Drawing inspiration from the thriving Black town of Greenwood, Oklahoma, better known as Black Wall Street, a Howard University alum is looking to help the Black economy pick up where it left off by launching his own venture capital initiative.
The Greenwood Project, founded by entrepreneur and digital marketing strategist Rashaan Everett, is a one-of-a-kind venture aimed at pumping wealth into the Black middle class by encouraging investment in Black-owned entities. The thought is that the more Black people invest in ourselves, the more wealth we attain and the closer we get to achieving financial independence.
It’s been almost 100 years since Black Wall Street was burned to the ground by a group of angry white supremacists in 1921. Everett called it “disappointing” that African-Americans still haven’t been able to pick up economically where our ancestors left off years ago.
“I think it’s really important to realize that moral empathy and asking people to feel bad for us and care about our lives isn’t working,” he told Atlanta Black Star. “So we’re going to have to add some economic leverage and do some more tangible action if we’re really going hope to really earn any progress.”
Everett’s Greenwood Project also was an opportunity for Black economic growth born out of President Obama’s Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. Passed in April 2012, the law essentially allows everyday citizens to invest in private companies.
Policies previously set in place by the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) only allowed wealthy, “accredited investors” to pour money into privately owned businesses. Unsurprisingly, an overwhelming majority of the investors are white.
For Everett, this posed a problem, as only 2 percent of venture capital was invested in Black business owners last year. The serial entrepreneur saw Obama’s JOBS Act as an opportunity for Black people to finally begin investing in our own projects — Black startups funded by Black dollars.
“We’ve never even had a chance to create some of these large technology startups that you see like a Facebook or Uber or Snapchat or even something smaller like Eventbrite,” Everett said. “We have so many ideas in our community that just aren’t received because white people control all the money.”
Through his project, Everett encourages Black families to purchase equity in Black-owned entities, advocate and continue to support those companies and watch the return from that investment grow into tangible wealth for the original investor and the Black economy as a whole. The goal? To build and retain wealth for African-American families by keeping Black money circulating within the Black economy.
Everett noted that the few Black companies that exist today are still funded by white banks and white investors. He called his Greenwood Project “transformative” in that it ultimately “aligns Black dollars with Black economic interests,” thus putting the Black community one step closer to economic stability and independence.
So how does the venture capitalist project work exactly? Everett is currently asking that 100,000 people donate at least $100 to his Greenwood Project, with the goal of reaching $1 million or more in funding. That money will then be incubated and invested into other Black-owned brands and businesses. The CEO said original investors can expect a large return on their investment, $20,000 to be exact, in as little to three to five years.
“These types of returns happen every day in Silicon Valley,” Everett explained of the 20-fold increase. “It just seems too good to be true just because we’ve just never been exposed to it as a people and as a culture.”
The Howard alum went on to emphasize that money contributed to his Greenwood Project should in no way be seen as a “donation” or a “gift offering.” The investor is actually purchasing a piece of stock/equity in the company. He said he wants potential investors to see his project as a strategic investment in the future of Black leaders and Black ideas.
“Once we have one big company, we’re able to fund additional companies and we change the narrative,” Everett explained. “Instead of begging for diversity departments, begging for scraps, begging for a company to hire us, we can do it ourselves.”
Everett reiterated that putting Black dollars back into Black businesses is the key to African-Americans regaining control of our trillion-dollar spending power. The foundation to gaining that control also lies in basic financial literacy skills such as budgeting, building credit and managing personal finances.
“I want the Greenwood Project to represent the value African-Americans add to the economy,” the CEO told ABS, noting his efforts to dismantle the notion that Black people can only build wealth in the realm sports or entertainment. “I want it to build and retain wealth. And I want for us to finally be able to invest in ourselves.”
In addition to becoming an economic powerhouse, Everett said his project also will work to advance the social and political concerns of the Black community. Public resistance to the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has been very vocal in the fight for racial equality and social justice, also fueled the inspiration behind his venture.
Everett’s project is hot off the presses, just launching at the beginning of this month. So far, $10,000 has been invested in the Greenwood Project and the CEO said he will begin collecting additional funds starting Nov. 25 from individuals who formally express interest in investing in his company. The form to snag a spot on the Preferred Investors Access List is currently up on the project’s website.
The sky is the limit for the Greenwood Project and Everett is hoping for nothing but growth and success in the next five years. But most importantly, the CEO said he hopes to see Black folks investing more in each other, especially in the wake of the presidential election.
“I think that it’s really urgent at this point that everyone who’s African-American consider themselves a part of a solution,” Everett said. “Regardless of how much time you have to dedicate, consider investing in Black economics, in Black people, in YOUR people.
“We need it.”
For more information on the Greenwood Project and how to formally express interest in investing, please visit http://www.thegreenwoodproject.org/take-action .
The Greenwood Project’s investment portal is now open.
To invest, please visit https://wefunder.com/GreenwoodProject .