When InvestMidwest Venture Capital Forum held its virtual Midwest Venture Showcase last month, the highlighted theme was that cities have to grow their own companies rather than rely on corporations and midsize businesses to lead the march to economic prosperity.
One of the panel moderators was Charli Cooksey, who founded WEPOWER, a St. Louis-based organization that supports Black and minority entrepreneurs in accessing capital through coaching and connections. Cooksey, who calls herself a social entrepreneur, talked to us about the takeaways of her panel.
What was the topic of the panel you led at InvestMidwest?
There were funders and entrepreneurs discussing ways to provide access to capital for women and Black entrepreneurs.
What were the main takeaways for the participants?
Overall, the theme was that funders, capital providers, and investors need to take a more proactive and assertive approach to identifying, cultivating and investing in entrepreneurs of color and women. A lot of funders and investors are of the mindset ‘You know, they’ll come to me for help, and if they don’t come to me, then I’m off the hook.’ The discussion bore out that it requires serious effort to serve entrepreneurs who are underrepresented, and the responsibility falls on the investor, because the entrepreneurs are out there.
Another takeaway was the need to think about different types of capital, maybe not always the traditional capital, but perhaps revenue-based capital, ways where so much ownership isn’t taken from companies.
Lastly, investors have to really weigh in as partners once the investment is made. They need to operate in a way where the entrepreneur realizes that the investor is there to support him or her with growing, with thriving, and making more connections.
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