This Woman Is Leading The Charge For The Second Coming Of Black Wall Street In Tulsa


Just over 100 years ago, a vicious mob of white people destroyed Greenwood, a prosperous Black neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. To date, it has still never fully recovered from the tragedy. Now affectionately referred to as Black Wall Street, one women is aiming to help restore to its former glory.

Ashli Sims, managing director of Build in Tulsa—an organization that supports Black businesses scale to ultimately close the racial wealth gap.

“I’m working to build the infrastructure needed for creating multigenerational wealth for Black people,” Sims tells ESSENCE. “Very much rooted in the legacy of Black Wall Street. And Tulsa is my home. That legacy is my legacy. And so I take all this work very seriously.”

Before taking the helm at Build In Tulsa, she working in nonprofit space where she aimed to able make an impact on correcting some of society’s ills. She advocated on behalf of vulnerable children in East Africa and raised money to make sure people in her hometown of Tulsa could eat and put food on the table for their families. But she limitations there. So she to the conclusion that economic power is political power. And economic power is what will solve the societal ills she recognized, which brought her to Build In Tulsa.

Its accelerator, W.E. Build, just entered into its second-year and invested capital and essential resources into early-stage women-led startups with founders that from Tulsa.

Although Sims believes in the empowerment of the entire Black business ecosystem, she recognizes the importance of focusing on the descendants of the massacre. This is intentional.

“We believe in the power of Black founders,” she tells ESSENCE. “We believe in their ingenuity. I personally believe that it is our legacy and our destiny because we come from innovators and inventors, particularly being here in Tulsa, Oklahoma—the historic home of Black Wall Street, where we had the most black millionaires per capita of anywhere else in the country in the 20s, in the 1920s.

She adds: “Our North Star is that we believe in this emphatically.”

Over the last two years, Build In Tulsa has hosted a quarterly female founders pitch in which 42 women-led companies competed and were awarded around $95,000 to people who shared ideas.

“We are putting money into their hands so that they can have some seed money to see if these ideas have legs,” she explains. “And we’re proud to say many of the folks who’ve gone through the program, which is not Shark Tank-style, you just don’t get up in front of a couple of judges and throw your idea out there. We put you through about six to 8 hours of training. So you learn the components of building a business. That’s what we’re about. We don’t throw you in choppy waters. We give you a life vest.”

This process is clearly working.

As of the end of 2022, after less than 2 years in operation, the organization has helped 217 Black founders and entrepreneurs launch or grow their own businesses, according to a statement provided by a spokesperson. Last year, it provided nearly 3,600 hours of hands-on training and coaching and helped its network companies raise more than $9.1 million in venture funding.

Their latest accelerator, W.E. [Women Entrepreneurs] Build By Build In Tulsa,
is targeting the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs, which is Black women.

“We create businesses, start businesses, launch businesses faster than any other demographic, but we tend to be solopreneurs,” Sims explains. “And so many of Black women-led companies don’t make it to being mature companies. They don’t last five years. And so we are centering Black women and created a program really designed to address the barriers that they uniquely face.”

The program, which is backed by Goldman Sachs 1 Million Black Women Initiative, ran full-time from April to mid-August, and aimed to empower 8 Black women-led businesses from end-to-end. What makes them different is that they not only receive capital, but deep investment into their holistic development, including a $25,000 non-dilutive grant, 3 months of business training, mentorship opportunities and free legal and accounting services. They even receive cost of living stipends to help provide housing, childcare, and health care and i-weekly mental health counseling.

“We try to really address not just the business, but the whole woman—pouring not only into the startup, but the founder as well,” Sims says. “So many of Black women founders suffer from Imposter Syndrome, not because they’re incapable, but because they’re unsupported. I’m proud to be the latest vanguard in folks who are trying to make sure that those pathways access points exist for Black folks. There’s so much here, and I can’t wait for the world to stop and take notice.”


Source link

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply