New Voices Fund Specifically Empowers Women of Color Entrepreneurs

The $100 million fund was created to help Women of Color succeed in business and reach their full potential


(Ron Marmion /

Black women's business ownership is growing by leaps and bounds. Since 1997, eight out of ten new women-owned businesses in the US were started by Women of Color.

These women have great potential to succeed, but they do not always have the access and resources available to grow their businesses. While the number of businesses run by African-American women grew by an impressive 322 percent, only 0.2 percent of Women of Color-owned startups receive venture capital funding.

In July 2018, Essence Ventures CEO Richelieu Dennis announced the official launch of the New Voices Fund - a $100 million initiative created to invest in and empower women entrepreneurs of color at the ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans.

The New Voices Fund was established as part of the 2017 acquisition of Sundial Brand  – the parent company of SheaMoisture, Nubian Heritage, Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture, and Nyakio – by Unilever. Dennis vowed that the capital from the acquisition would be used to fund Women of Color entrepreneurs.

This new initiative was designed to level the playing field by providing access, capital, and expertise. When female-led companies do receive venture funding, according to Dennis, they outperform their male peers by as much as 63 percent.

The goal of the New Voices Fund is to deliver unprecedented impact to black communities by ensuring new voices of entrepreneurship. The funding is available to start-ups, established businesses, and community-based enterprises, according to the fund.

“The needs of women of color entrepreneurs span the entire spectrum,” Dennis told Biz New Orleans. “So, it was critical that we acknowledge and address those needs beyond just capital. The New Voices ecosystem will seek to ignite long-term social change and create a society and economy that support and value entrepreneurial women of color for their significant and innovative contributions today and tomorrow.”

The fund focuses on investments from start-ups/Seed to Series C rounds and primarily invests in three verticals: consumer, technology and media/entertainment.

Since the soft launch in February 2018, $30 million has been invested or committed to eight companies:

  • Beauty Bakerie - a cosmetics company with products sold in 60 countries founded by Cashmere Carrillo.
  • Beautycon Media - a platform for inclusive beauty founded by Moj Mahdara.
  • Envested - a tool that enables connectivity across workplaces by Isa Watson.
  • McBride Sisters Wine – founded by Robin and Andrea McBride, the company is the producer and distributor of wine grown in California and New Zealand.
  • Mented – a luxury beauty and cosmetics company founded by Amanda Johnson and Kristen Jones Miller.
  • Sweeten – is a free service that matches people doing major renovations with contractors and offers support throughout the project byJean Brownhill.
  • The Honey Pot Company – plant-based feminine hygiene products that are natural, chemical free, and healthy founded by Beatrice Espada.
  • The Lip Bar – vegan and cruelty-free lip colors founded by Melissa Butler.

“We are excited and proud to partner with each of these women to bring value that will help fulfill their visions for their companies and create opportunities for economic inclusion, social change and wealth creation in their communities,” Dennis told Biz New Orleans.

“With the tools and support to demonstrate sustainable, profitable and unapologetically inclusive business models, there is no doubt that these women will shatter the stereotypical hurdles and ceilings they face. We are continuously reviewing applications and urge everyone to apply."

"We are moving, and we’re moving faster than anyone in this space right now. Based on the underserved needs and overwhelming demand from women of color entrepreneurs, we expect to embark on Fund II even sooner than we originally expected.  It’s time to hear more voices that demonstrate measurable social and economic impact in a way that inspires more women of color to join the financial inclusion movement.”

The funds are distributed by The New Voices Foundation, the 501C3 nonprofit arm of the fund. Through the foundation, New Voices entrepreneurs are provided help with planning, launching and growing their businesses through leadership development, education and skills building, and networking.

Women of Color entrepreneurs can join the New Voices community and apply for funding or other resources by going to and completing a business profile.

The resources available on the New Voices site are free for entrepreneurs, even if they do not participate with the Fund.

Rihanna's Fenty Beauty Is a Revelation for Women of Color
Take a Virtual Tour of 11 of the USA’s Most Important Black History Sites
10 of Martin Luther King's Most Inspiring Quotes