FIU and the city of Miami have partnered to help businesswomen of color get the attention of venture capitalists. Led by alumna Kenasha Paul ’10, an attorney and founder of the Black Professionals Network, the new initiative aims to fix a problem that threatens the success of the Miami Tech movement: Women of color attract disproportionately less investment money than their white and male counterparts.
Underserved, these entrepreneurs deserve better, say local and university leaders, and their companies remain critical to the region’s fast-developing innovation ecosystem.
“Miami is the hub of social capital. I know we already have the talent and resources,” Paul says. “I’m going to be a champion for the women who get overlooked. We want to create those connectivity points so that investors see the genius that already exists in this city.”
The Venture Miami Opportunity Program, run out of FIU's Office of Engagement and supported with a $150,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase, in January recruited its first cohort of business owners. Many run tech-based companies and all head enterprises with the potential to break into billion-dollar industries.
Participants meet with financial and other advisers within the university and the community to fine-tune their businesses and build strategic growth plans in preparation for a catalytic infusion of capital. The goal: having at least 50% of participants ready to pitch their companies to investors during Miami Tech Month in April.
Sophronia McKenzie '09, founder of visuEats Imagery Solutions, joined the first cohort and recognized immediately the game-changing nature of the program for her and her business. “I’m most excited to gain access to like-minded female entrepreneurs, knowledgeable coaches and business experts,” she says. “I am really excited about the doors and opportunities that lie ahead.”