UCI Black Management Association Talks VC Funding and More for Underrepresented Entrepreneurs

Past Tides
February 25, 2021 By Jackie Connor

Entrepreneurship, investments and funding in the black community were the main topics of focus in UC Irvine’s (UCI) Black Management Association virtual Winter Forum, “Seeding Your Future.”

The panel discussion included Jaune Odombrown, ANTrepreneur Center manager at UCI, Monica Wheat, founder and CEO of Venture Catalysts, a nonprofit organization that creates inclusive ecosystems and Dr. Patrick Griffith, medical director at Adventist Heart and Vascular Institute. The panel offered resources, tactics and encouragement for underrepresented groups wanting to pursue an entrepreneurial endeavor.

“I see entrepreneurship and venture as a path to economic empowerment,” said Wheat. “I knew that having robust ecosystems that worked well were things that were going to make it easier for people who looked like me to have a chance and not be told that they didn’t fit the pattern.”

The hourlong virtual event, hosted by UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business and moderated by Jordyn Weaver, UCI graduate student and founder and CEO of The Black Market Company, discussed how underrepresented entrepreneurs can strategize their ideas and are getting equal share in the market.

“I think you have to be honest with yourself first and foremost and see if you actually have the mindset to get there,” said Odombrown. “I think it’s about challenging the status quo, but also challenging yourself. All those experiences that you don’t have, ask yourself if you are willing to actually do all those things, like raise funding and give it the time and attention it needs.”

Odombrown also pointed out how it’s important for underrepresented entrepreneurs to consider generational wealth with venture capital funding as it relates to retaining and passing down ownership of an entrepreneur’s company versus obtaining venture capital, which would ultimately offer an entrepreneur less control of the company.

“In the beginning it might seem attractive to go after funding, but you might fall in love with building a company and actually growing that company. One thing we have to remind ourselves in the black community is generational wealth – at the end of the day, venture capital dollars are not designed to help you generate generational wealth,” said Odombrown. “So if you’re looking to bring that and pass it down to your family, really think about the process and what kind of funding you really need to help you sustain that goal.”

Panelist Griffith also encouraged viewers to consider crowdfunding and other funding resources outside of VC investments.

“Strategic partners, SBA loans, family and friends, all these are extremely important,” said Griffith. “It may not be as much money, but it gets you to that point where you’re holding onto your passion and your goals while you develop yourself.”

UCI’s Black Management Association at the Paul Merage School of Business supports black students and alumni to help achieve professional goals by providing resources like networking, professional development and leadership opportunities.

Learn more about UCI’s Black Management Association.

Main Photo: Jaune Odombrown, ANTrepreneur Center manager at UC Irvine (UCI), helps mentor UCI students in innovation and entrepreneurship at the ANTrepreneur Center.
Photo: Julie Kennedy, UCI Beall Applied Innovation

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