Detroit Regional Chamber > Racial Justice & Economic Equity > Founder-led Tech Group Brings Opportunities Home for BIPOC Entrepreneurs

Founder-led Tech Group Brings Opportunities Home for BIPOC Entrepreneurs

February 28, 2023

Michigan Chronicle
Sherri Kolade

Feb. 27, 2023

What does it look like when we chase our wildest dreams?

That is the question the Michigan Founders Fund (MFF) member and entrepreneur, Johnnie Turnage, asked when speaking to the Michigan Chronicle about how the Fund is helping others actively pursue their passions while finding their footing in the often inequitable world of business.

The Michigan Founders Fund is a network of business owners and investors that have committed 1% of their ownership, carry or profit to help important regional organizations working to improve the state’s communities and quality of life.

Collaborating to build a more robust, inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem and a more varied, expanding community, the group aims to help Black and Brown business startups see success in the long run through innovative, inclusive means to bring a more financially stable environment closer to home for them.

Turnage has about 15 years of experience in this space as an award-winning grassroots activist, chief executive officer, and tech entrepreneur.

Turnage, who began his career in social justice and grassroots organizing early on working for Get Out the Vote, where he led local youth in neighborhood canvasses and voter registration efforts, is all about strengthening ties that bind others together, especially through business and purpose.

The MFF also has similar pillars by aiming at growing the presence of successful high-growth ventures and advancing civic leadership in Michigan.

They achieve this by:

  1. Establishing a robust, diverse and active founder-to-founder support network to aid entrepreneurs in their endeavors;
  2. Fostering a culture of founders for founders and founders for the community; and
  3. Giving founders a straightforward method for charitable giving and chances to participate in their communities while running their businesses.

“These pillars lay the foundation to collectively create the future we want to see across our state. Entrepreneurs working together and with community leaders results in a stronger, more sustainable Michigan,” according to its website.

“Access to capital for Black-owned businesses has been a challenge,” Charity Dean, President and Chief Executive Officer of Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance, who also connects the dots with Black businesses and entrepreneurs said previously. “If we close the wealth gap by 2050, the State of Michigan can gain $92 billion … This lack of generational wealth [along with] racism and structural barriers expenses is not just in the country but the state and is costing the country and region billions of dollars.”

Ashely Williams, a Founder and Chief Executive Officer of RIZZARR, a content marketplace which helps brands and creators, told the Michigan Chronicle that as a serial entrepreneur, transformational speaker, author, host and member of MFF, that she appreciates the network and events that focus on bringing attention to issues that entrepreneurs like herself and others face locally and beyond.

Williams adds that being a Black woman entrepreneur building a tech company like RIZZARR was accomplished only after she believed in herself.

“[And] knowing that it was possible for me,” she said, adding that in many rooms with her peers, she stood alone as the only Black woman and was made to feel like she shouldn’t be there. “[I] constantly had things I had to face and overcome.”

Now that she successfully navigated those obstacles, she wants to connect with others like her who want more funding, resources, mentors, and access.

“Many entrepreneurs in [our] ecosystem are aware of not a lot [being] done about the issue and the fact that helping to do this in a cathartic way is healing,” she said of an ongoing conversation about funding and access, which can “create positive change.”

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