A note from our editor, Elizabeth MacBride:
The process of writing The New Builders was in many ways, for me, a process of confronting systemic racism in the United States. The book launches May 4, but we started it two years ago. It was born in venture capitalist Seth Levine’s office in Boulder.
We looked at the makeup of today’s entrepreneurs, New Builders: women, people of color, immigrants – and started interviewing some of the most amazing New Builders, people whose grit takes your breath away.
Like Danaris Mazara, who started her bakery with $37 in food stamps. Or Jahleel Pettiford, who described falling asleep as he fulfills orders from his bedroom floor. Or Jasmine Edwards, who commuted from Tampa to Atlanta to launch her startup.
Then we realized that entrepreneurship in America, contrary to popular belief developed around the tech world, is not thriving. It’s declining.
Every beat in America that I have ever covered, from health care to guns to entrepreneurship, has always come back to America’s original sin, Black chattel slavery, and our caste system of skin color.
White people have 10x times more family wealth than Black people, because Black people are 400 years behind. In today’s finance system, 80% of all entrepreneurs don’t have access to capital at all. Math 101. If you don’t come from a rich White family, you are unlikely to succeed as a new entrepreneur.
We were making these discoveries as the world was collapsing. The Trump Administration grew steadily more racist. The pandemic happened, with its disproportionate toll on people of color.
George Floyd was murdered. There were riots happening: we submitted our proposal as I was on my way to Louisville, which was in flames after Breonna Taylor died in a hail of gunfire.
We decided to pour everything into finishing the book. We hoped, rather than knew, that the spring would look brighter, and a book written by two optimistic people would find a place.
The New Builders we were interviewing believed America could stumble forward. Isaac Collins, interviewed from Kansas City, told us he planned to open another Yogurtini.
He was moving forward. So, we did, too.
I have been schooled more than once this year by Black friends and by the events surrounding us, and am grateful for the education. There was the attack on the capital. The violence that Black Americans have been living with for centuries arrived nearly at my door, in an institution that in White blindness I thought was secure.
Yesterday, a jury in Minneapolis meted out some justice.
When I was 12, I copied a quote of Desmond Tutu’s into my reader’s journal. It came to mind as I heard the decision.
“If we could but recognize our common humanity, that we do belong together, that our destinies are bound up in one another’s, that we can be free only together, that we can be human only together … “
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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.