Success Story August 09, 2022 at 06:03 pm

How a less than 2-yr-old fintech by a former math teacher is providing financial support to Black businesses 

Abu Mubarik August 09, 2022 at 06:03 pm

August 09, 2022 at 06:03 pm | Success Story

Photo courtesy Guava

Kelly Ifill is the founder of Guava, a banking and networking platform for Black entrepreneurs. The focus of the company is to narrow the racial gap in funding for businesses as outlined by multiple research and reports.

One such report is the Harvard Business report that said Black businesses get less than one percent in venture funding even though Black people are more likely to start a business than Whites. The situation is even dire for Black women. They receive less funding compared to Black men and only three percent run mature businesses.

“Black folks had to be entrepreneurs, we had to build businesses to support our families, but because of racism, we were excluded from so many opportunities. Guava aims to tackle the racial wealth gap head-on by facilitating the growth and resilience of Black small-business owners, creators and entrepreneurs,” Ifill told TechCrunch.

With few legacy banks serving the Black community, and by extension, assisting Black businesses to grow, Ifill was inspired to start Guava to provide financial assistance to underserved communities. In line with her objectives, Guava recently raised a $2.4 million pre-seed round led by Heron Rock.

According to TechCrunch, the money would be used to expand the team at Guava and also build more credit products to enable entrepreneurs in rural areas to have access to capital.

Prior to funding Guava, Ifill worked as a strategic partner at Company Ventures and co-founded Seneca Network, which supported Black and Latinx founders at the family and friends stage, according to ladieswholaunch. It was her work at Seneca that exposed her to the racial gap in funding and eventually led to the creation of her current company.

“My inspiration came from wanting to honour the lived experiences of Black entrepreneurs,” she said. “What we’re building is an opportunity, a space for Black entrepreneurs to have conversations that are intentionally built for them; to share safely with each other about their experiences. [That’s] pretty unique.”

Ifill comes from a Caribbean background and was raised in Brooklyn. Her family members owned small businesses, making entrepreneurship a way of life for her. Her grandmother owned a cleaning business, her aunt ran a landscaping enterprise and her uncle and cousins had a contracting company.

Ifill, before beginning Guava, started a career in education on the founding team of a public high school in central Brooklyn, NYC. A former math teacher, she led math departments in Brooklyn, Brazil, and Dubai before going for her MBA at Columbia Business School to move to EdTech investing. Besides Company Ventures, Ifill has worked with Rethink Education Ventures and GE Ventures. How a less than 2-year-old fintech started by a former math teacher provides financial support to black businesses

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