ATLANTA — Atlanta-based lending platform EnrichHER is connecting women of color with the money they need to start and grow their businesses.
In 2021, Black female startup founders received just 0.34% of venture capital spent in the United States that year.
EnrichHER founder and CEO Dr. Roshawnna Novellus said that's a gap they're working to close.
"I believe that all women need to have access to their own economic power," she said. "I have a huge track record of financial knowledge, but oftentimes when I go to make a financial transaction myself, people just assume that I don't know what I'm doing. Even though I have a doctorate in finance."
Dr. Novellus said that led her to found EnrichHER and help other women navigate the financial space, which is primarily dominated by white men.
“It wasn't until the 80s that a woman could even get a business loan without a male cosigner," she pointed out.
EnrichHER receives about $15M in loan requests per month from companies seeking to stabilize their business.
To date, the company has deployed $14 million in capital to diverse-owned businesses from 47 states.
One of those business owners is Barbara Jones, founder of Lillii RNB Inc.
“I struggled, there were sometimes where I didn't pay myself at all," Jones recalled of the early days of her business.
“We're an enterprise solutions company, we focus on retailers," she explained. "I just felt like people hadn't seen someone like me building a company like this. I would pitch and I just felt like nobody was listening. I'm like, okay, nobody's going to give me money.”
The pandemic only further spotlighted the systemic issue.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, Black owned businesses received less than 9% of all Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
“A lot of these communities didn't have all of the paperwork and financial management tools necessary to be able to leverage those programs," Dr. Novellus said.
Even before the pandemic, only 4% of business loans on average were going to women.
Jones said the loans EnrichHer helped her obtain saved her business.
"They gave me the funding and I was able to hire two people, get them trained, get them on projects," she said. "That saved our business because we were able to meet our demand.”
In fact, with those funds secured, Jones' business more than survived. It thrived.
She’s already paid off the loans in full, and Serena Williams just invested $3 million into Lilii RNB Inc from her investment fund, Serena Ventures.
“When people told me I couldn't do something, it was my motivation to do it just to prove them wrong," Jones said. "Now that we've closed a $3 million seed round, imagine what we're going to do. The sky is the limit!"
Jones hopes her success story encourages other lenders to put more faith in women and minority owned businesses.
"Don't pass up these businesses, that's money you're passing up because they're going to do great things and you're going to wish you would have invested in them," Jones said.
You can learn more about how to apply for an EnrichHER loan here.
Funders can read about how to partner with the company here.