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Topics: Business Innovation, Imagination, Technology,

Community Development, Brain-storming

Case-Study
2019

Problem: “How Do I
Grow My Platform For
People of Color?”
Background
The client knew he was developing a technology platform to help entrepreneurs of color generate
revenue using their talents with a goal toward starting businesses.

A mix between a business incubator and freelance site the intent was to help those on the platform
make money using their talents, and build capacity to grow a business using an online course and
coaches. Eventually, there would be a pipeline for investment ready businesses for the platform to
connect to potential investors.

The founder believes that communities of color have to start looking at capital differently, and that
means deploying resources differently. That also means empowering communities of color to stimulate,
and invest into, their own economies by generating revenue for themselves.

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How We Helped
EMPLLC was hired to help organize the development and testing of the platform. However, I knew from
my background in platforms that the platform itself had to be compelling and user friendly. To do this
we did the following:

Mission and Vision Development: We took a pause and took a few steps back to get more clear about
the mission and vison of the project. Where it presented more as an incubator, I could see the founder
had a passion for founders of color and helping them in ways other systems forget. More specifically,
the founder wanted to help creators and makers; those who may not know they have a viable business
idea but still want to generate revenue. We found this could be an entry point, but meant we’d have to
approach the project differently because, psychologically, creators and makers might be turned off by
business heavy language. Our focus became making the platform accessible and empowering by
meeting people where they are.

Developing a Village: Communities of color do business as a community. There are examples of this
from ancient times to segregation. Knowing this, I evolved the platform’s structure into a geo-location
specific “village.” Those on the platform would be organized into neighborhoods, with their
neighborhood bank, neighborhood supplier, etc. Not only would this encourage purchasing from each
other, but it would allow those on the platform to develop relationships with stakeholders who have an
extra interest in seeing the user succeed. Additionally, it would be the embodiment of contributing to,
and growing, a local economy while users got to know each other in a comfortable environment.

“Our focus became making the platform accessible and


empowering by meeting people where they are.”
The ability for users to test, poll, and engage with their family and friends as they test, measure and
learn was also built in. Too often, incubators encourage entrepreneurs to develop their products and
services in a glass bubble, with little engagement outside of their cohort. Here, we encourage users to
develop their ideas alongside family, friends, and community.

Gamefication: Early on, the founder knew they wanted to create a gamification component. Working
with the founder, we brainstormed ways to make the curriculum more engaging to help with keeping
users on the platform and grow.

Re-Imagining Credit: Less than 2% of VC funding goes to founders of color. Knowing this, I suggested we
not rely on VC Investors as a carrot or main feature of the design. I don’t believe this is access, so much
as the result of arcane structures. One being the inability for founders of color to access credit due to a
lack of assets. This inhibits their ability to borrow and build, while limiting them to friends and family or
bootstrapping.

I suggested the founder change the narrative around this conversation by building a character -based
credit system. Popular throughout India and other countries addressing unbanked populations, this
would not only be a way to encourage engagement with the platform but fundamentally change the

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way these communities borrow. Supplying lenders, institutions, and funders a model for lending in the
future.

Project Planning: To help with fund raising, technology development, and onboarding we developed a
framework for next steps and broke these down into different phases. As part of the project plan a list
of existing assumptions to test was also included.

Investment and Revenue Plan: As part of the summary, potential stakeholders of interest were
brainstormed along with specific things to keep in mind for each audience. Means of developing a
relationship with each audience, and potential investment opportunities, was included. Potential
business models to support the growth and operation of the project were developed, and the pros or
cons of each model were discussed.

Communications: To help the founder center their conversations, and target their message, we
developed a summary of the process along with a number of different talking points for different
lengths of time and different audiences. A pitch deck was also developed to help with investment and
speaking opportunities.

Currently, the client is building out their curriculum and coaching network. I’m excited to hear the
founder is now fundraising, and closing his first investment of $200,000! I’m also positive this is going to
be a game-changer for those of color who want to find ways to bring in extra income and possibly build
businesses.

How We Can Help You


You may have an idea of how you want to work with a community, and like help fleshing the idea out.
Or, you might like a second set of eyes to see what you might be missing, in terms of opportunities and
challenges.

Whether you’ve already started a project, looking to start, or don’t know where to start I’m happy to
help.

I can help:
- Create an accountability structure for you to make sure you’re making progress on your idea,
- Help you develop your idea in a way that makes sense for you and your current resources,
- Develop a guide or summary with operational, revenue, or communication ideas and points, or
prepare you for different investment opportunities.

Schedule a free time to talk now here