Entrepreneur Keenan Beasley on Diverse Leadership and Playing the Game
The Venture Noire chairman and executive director spoke with the N6A team remotely for the September 2020 edition of our Outcomes & Omelettes thought leadership series.
Our Outcomes & Omelettes thought leadership series returned in September with some incredible leadership insights and some appropriate sports metaphors. Oh, and also, who could forget N6A’s make-your-own-omelette-station delivered via a Seamless credit!
N6A CEO Matt Rizzetta was joined this month by former CPG executive turned entrepreneur Keenan Beasley. Currently CEO of Supply Factory Brands, Beasley is also the founder and chairman of Venture Noire, a “venture catalyst” that helps founders from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds get in front of investors and VCs, providing support they might need in the early stages of business. Ultimately, the goal is to fuel the wealth-generating engine for historically disadvantaged communities.
The organization partners with industry experts across marketing, chain supply, and product development to design unique curriculums, and actively participates in entrepreneurial events focused on community building and education. One of its recent initiatives was partnering with the Walton Family Foundation on The BIG Pitch, a virtual pitch competition for entrepreneurs of color in Arkansas, which this year awarded $31,000 in grant funds in response to the current economic conditions.
Here are a few of the key takeaways from our latest livestreamed O&O session, which is also available to watch above.
A Focus on Service
For West Point grad former football player Beasley, his entrepreneurial spirit is rooted in a mission to lead through the lens of serving others.
Recalling how this was instilled in him by his parents right through to his academic experience, Beasley noted that, “We’ve always done things to give back to the community at large, whether it was through church or feeding the homeless for Thanksgiving every year…it was always about the greater good.”
He explained that it’s a beneficial mindset that he still carries with him, and one that’s surprisingly easy to manage, even throughout the often difficult journey as an entrepreneur. “It takes all the pressure off me and removes any sense of ego,” he said. “It’s always about serving others, so I’ve continued that throughout my career.”
Creating an Inclusive Ecosystem
The main drive of Venture Noire’s mission revolves around closing the income inequality gap by helping to infuse much-needed funding into underrepresented groups within the community to create jobs, grow resource platforms, and subsequently create a shared resource ecosystem to create a continued cycle of success.
Beasley explained that the size of the gap is staggering. In fact, the average $171,000 net worth of a typical white family is nearly ten times greater than that of the $17,150 of a Black family. Considering that most businesses require around $10,000 to get started, someone risking over half of their personal net worth on their start-up idea is unrealistic.
Start-up funding is, unfortunately, still just as much about who you know as it is about what you know. In essence, the ecosystem is a more complex version of the type of networking focus that drove Beasley from the get-go.
“As an entrepreneur and building a business, it’s a lonely process at times, and you become isolated” he explained. “I saw that there was a chance to create an ecosystem for entrepreneurs of color so that we could start to build confidence in each other. I’m a firm believer that success begets success.”
Staying in the Game
It’s such an important, but complex vocation. Helping to create resources and support in the early-stage ecosystem of entrepreneurship exclusively available to Black founders, as well as developing programs to offset the socioeconomic issues that undermine Black innovation and business creation takes an incredible amount of time and effort. But Beasley pushes on toward these achievable goals.
Using his football experience, he explained that we’re still in the “first quarter” of the hypothetical game. But, he offered an encouraging assessment of the future: “What’s good about that is that at least you’re in the game. A lot of progress has been made, and the digital environment has helped because it’s a lot easier now to start a business than it was 20 or 30 years ago.”
Beasley stressed that businesses should actively seek diversity, and people with different points of view, which will not only help in the broader sense, but make businesses fundamentally better. To him, it’s about acknowledging that some things are not right but to continue to try shaping things moving forward.
Each Outcomes & Omelettes session is an educational and interactive discussion on each guest’s background and career journey to engage and inspire the N6A team. Check back soon for our next guest! You don’t know who will show up from the worlds of business, media, philanthropy, and beyond.
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