MBA Program: University of Michigan, Ross School of Business
Industry: Community, Wellness
Founding Student Names: Florence Noel, MBA, MSI
Brief Description of Solution: Dear Black Women (DBW) is an affirmation movement and network, offline and online, where Black women heal, connect, and grow. We are a B2C social impact venture that specializes in curating offline and online spaces that create community and increase the social capital of Black women. To achieve this, Dear Black Women adapts proven models of face-to-face and virtual support circles, affinity networks, community organizing, and social networking.
Funding Dollars: $85,000
What led you to launch this venture? At the intersection of race and gender, Black women face singular challenges in all major facets of life. Systematic barriers and inequalities deeply affect Black women, placing remarkable demands on our emotional, mental, and spiritual bandwidth. Research demonstrates that the right kind of social and personal support can help relieve stresses Black women experience and can even turn them into advantages. In this space of possibility, Dear Black Women was born. We aim to skillfully create affirming spaces, experiences, and offline and online communities for Black women that increase our member’s social capital, as well as expand their bandwidth and access to community, knowledge, and resources.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with your venture? My business largely lives in the world of intangibles. Do people feel safe, affirmed, supported? How does one measure that? Thus far, the biggest indicator has been our word of mouth growth. Without launching a formal marketing strategy yet, we have drawn in nearly 7,000 Black women across the country through organic recommendations.
How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? I came to business school to take advantage of every opportunity for young entrepreneurs. And I do mean every. I understood that the right MBA program would be a remarkable opportunity to incubate an idea, receive support from the best minds, and secure seed investment. My time at the University of Michigan provided me with all of that and so much more; delivering invaluable momentum for my business.
What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? I am a proud, first-generation American. And like many other first-generation Americans, I was raised in a community of immigrants who were eager to do all they could to build a new life for their families here and abroad. In other words, I was raised around tireless entrepreneurs. I saw that most with my mother who has sold makeup, protein shakes, and rented a taxi medallion – all while working full-time and earning her Associates, Bachelors, and then Nursing degrees. Having a front-row seat to that kind of work ethic and ingenuity impressed upon me that if I wanted something and it did not exist, I needed to create it. And I could. That’s entrepreneurship in a nutshell.
Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? I truly benefited from so many of my classes, but my most valuable MBA experiences and lessons may surprise some. They came from being part of two student-run investment funds: the Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund and Founders Fund. Both of the funds allowed me to deep dive into startup businesses, analyzing areas like financial projections, marketing, and customer acquisition strategies, competition, and more. I gained so many insights about the key drivers for a business’ success across multiple industries. Second, the biggest lesson was this: no one really knows what they are doing. At best, entrepreneurs are motivated, persuasive, and deeply curious scientists, who are slightly unhinged about their idea. They do not have all the answers, but you can trust that they are going to leap for them time-and-time again. Seeing that allayed a lot of the fears I had about needing to know “everything”.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? The long-term goal is for Dear Black Women to have on the ground operations in 30 cities and 15% market penetration in the next five years. We want Black women from all walks of life to be able to plug into an intentional community that affirms them.