When Dr. Roshawnna Novellus was only 15 years old, she achieved a feat many experienced fundraisers still struggle to do. She raised over $600,000 to finance her 11 years of higher education.
She did this by writing to over 200 companies to inquire about scholarships. After a persuasive pitch, the companies decided to invest in her education. She went on to get a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management Economics from the same University.
She did not end her educational goals at the bachelor’s level as she continued to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to obtain a Master of Science in Information Technology. In 2007, she obtained her PhD in Systems Engineering from George Washington University.
Shortly after getting her Ph.D., she realized that the challenges she went through to get a scholarship to fund her education was prevalent in the business world. She heard and read stories and publications about how women, particularly black founders, struggle to get funding.
This set her on a mission to fund women-led businesses. She founded EnrichHER by gathering 50 organizations in Atlanta to test her idea after which the full program was launched in February 2019. It got applications from 3,000 women-led businesses.
Novellus, who is one of the few Black women founders to raise over $1 million in venture capital, owned a tax and accounting firm and a yoga company before starting EnrichHER. Now a fintech and investment expert, she is also a gender equality advocate who believes in economic empowerment and inclusive economic growth.
According to a report by hbr.org, only three percent of Black women are running a mature business despite the fact that there are more Black women starting a business than White. In addition, many of these black women struggle to get a loan to fund their business and for the few that get, the interest rate is usually high.
“I believe that women entrepreneurs are the cornerstones of society; our businesses not only create jobs, but they strengthen economies and sustain whole communities,” Novellus told Forbes.
Since launching EnrichHER, the platform has grown in popularity because it puts money into companies that have gender diversity in leadership positions. Her platform, which has funder types like angel investors and larger organization such as PayPal, has helped 163 women-led companies secure $14 million in funding.
According to Novellus, her determination to see women thrive began with conversations in her home which often centered around women empowerment. Her mother always told her that women were the best at managing money and managing finances.
She also added that he mother encouraged her to seek knowledge and feel confident about herself. Inspired by her mother’s advice, she started learning to invest in the stock market at 12. She later began to read books on taxes after expressing interest to do the taxes for her family.