Ground-Breaking $100 Million New Voices Fund Launches During The 2018 Essence Festival

NEW ORLEANS — The $100 million New Voices Fund, a next-generation fund that will make private equity investments in businesses owned and/or managed by women of color, officially launched today at the 2018 ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans. The New Voices Fund provides women of color entrepreneurs with the access, capital and expertise that they need to grow their businesses and transform communities. The Fund focuses on investments from start-ups/Seed to Series C rounds and primarily invests in three verticals: consumer, technology and media/entertainment.

“The facts about investments in women of color entrepreneurs, particularly Black women, are astonishing,” said entrepreneur and social impact investor Richelieu Dennis, founder of New Voices. “Entrepreneurship among women of color has increased 322 percent, but only 0.2 percent of those women receive access to the funding needed to sustain and grow their businesses. Still, female-led businesses that receive funding outperform their male peers by 63 percent. Further, the ProjectDiane 2018 report recently showed that the median funding raised by all Black women is $0, in contrast to the average seed round for all startups in 2016 being $1.14 million. In addition, Black women raised just 0.0006 percent of the total $424.7 billion in tech venture funding since 2009. This is unacceptable. It is why the Fund is focused on making equity investments and creating an ecosystem that empowers women of color entrepreneurs to reach their full potential by addressing three of the most pertinent issues preventing their long-term success – access, capital, expertise.”

The New Voices Fund will deploy and ultimately raise additional capital to support women of color entrepreneurs as they build and advance their businesses.  The Fund was announced in November 2017 as part of the partnership agreement between Sundial Brands (maker of SheaMoisture, Nubian Heritage, Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture and Nyakio) and Unilever.

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“The needs of women of color entrepreneurs span the entire spectrum,” Dennis said. “So, it was critical that we acknowledge and address those needs beyond just capital. The New Voices ecosystem will seek to ignite long-term social change and create a society and economy that support and value entrepreneurial women of color for their significant and innovative contributions today and tomorrow.”

Women of color entrepreneurs are encouraged to join the New Voices community and apply for funding or other resources by visiting and completing a business profile.  Since the soft launch of the website in February, $30 million has been invested or committed in the following eight companies:

  1. Beauty Bakerie – Founded by Cashmere Carrillo, Beauty Bakerie is a cosmetics company with products sold in 60 countries and a motto of “better, not bitter.” (
  2. Beautycon Media – Founded by Moj Mahdara, Beautycon Media is a platform for inclusive beauty comprised of a diverse global community of creators redefining beauty with a mission to challenge traditional standards and redefine what beauty means. (
  3. Envested – Founded by Isa Watson, Envested is a tool that enables connectivity and promotes meaning across workplaces. (
  4. McBride Sisters Wine – Founded by Robin and Andrea McBride, McBride Sisters Wine is the producer and distributer of wine grown in California and New Zealand – and the largest wine company owned by Black women. (
  5. Mented – Founded by Amanda Johnson and Kristen Jones Miller, Mented is a luxury beauty and cosmetics company targeted to women of color. (
  6. Sweeten – Founded by Jean Brownhill, Sweeten is a free service that matches people with major renovation projects to the best general contractors, offering personal support until the job is done. (
  7. The Honey Pot Company – Founded by Beatrice Espada, Honey Pot is a plant-based feminine hygiene products company with a goal to provide women with a healthy alternative to feminine care that is free of chemicals, parabens, carcinogens and sulfates. (   
  8. The Lip Bar – Founded by Melissa Butler, The Lip Bar makes vegan and cruelty-free lip colors for multicultural millennials. (

“We are excited and proud to partner with each of these women to bring value that will help fulfill their visions for their companies and create opportunities for economic inclusion, social change and wealth creation in their communities,” said Dennis. “With the tools and support to demonstrate sustainable, profitable and unapologetically inclusive business models, there is no doubt that these women will shatter the stereotypical hurdles and ceilings they face. We are continuously reviewing applications and urge everyone to apply.  We are moving, and we’re moving faster than anyone in this space right now.  Based on the underserved needs and overwhelming demand from women of color entrepreneurs, we expect to embark on Fund II even sooner than we originally expected.  It’s time to hear more voices that demonstrate measurable social and economic impact in a way that inspires more women of color to join the financial inclusion movement.”

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During the ESSENCE Festival, New Voices will host a daytime pitch competition on Saturday, July 7 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, with the winners being presented at the Mercedes SuperDome in the evening. Prizes of $5,000 up to $25,000 will be awarded to the winners, for a total of $100,000.

ESSENCE has also been named as a New Voices strategic partner, which includes collaborations across on-and-offline activations, platforms and content.  Essence Marché (French for “marketplace”) is the first product of this collaboration – an e-commerce engine built to enable value creation and economic exchange between Black women (both consumers and entrepreneurs). This marketplace, carefully curated by the ESSENCE community, is yet another example of ESSENCE’s commitment to building Community Commerce models to bring economic sustainability to women in our communities.  ESSENCE Marché features New Voices entrepreneurs, as well as other established and up-and-coming women of color owned enterprises.  Created with the purpose of “Black women supporting Black women supporting Black women…,” ESSENCE Marché ( will provide a seamless experience for participating entrepreneurs via infrastructure, logistics, fulfillment and inventory financing support so that some of the most common obstacles faced by small business owners are alleviated.  It will also serve as an exciting destination for women looking to support each other and to find everything from beauty products to jewelry, handbags, apparel, baby goods and beyond. 

“For almost five decades, ESSENCE has passionately served our community – and even more deeply now from beauty, style, health and wellness to also include entrepreneurship,” said Michelle Ebanks, President of ESSENCE. “We could not be more thrilled to partner with New Voices to give Black women entrepreneurs a platform where they can create businesses, earn incomes and generate wealth. The idea of ownership is so powerful in our community, and ESSENCE is the place where Black women can write our own narrative, express our own ideas and drive our own economics.  We are on a mission to promote and encourage economic inclusion, ownership and wealth-building amongst Black women and in our communities. That’s why we’re doing more to focus on entrepreneurship – to change the wealth gap and create real economic change for Black women around the globe. That’s where we’re headed.”

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