A note from our editor, Elizabeth MacBride
Why Fund Strategic Journalism
In March of 2020, as the pandemic was bearing down on us, Elaine Pofeldt (one of the top freelancers who works with Times of E) and I were covering the effect on small businesses across the country. We were among the few. Most of our peers in journalism were rightly focused on health.
Elaine called me one night to say how heart-breaking it was to interview people who were watching their life’s work and their savings evaporate. I realized that the aid wasn’t reaching people, and put it together with research that Seth Levine and I had been doing for our book, The New Builders. I called him, and we wrote an op-ed for CNBC that laid out the picture: Because Congress had been so misled by years of business journalism coverage that threw the spotlight on tech startups, they didn’t know who today’s business owners were: many soloprenuers, small food business owners, women, people of color. Those owners weren’t able to access the aid package as it was originally designed. A long-time editor friend of mine at CNBC published the piece (Lori Ioannou’s now writing for us at Times of E, too).
A few weeks later, a Senator’s chief of staff emailed to say thanks: The Senate staff had used the information in that op-ed to help reshape the PPP. The revision wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot better. One op-ed had an impact on millions of businesses.
I relate this story to illustrate why it’s important to fund journalism, and especially to fund journalism that shares the stories of people who aren’t listened to. At the moment, small business owners are just such a group, probably because they are, today, increasingly women and people of color. (Only about 1% of all startups receive venture funding, despite all the many, many keystrokes spent on writing about them).
Was this a one-time event, a lucky fluke? No. Last summer, I wrote a piece that pointed out that the U.S. Census Bureau excluded the smallest businesses from its counts of business owners. I asked whether it was a coincidence that the smallest businesses are owned by women and people of color – or is this an example of data and definition reinforcing wealth inequity? The Census Bureau announced afterward it was changing its reporting.
Another example: This story by Lori is one of the few to look at the creator economy from the perspective of the creators. Is there a real, sustainable income to be made on the explosion of platforms? That’s not clear yet. And another: Innovations start at the small end of the economy, and they’re not all software-driven innovations. Take this story by Nina Roberts, which looks at a rethinking of the way food is priced. Or this one by Skyler Rossi, that focuses on student innovations in climate-focused businesses.
The work we do at Times of E makes an extremely outsized impact because we’re almost the only people covering the entire world of small business, from tech startups to small nonprofits to Main Street. We see patterns and innovations other people don’t, by reframing the conversation around small businesses – not big companies, not big finance, and not consumers – but entrepreneurs and small businesses owners who are responsible for more than 40% of the nation’s GDP.
We haven’t asked (very much) for reader support). That was in part because when I founded Times of E, I wanted to understand, first, if there was a need, and second, whether there was a market for this kind of business journalism. The need is emphatically clear. The market remains to be seen. Support and feedback from readers will help us figure that next part out. Please drop me a line at [email protected] about projects you’d like to see us take on, and consider clicking the Support Us button below.
Times of Entrepreneurship
Stories of the Week
Lessons From A Rise Out Of Poverty
Michael Odupitan leads an innovative nonprofit in Topeka, Kansas. Its principles are based on his life, long experience in the juvenile support system, and works by philosophers from ancient times (Plato) and modern-day motivational experts (Les Brown).
Women Face Pressure To Look Beautiful Everywhere They Go. Here’s How To Set Them Free.
In this sponsored commentary, Shelley Hon looks at the difference between shaping standards of beauty online and creating an environment where women feel truly free to express their own version of beauty. She calls on the beauty industry to do more. Hon is a YPO member and managing director of Austasia Holdings, a cosmetics company that distributes across China.
What You May Have Missed
Commentary: The New Capitals of American Business
How the pandemic could put city living back into the hands of the middle class.
What I’m Reading
I’m thinking about the return of labor unions this week:
An investigation into Amazon’s battle against a union organizing effort in Ontario. This is from The Logic, which I just started reading – and which appears to be a Canadian version of The Information, but nicer. That might have be an oxymoron. The rise of labor outside of the traditional labor unions also might be good news for micro-entrepreneurs, some of whom object to overreach by unions that want more gig economy regulation.
Paul Krugman, an establishment economist who leans hard left, pointed out that the Great Resignation doesn’t mean people are leaving the workforce, it means they are starting their own businesses. Duh. The operative dynamic here is that a growing number of people really hate their corporate jobs, post-pandemic, so they’re willing to take a risk on something new. People allied with labor unions want big corporations, which is why the Great Resignation doesn’t sit well with Krugman. Corporations, of course, hate the Great Resignation, which is why this guy at Applebees got fired.
I also checked out some news items about women in finance:
Ellevest just raised a $53M Series B round. Founded by Sallie Krawcheck, Ellevest is an online financial advisor that is designed by women. I’ve interviewed Sallie a few times. It used to bug the s*** out of me that men in the financial advice industry dismissed her, even after she was head of Bank of America’s investment wealth management division (The men probably dismissed her BECAUSE she rose to that position). The round was co-led by BMO and Contour Venture Partners. It will be interesting to see what Ellevest does with the money.
Jennifer Abele, a public sector leader in Milwaukee, recently gave an interview to the Milwaukee Business Journal about her angel investing and plans to ramp up to a VC firm. She recently invested in a company that we profiled a few months ago, Xena Workwear Inc.
Common Future received a Skoll Award ($$$) for its work building a network of leaders focused on capital innovation for underrepresented communities. Networks are interesting because they’re the way real change happens, though I wonder whether any change can happen in finance without network connections to old centers of power, which are still controlled by white men. This is a pressing question of our current time.
Living the dream 💭
Best Practices: Four tips for creating your personal brand, from Cynthia Johnson, author of Platform.
Take control of your online presence. Log on to Amazon, Facebook and Google and turn off as much of their tracking as possible. The ads aren’t just creepy – the preferences also shape the way you appear to others on the platform.
Consider how other people introduce you. If you’re not certain of your personal brand, listen for clues in the way your friends make an introduction of you. The one or two things they highlight may be the key.
Go where your audience is. Once you get clear on your personal brand, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the social media. Pick the platform where your audience dwells.
Buzzworthy: Headlines about the latest UN report on the climate sound like a missive from the film Don’t Look Up, like this one from the AP: UN warns Earth ‘firmly on track toward an unlivable world. According to the AP, the report found that ongoing investments in fossil fuel infrastructure, and clearing large swaths of forest for agriculture undermine the massive curbs in emissions needed. The percent of the world’s forests in private hands has been climbing and is up to more than 22%. One problem in that is obviously the lack of transparency – that’s one problem of private equity, in general. Innovations in this space will be interesting to watch. On the finance side, the market for offsets might grow large enough to eschew cutting (offsets are one reason asset managers have been investing in timberland). But there are also hundreds, if not thousands, of innovative companies working in the space.
4.5 Hour Workweek: A Productivity Hack
Pressing zero to bypass an automated calling system rarely works today. But a few systems have another shortcut, which a helpful banker mentioned to me recently. Pressing zero-pound, two or three times, could get you to an actual person, faster. I tried it on Truist’s system, and it worked.
Wanderlust: a glimpse of entrepreneurial life in one of our Top Ecosystems
An Austin-based VC firm, Next Coast Ventures, raised $310M, and promptly gave an interview about how it might bravely venture outside Austin … to Houston. Sometimes Texas truly seems another country, a place where people can be born, live and die and never have to leave.
A Ukrainian Cookbook
20% of all proceeds from the sale of “Summer Kitchens: Recipes and Reminiscences from Every Corner of Ukraine” at Hooray for Books, a locally owned bookstore in Alexandria, go to the UN World Food Programme in support of Ukraine refugees. Order by calling (703) 548-4092.
Upcoming Opportunities ⭐
To list an opportunity in our newsletter, check out our rates here. We cover the emerging economy of diverse founders:
1. A Course To Reach the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs
In this free course developed by entrepreneurship professor John Lynn, professors and other entrepreneurship educators get a curriculum and supporting materials based on the influential book, The New Builders.
📅 Date: N/A
🏢 Location: N/A
2. Black Ambition Prize
The Black Ambition Prize is a tiered opportunity for early-stage Black and Latinx founders to compete for more than $2,000,000 and learn with a network of talented founders and cross-sector business leaders. There’s also a separate Black Ambition HBCU Prize.
📅 Date: May 8
🏢 Location: N/A
3. African Heroes
Applications opened for Jack Ma’s Africa Business Heroes competition. (Scroll down to Apply Now on the slightly confusing web site). The competition choses 10 “heroes” from across the continent and awards mentorship, networking and cash prizes.
📅 Application Deadline: Application Workshops run in April and May
🏢 Location: N/A
🔗 Link: https://www.africabusinessheroes.org/en/
4. Pepperdine Launches 5th Annual Most Fundable Companies
This is the annual startup competition run by Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business School. Founders of U.S. based companies that make the Most Fundable Companies List will be invited to our gala event in Malibu in October and your startup will receive significant national recognition. You do not need to be affiliated with Pepperdine to participate. All companies that advance to the second round of the competition will receive a free detailed feedback report on how they can make their company more attractive to investors.
📅 Application Deadline: Not Clear
🏢 Location: N/A
🔗 Link: https://www.reconstructchallenge.com/initiatives/employment
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This story and others on Times of E are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.