Brenda Rios is the Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives & Community Relations at the Houston Community College, and with the Diversity Investor Academy powered by baMa are creating a personalized course. We talk with her about the 101 Business Angel course, what is the role of education and women and minority entrepreneurs.
IN: What role does education and diversity play in the innovation ecosystem?
It is a huge component; education goes hand by hand with diversity. Stakeholders, and Students can make an impact in the HCC. We involve the power of community with centres of excellence that focus on specific market needs such as technology, cosmetology, manufacturing, and construction. Innovation in all shape and forms. The HCC supports local shops and helps them to put all the efforts into strategy to evolve further.
For us, innovation is the power of generating those alliances with creating new businesses, products and services by developing partnerships and entrepreneurial resources in our workshops. In addition, it is pivotal to network, and build connections that support the innovation ecosystem and minority entrepreneurs.
IN: How can we create a more educated community of early-stage investors?
Working on the course with the Diversity Investors Academy is one step. At the HCC we hear from minorities entrepreneurs over and over about the lack of investment. We believe in the importance of supporting education that shows the steps of becoming a certified business angel investor. With this education you can give financial information to individuals that want to grow their money, help them to better assess the relevance of sustainability and how to leverage the risk. Some individuals may have the funds, and want to grow them, but don’t know how or feel uncomfortable with early-stage investing.
IN: At baMa we have created a campaign called #changinthecolorsofinevstment. Why is it important to support such campaigns and diverse founders?
It is super important because diverse founders understand the struggles of their communities and the gaps in their markets. Thanks to these founders we can get different and new products, that have not been created because they have never been thought of. With these campaigns the investment community can grow.
IN: Have you got any advice for minority entrepreneurs to attract venture capitalists or investors to start their businesses?
First, I will tell them to maintain their daily jobs until they have stability with their financials. Then, once they have a rhythm in creating their business, with some profits and a strong team, I would advise them to grow their network, and the brand. It is vital to practice and do your research to connect with people that will guide you such as mentors, coaches, institutions, and investors.
IN: Has being a woman affected your growth process?
Yes, and especially when I was a young professional. I have found that it is not so much as being at the table, but a matter of being taken seriously. I would say that you need to prepare yourself by knowing who is at the table and thinking about how you can position yourself while communicating properly.
IN: What is the one piece of advice you would give to young women who want to be part of the ecosystem?
I would say that if you have a business idea because you understand a particular niche and see the gaps and the opportunities in the market, you shouldn’t be afraid to create that business idea and go for it! If it is not you, who else would do it?
As a women we start doubting ourselves and like to have everything planned out, but don’t let that stop you. Entrepreneurs do their research and continue tweaking their business idea on the go. You must understand that being an entrepreneur is a journey, and you must feel comfortable with the daily changes.
IN: What is DiA adding to the HCC with the personalized course?
It is the opportunity of creating cohorts that understand the step by step of becoming an investor. At HCC we don’t only want to create workshops that teach individuals how to perform in pitch competitions; we want people to be able to see the perspective of what investors look into. With DiA, the attendees will learn this by understanding the process that takes place in early-stage investment.
With this personalized group we are creating with baMa, we will be able to teach a group of people who might be curious to invest in early-stage investment, get more clarity about the process to getting certified through several modules, and understand the steps to end up investing successfully and giving back to our community.
IN: What do you want to see happening at baMa and at DiA this year? Would you recommend baMa to other people?
I would love to see baMa grow world-wide! I absolutely recommend baMa! Minorities add value, and voice to specific struggles, but still are voiceless. The ecosystem needs much more initiatives and education that targets minority entrepreneurs and minority servicing markets such as baMa.
The power of focusing on minority entrepreneurs and having diverse investors looking at these types of ventures is a huge opportunity for economic growth. The National Association of Investment Companies recently released a report on the promising economic positioning of minority business enterprises (MBEs), which raised an interesting theory; the idea is that, if MBEs were to reach the average revenues generated by majority-white businesses, it would boost the U.S. GDP by a whopping $1.37 trillion. So we must be able to change the current statistics and prepare investors to seek out diversity in their sourcing of investment candidates. This will impact our community as a whole, and it’s the right recipe for a healthy innovative ecosystem.
Catherine Carey, Communications Manager at baMa