Meet Shelly Bell. Empowering black communities through Black Girl Ventures
Happy Wednesday Meaningful People!
Welcome to our new series called WomenWednesday! In this series, we will feature women entrepreneurs, CEO, and also designers all around the world making meaningful work.
Empowerment is at the center of our mission. What is our mission?
Our mission is to create a world where underrepresented people everywhere have the opportunity to earn a sustainable living, do meaningful work, and make an impact.
This Wednesday we are with Shelly Bell, the founder of Black Girl Ventures based in DC and originally from North Carolina. Black Girl Ventures’ mission is to provide Black/Brown woman-identifying founders with access to community, education, and leadership development to meet business milestones that lead to economic advancement through entrepreneurship.
Could you tell us more about Black Girl Ventures?
Black Girl Venture (BGV) is an organization funding and businesses created by Black/Brown women founders and so far we have funded 50+ businesses, held pitch competitions in several cities of the US, and also serve over 200 participants.
We also created sheraise, a virtual crowdfunding, and pitching platform to facilitate the management of our pitch competitions.
Shelly always wanted to have her own business even though she was engaged to a man who did not want her to start a business.
How did you get started?
I first started with an arts organization called Seven City Art Society, where I built a community through art. I also learned how to do t-shirts from my previous experience when I was teaching so I launched a t-shirt line which eventually became a screen-printing and merchandise shop (MsPrint USA). I had some ups and downs, my first line did not work well however when I came up to put “Made by a Black Woman” people loved it.
As I was touring around the east coast, meeting with different entrepreneurs, I realized one thing: they needed some kind of communication platform. I started with a meet-up event with different entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs, and it became an organization.
Being an entrepreneur is not easy, being a black woman is even harder. Shelly explained to us the difficulties she faced and how she overcame them.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
Building and running a business at the same time are tough. I didn’t have a lot of space to experience. When I first started my t-shirt company, I had trouble making profits and living out of it. It made me realize that I had to develop a strategy before having customers.
Plus, as a woman of 3 kids, it was an immense challenge. I kept tight relationships with my kids and learn how to create boundaries, though it is tough to do since I enjoy and love what I am working on.
When we partnered with Google, it shifted our structure and we could not get money upfront so we created chapters to escalate the market. You always have to look at your business plan and see how you can adapt it.
“I can say that I went from hustling to handling.”
What is your advice to fellow women entrepreneurs?
It is very important to have coaches and mentors of all kinds: spiritual, business, etc. to guide you. Coaches can be expensive so make sure it works out! I learned so many valuables things thanks to them.
Also, go make money! Revenue is the validator, not your friend who likes your idea.