as well.

Check the Greenness of Your Thumbs

Typically, gardening is not something that starts until the springtime, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare in the meantime. Starting a garden is fun and rewarding, and it’s a good teachable moment for kids and adults alike. You don’t even need a hefty space in the yard to partake. A porch or window garden is just as exciting as a plot of land.

Wood pallets are the quintessential crafting material for anyone, but budding (hehe, no pun intended) gardeners can find all kinds of uses for them. You can use pallets as planters, garden borders, and even as potting stations if you know how to disassemble them and follow plans. Best of all, they are usually free or cheap if you know where to look. Check local buy-sell-trade websites like Craigslist or community Facebook groups, or you might even consider asking local shops if they have any pallets they are wanting to get rid of. It’s worth asking, and the worst that they can say is no.

Tree care might not be the first association that comes to your mind when you hear the word “gardening,” but wintertime is actually the best time to do so. With the branches completely naked, what better time to do some tree pruning? Show your kids how to properly trim branches, as well as what to look for in terms of rot or internal damage. It’s a skill that they won’t realize is highly valuable until it’s time for them to maintain their own yard in the future.

Finally, if nothing else, ask your kids to sketch out their dream garden. Even if your landscape is covered in snow and you can do nothing real outside, having your kids show you what their idea of a garden is can be eye-opening. Remember that all kids are magical, and their plans and ideas are oftentimes off-the-wall and not at all what you’d consider. Even if you can’t have rainbow roses and Darth Vader as your personal gardening assistant, you can at least get some fun input from your kids regarding what your garden should look like.

Splish Splash

In the dead of winter, a pool party is probably the last thing you’re thinking of. Besides, what pool opening is available in public right now, anyway? However, if you’re one of those lucky individuals, an indoor pool is not out of the realm of possibility. This can mean spending the thousands of dollars to have a pool dug, poured, filled, and maintained — but think more simplistically. Your kids are little, right? Do you really need a huge, expensive, built-in pool? Nah, we didn’t think so either.

Consider a cheaper alternative that is ultimately more fun and personal: A small indoor kiddie pool. Will it be wet and messy? Absolutely! That’s the fun of the whole thing. An indoor pool party is zany and different, and it’s a small thing that will no doubt get the kids ridiculously excited. Rearrange furniture and lay down some sheets or blankets to catch the bulk of the mess, or, if you have a screened-in porch with a heater, this could be the best possible location. Swimming is normally saved for the summertime, but being able to “swim” and splash from the comfort of your own home in the middle of winter couldn’t be more fun.

If you’re not fully ready to commit to a room inside of your house being the scene of a pool party, then a bathtub “pool” party can be just as fun and less messy. Grab their swimsuits and give them pool toys to play with, and your kids can have just as much fun splashing around the bathtub! It’s your choice if you want to add bubbles but come on. What’s a bath without bubbles? This is an easy way to get their energy levels down, make memories, and have fun all at the same time.

Look,we get it: It’s a hard task to keep your sanity while social distancing, especially if you’re the parent of young kids. While there is plenty to do indoors, it’s a matter of flexing your creative muscles to keep kids engaged. Sometimes all you need to do is take a regular activity and put a spin on it to get your kids excited. While it’s not always easy to prevent the dreaded words “I’m bored!!”, it is certainly not impossible. Finding offbeat ways to keep your kids having fun during quarantine while maintaining their social distance.