As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the nation and the world, Black communities are being impacted at drastically disproportionate rates. However, while the impact of COVID-19 shines a spotlight on the already fragile health and economic ecosystems of Black communities and Black-owned small businesses, economic recovery efforts – such as the quickly-depleted initial $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program in the CARES Act – are not effectively reaching many of the entrepreneurs and businesses most in need. To help address this, ESSENCE, the leading media, technology, and commerce company serving Black women, today announced the creation of the ESSENCE Benefit Seriesä to Fight COVID-19 to assist Black-owned small businesses and organizations across the country impacted by the pandemic.
The ESSENCE Benefit Series to Fight COVID-19 kicks off with the first-ever ESSENCE + New Voices Entrepreneur Virtual Summit and New Voices + Target Accelerators $100K Pitch Competition – which will be streamed live on ESSENCE Studios on Friday, April 24th, from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM ET. The Entrepreneur Virtual Summit will equip Black business owners with valuable tools needed to navigate this unprecedented time, including access to capital, practical insights, and critical resources. The Summit will also include the New Voices + Target Accelerators $100K Pitch Competition, featuring 10 women entrepreneurs pitching their businesses to receive critical funding combined with coaching, mentoring, and personalized business skills development.
The Entrepreneur Virtual Summit will feature informative sessions with some of the most influential business leaders across industries, covering topics including Navigating Coronavirus Relief; Raising Capital Right Now; Adapting During Crisis; Managing the New Normal; Developing A Winning Playbook: Now & Post-COVID and more. Speakers include Robert F. Smith, Chairman, Vista Equity Partners, LLC; Caroline Wanga, Chief Diversity, and Inclusion Officer and Vice President of Human Resources, Target Corporation; Bozoma Saint John, Chief Marketing Officer, Endeavor; Marcus Samuelsson, Chef and Restaurateur; Melissa Butler, CEO, The Lip Bar; Elisa Shankle, Wellness & Lifestyle Expert; Nicole Valentine, Chief Executive Officer, Synergy Business Development; Robin McBride, Co-founder, McBride Sisters Wine Collection; and more.
During this Summit and each to follow in the Benefit Series – as well as throughout this crisis, virtual attendees will have an opportunity to support Black-owned businesses that are in critical need of access to funding and resources by donating to the New Voices Foundation. The New Voices Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization driven by its PACE (Purpose.Access.Capital.Expertise) model and founded by serial entrepreneur and social impact investor Richelieu Dennis, is committed to creating a more inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem and currently has 13,000+ women of color entrepreneurs on its platform. Offering leadership development, flexible funding, skills-building and networking opportunities to build, grow and scale their businesses with purpose, the Foundation operates with a multi-pronged approach and services that entrepreneurs can access free of charge, including mobile accelerators, coaching and mentoring, pitch competitions, online masterclasses, and more.
Upcoming virtual experiences in the ESSENCE Benefit Series to Fight COVID-19 include the first-ever ESSENCE Festival of Culture: The Virtual Edition (July 4th weekend), as well as other summits, focused on entertainment, personal finance, technology, essential heroes and more.
“We have long known about the systemic healthcare and economic inequities that are causing Black communities and businesses to fare worse than others during the COVID-19 global pandemic, but we also now see that we are in danger of losing critical progress as a community unless urgent and meaningful actions are taken,” said Dennis, also founder & chair of Essence Ventures, the parent company of ESSENCE. “Black-owned businesses serve as economic engines in our communities across the nation, and entrepreneurship and ownership remain the most viable paths to bridging the abysmal wealth gap and creating generational wealth. Yet, as critical initial stimulus funding ran out without reaching many of those who need it most and with new funding not guaranteed to reach these same businesses, not enough is being done to help ensure their post-pandemic financial survival and the long-term health of our communities.”
Dennis continued, “The ESSENCE Benefit Series to Fight COVID-19 and each of its virtual summits are a direct response to this dire need. While ESSENCE has used its platform over the past 50 years to support entrepreneurs and provide commerce opportunities for Black-owned businesses, we have accelerated these efforts – particularly with investments in digital and technology innovation – since returning the brand to 100% Black ownership in 2018. Now, operating under our Community Commerce purpose-driven model of elevating communities by providing access and opportunities that lead to sustainable economic empowerment, this is how ESSENCE will continue to serve our community in this crisis and beyond. We’ve always been able to count on each other – and that is more important now than ever.”
ESSENCE’s cultivation of entrepreneurship and commerce within Black communities has previously included supporting more than 3,000 small businesses at the ESSENCE Festival of Culture Marketplace; featuring more than 100 small businesses on the Shop ESSENCE platform; engaging hundreds of small business owners in Louisiana to participate in the Pipeline Initiative to grow entrepreneurship and technical career opportunities; and more.
At the outset of the global pandemic designation in March, ESSENCE created the ESSENCE of the Matter: COVID-19’s Impact on Black America digital platform to provide Black women and communities with the tools, information, resources, solutions, inspiration, and empowerment needed to address the multitude of issues arising from the novel coronavirus crisis. The ESSENCE Benefit Series to Fight COVID-19 will now become a central part of this effort, which to date has included the first-ever virtual ESSENCE Wellness Houseä and ESSENCE CARES Act information sessions. In addition, the ESSENCE editorial team produces daily content on a dedicated page to educate the community on the coronavirus, its impact, and how to survive and thrive in this time.
The ESSENCE + New Voices Entrepreneur Virtual Summit is powered by Microsoft and brought to you by SheaMoisture and Advancing Black Pathways by JPMorgan Chase. To register for the ESSENCE + New Voices Entrepreneur Virtual Summit or for more details, visit ESSENCE.com.
About Essence Communications Inc.
Essence Communications is the number one media, technology, and commerce company dedicated to Black women and inspires a global audience of more than 20.2 million through diverse storytelling and immersive original content. With a multi-platform presence in publishing, experiential and online, ESSENCE encompasses its signature magazine; digital, video and social platforms; television specials; books; as well as live events, including Black Women in Music, Black Women in Hollywood, Street Style and the ESSENCE Festival. Essence Communications is owned by Essence Ventures, an independent Black-owned consumer technology company focused on merging content, community, and commerce to meet the evolving cultural and lifestyle needs of people of color.