Shine My Crown Read by Alexa
Tech maven Shelly Omilâdè Bell founded Black Girl Ventures to help Black and Brown women grow their businesses. Now she’s taking her sage advice to the airwaves as her new radio show, “The Shelly Bell Show,” launches this Sunday on SiriusXM UrbanView.
ShineMyCrown caught up with Ms. Bell, where she opened up about her path to success, taught us how to deliver a solid pitch — and let us know what we can expect from her weekly new radio show on SiriusXM’s UrbanView channel.
SMC: What motivated you to create Black Girl Ventures?
Shelly Omilâdè Bell: “Black Girl Ventures [was launched] to create access to capital for Black and Brown women founders. One of the ways we do that is we focus on capital, capacity and community. Inside of that, what we’re most known for is this unique pitch competition where women pitch and then the audience actually votes with their dollars for the pitch that they favor. That capital then becomes a grant for the founders.
I started this in a house in Southeast DC because after starting my own business and going through my own assets capital challenges, I realized that I didn’t want anybody else to have to go through these challenges.
My mom gave me some of her retirement money in order for me to start my print shop and t-shirt line, which then became successful. We made Essence Magazine’s holiday gift guide. We saw lots of success with the print shop, and when the news came out that Black women were receiving capital, less than 1% of venture capital and starting businesses at six times the national average. I was like, ‘Wow, I think I can do something about this’. And so that I think I can do something about this turn into a brunch where people came.
Four women got up and talked about their business, almost like Shark Tank, but I realized that the community plays a huge role in our businesses. They’re the consumers. Whatever thing that’s popping up. If there’s a new Whole Foods is popping up on your block, you’re a part of that. You’re in that community. And so, with that understanding, I allow for the community to get engaged.
I kept doing it. We landed a partnership with Google, started traveling the country, doing it across different Google offices, and continued to build that bigger and bigger. Now we are the largest entrepreneurial support organization on the East Coast for Black and Brown women. We have efforts across about 12 cities and counting. We’re about to launch in L.A. soon. We also have funded over 260 women. By the end of this year, we would have funded 300 women.
We have fellowships across five cities right now where we are teaching women to be business leaders, so it’s not just about being a business owner. We need more voices at the table, so we have a special curriculum for leaders, where we are teaching them, putting them on a fast track to leadership in their local markets. We work with some of the largest companies in the world. We work with Nike, Google, Visa, Experian and more. It’s been an amazing journey to see the lives that we’ve been able to impact and the partners who are on the journey with us, and just allow us space to be able to serve our community in the way that we know they need to be served.
SMC: You consider yourself a disruptor. What exactly is a disruptor?
Shelly Omilâdè Bell: I think a disruptor is someone with their eye on innovation. Funding people is not new, but a new way to fund people is imperative to economic development. First, let me take it back to the person at [their] job, sitting in a meeting and is always the one that gives the feedback that everybody’s thinking, but nobody will say.
I was that person my whole life.
And I was the person who I’m sitting there like, y’all, don’t see this? Why are we sitting here like we don’t see this? And I’m raising my hand like, “Hey, I see this and we need to change it.” And then after the meeting, everybody’s like, “I’m so glad you said that because I…” And I’m like, well, why don’t you say it?
So I would say it starts with being able to see the blind spots and actually make moves to fill them, and it’s very simple. I say every innovation is someone innovating in someone else’s blind spot, and if you, as an organization or a company, are not dedicated to seeing where innovations can happen within your organization or company, or government entity and beyond, then you’re missing out. If you’re not innovating, you’re hesitating.
SMC: What are the biggest obstacles you’d say you faced while building your business and your brand?
Shelly Omilâdè Bell: While building my business and my brand, you don’t know what you don’t know. But how do you find out what you don’t know until you find out that you don’t know it? And so, I have had to break through similar barriers to just other founders that we serve. How do I raise capital for this business?
What conversations do I need to be having? It’s simple to say that there’s a knowledge gap, and I feel like the knowledge gap and when you say it, it gets pushed to the side as a thing like, ‘Oh, if you don’t know, just Google it’. But that is not realistic for what it means in this realm of finance and economic development for you to not know. We’re talking about generations apart of information, considering that in America, people who are Black were legally disadvantaged financially.
This wasn’t some fluke where it was like, ‘Oh, we was just over here playing around and didn’t notice that the world was moving’. No, no, no, no. A lot of times, that’s how the knowledge gap sounds.
I didn’t grow up with Jack and Jill, which is what some of the Black elite have to see those circles of philanthropy, meaning we give to other people to make them better. Philanthropy for me was church.
So it took me almost two years to realize when a wealthy person was saying to me, ‘How can I be helpful?’ That was the moment for me to ask for $50,000. Nobody taught me that. so I’m thinking, they’re like, ‘How can I be helpful?’ I’m giving out all kinds of volunteer opportunities. And they’re like, ‘Okay, but how can I be helpful?’ I’m like, ‘Can you introduce me to people?’ They’re like, ‘Okay, well, how can I be helpful?’ I’m like, ‘Can you come judge a pitch competition?’ And they’re like, ‘Okay, well, how can I… And I’m like, what do they want for me? A huge check.
They want me to ask for the check.
And I said, henceforth and forevermore, I will make sure that every founder knows if somebody’s asking you, how can they be helpful? You need to give them a balanced answer if you need to check and some services.
Like if I Google, ‘what does it mean when somebody says, can I be helpful?’ — I’m not going to find the answers to that. That’s not how that kind of information works. So when it comes to nuance around language, how you refer to things, how you ask for money, how you think about asking for money, your money sense, your money experience, shifting your money experience without having more money is hard. You can’t just make up a new money experience without actually witnessing, engaging in arenas that have money attached in different ways.
SMC: What does that a good pitch look like and sound like?
Shelly Omilâdè Bell: I think this is a great question because it’s way more simple than people think.
So here’s what I learned; I’m going to say this. When people say, ‘Oh, I can help you make a million dollars.’ Or they’re like, ‘Oh, start your six figure business,’ — not all of them are fake — but I would say that for the most part, what I realized is after you get to a certain point in your journey, you’re no longer giving advice based off of what you actually did. You’ll be giving advice based on what you would have done. So I tell everybody when you’re going to get feedback on your pitch, take it all with a grain of salt. Take what you think is relevant and let the rest go, and then practice.
So my first thing is to get out there and get into some pitch competitions, pitch in front of your family members. Pitch everywhere—pitch in the mirror. Get to a point where it is normal for you to talk about money, and it is normal for you to talk about your business, and it is normal for you to talk about who you are and what you do.
One of the biggest barriers is that people don’t like to brag on themselves or talk about themselves or ask for money, or just put out a dollar amount. So work on that side of you. Massage that out. Ring it out. Get rid of it.
Then there is the simple, what is it? Why is it? Why do I care about it? And who’s going to like it? That simple. The public — who’s going to buy it? Those are the simple breakdowns.
What I learned is you’re not asking for money. You’re not asking for an investment. You are presenting a business proposition. So center what you do, the story, the financial narrative, center that around a business proposition and you’ll win every time. But what happens is people sometimes lean too much into the story, not enough finances. Lean too much in the market, not enough finances. It’s like, we want to hear the finances too because we want to make money with you.
SMC: Should the emphasis be on the finances, or should it be an equal balance?
Shelly Omilâdè Bell: The emphasis should be on relationship building, and I say that because all money is a relationship. The money ain’t worth nothing. We know there ain’t no gold backing it.
The narratives that are perpetuated to underrepresented groups about the dangers of money and then the pluses of money, which means materials. There are so many narratives out there that we have to be careful about falling into, or sometimes we have to unlearn some of these narratives that we’ve adapted over time. Don’t look at your credit. If your credit is bad, just don’t even look at it.
And then you look at it, you be like, ‘Oh, I actually have less than $1,000 for debt and it’s all medical bills. It’s all co-payments I didn’t pay.’
So I think that this narrative around how we talk about the finances and our story, we somehow pull it apart. In the pitch, you’re putting these things together because it’s a business proposition. You’re putting the financial narrative. It’s all a narrative — the actual narrative of creation. The narrative of expertise. The narrative of the market. You’re pulling that together to say ‘I am an expert at these narratives that pertain to the thing that I have created,’ and you want to get into business with me because this is your best bet for your next investment.
SMC: Your show launches on Sirius XM Urban View this Sunday. What can listeners expect?
Shelly Omilâdè Bell: “The Shelly Bell Show” will include two other small business owners and me, and we’re giving you life around finances, facing financial fears, small business real talk, real-life from day to day.
Because what I’ve found is that there’s a lot of talking heads out there about lifestyle and pop culture. Even the financial people who are experts out there seem really serious. But I think there’s a mix of seriousness and every day. We’re talking about credit. We’re demystifying. We’re talking about business catfishing. We’re talking about hobosexuals. These are all people making money.
We’re bringing you a little bit of comedy. But real-life women talking about what they have actually gone through and what they’re seeing around finances. And it’s just time for a refreshing take on what it means to build a business. There’s a new age business owner now, right? This is not the stuffy, everybody just sitting in the corner reading the Wall Street Journal. We’re not all wearing suits and we’re not wearing black and blue, we don’t have to do that anymore. We can be exactly who we are and we can be, I don’t know if I can cuss in this.
We can be exactly who we are. We can be dope-a—, kick a—, bad-a— women CEOs of something that can scale massively. It doesn’t have to compromise who you are and how you be.
“The Shelly Bell Show” launches on Sept. 26 at noon ET on SiriusXM Urban View (Ch. 126)