- 5 Black Entrepreneurs Share Why They Decided to Build an AppExchange App
McKinsey & Company reported in late 2020 that about 58 percent of Black-owned businesses were at risk of financial distress before the pandemic, compared with about 27 percent of white-owned businesses; additionally, only 4 percent of Black American businesses survive the start-up stage, even though 20 percent of Black Americans start businesses.
AppExchange is working to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive partner ecosystem that reflects the communities in which we live and do business. That includes outreach and support of founders from underrepresented groups.
Salesforce Accelerate’s Cohort 10 was exclusively for Black entrepreneur-led startups. These founders and their teams embarked on a 10-week journey to create a new AppExchange app, filled with hours of online learning, mentorship, and the ability to make connections both internally at Salesforce and across the entire partner ecosystem.
Watch all of the Salesforce Accelerate Cohort 10 participants put their best pitch forward.
These five Accelerate graduates from Cohort 10 were kind enough to share their experiences, why they decided to build an AppExchange app, and how the ecosystem can help support Black entrepreneurs. Keep reading to see what they shared.
Meet the Entrepreneurs. From L-R: Angela Bacon, Kieran Blanks, Sherisse Hawkins, Tiffanie Stanard, and Jacob Vincent.
Angela Bacon: I finished graduate school in 2009, in the middle of the last economic recession, and decided to pivot to Library and Information Science as a way to expand on my skill set. While working toward my MLIS and working for a nonprofit, I was introduced to Salesforce and saw a lot of synergy between its capabilities and my studies. From there, I was able to merge my experience in archiving and information science, and the Salesforce platform, which gave me the ability to work on a variety of projects, ranging from Government and nonprofit, to SaaS and Education.
Jacob Vincent: I took to computers from earlier in my life. I had a C64, I assembled desktops from scratch, and I soft-modded gaming consoles.
Tiffanie Stanard: I’ve been in tech my entire career, whether I was learning the latest solutions as a former corporate employee or learning front-end development when I left my job to become a full-time entrepreneur. I always knew that technology was going to change the world and allow people to work faster and more efficiently. Now, as a Tech CEO, I am mentoring others to learn the same skills I’ve learned over the years.
Sherisse Hawkins: One — my high school math teaching making math fun. Two — an insatiable curiosity about how things work. Three — a strong desire to improve and make things better.
Kieran Blanks: While pursuing my Bachelors in Management at Morehouse College, I was drawn to technology as a way to create solutions for social challenges like education, crime, and poverty. To that end, the Walton Family Foundation invited me to participate in its K-12 Education Reform Fellowship program. The two-year fellowship challenged me to think critically about social entrepreneurship especially policy reform in education empowered by technology. It was a transformational experience that led me down a path of Digital Marketing, User-Centered Research, Design, and most recently Full-Stack Web Development.
Blanks: Working to close racial equity gaps is one of the greatest challenges of our time and it’s the work I’m confronting every day. Aptly, I’ve come across performative diversity, equity, and inclusion, where stakeholders have found it to be their burden to commit time and resources to these initiatives. Because these people are driven by appearances rather than values, I feel like they’ve treated racial equity initiatives as point-in-time solutions to sanitize their public image rather than as an operationalized priority. The reality is no matter how much these companies try to sanitize their images, race to hire Chief Diversity Officers, or spin up webinars to discuss race and equity — each tactic fails at fixing the character of the people and decisions being made at the organizations. We need to see and feel value and cultural competence from all levels of these organizations. And getting people to realize this is a great challenge- one that I still face today.
Hawkins: People have told me my idea is “too big”. And they have doubted that I am a serious technologist because “you don’t look like an engineer.” External and societal doubts start to feed into internal doubts and you have to fight that every single day. Celebrate your success, do not look back, and keep learning, believing, and exploring.
Vincent: Let’s just say I won’t ever get the benefit of the doubt, due to factors outside of my control.
Bacon: The biggest challenge so far has been creating avenues for access to resources while facing all of the typical challenges founders of impactful companies face, and the understanding that the perceived risk profile of BIPOC founders is artificially inflated. Being resourceful and persistent is invaluable.
Stanard: Well, I’ve been a full-time entrepreneur for over 15 years now and have launched three companies (two I shut down in 2019), so what was hard when I first started and is still hard today — it’s the lack of consistency in paying yourself. As you are building, you make sure your customers and team are taken care of first and you are last. As of 2019, I have been able to pay my growing Stimulus team and myself regularly thanks to customer revenue and our investors.
Jacob Vincent, CEO/Co-Founder of Sorrel, shares his motivation for starting his business.
Vincent: The incremental forward momentum that I see with my company. Though it doesn’t have a multi-billion dollar valuation, I see the progress inching forward.
Stanard: When you receive a “No”, a better “Yes” is waiting around the corner. I still hate when someone says no. People say that you get used to it after a few years in business, but I haven’t [laughs]. But every time I have received a No from either a pitch competition, investor, etc., a little while later I would receive a yes to a better opportunity and I’m like “thank goodness I didn’t get the other thing.” As they say, everything happens for a reason.
Blanks: I am motivated by the idea that my voice, my presence, and my representation in the technology ecosystem will give another Black man or boy the courage to walk into this space. My work is centered on co-creating leadership, life management, and entrepreneurial programs to positively transform the life trajectory of those who need it the most. Reminding myself of this each day makes it all worthwhile.
Hawkins: The belief that what we are creating will truly improve how people communicate and have a lasting impact.
Bacon: My love of creating things and solving problems.
Hawkins: The best ideas are the ones that you simply can’t NOT do. They haunt you until you relent. For me, this meant leaving a very high-powered and lucrative job in corporate. Some people thought I was crazy to do so — some people still do.
Blanks: I decided to build an app because I wanted to change people’s lives for the better. I noticed there were a lot of people who were constantly checking their phones, and I figured it would be nice to have an app that would help them to be more productive and to be mindful of how they were spending their time.
Stanard: As a former corporate employee in payroll and vendor management turned entrepreneur, now for over 15 years, I’ve learned running a business is expensive whether you own the business or work there. And one of the largest expenses is what you spend on the vendors and suppliers to make that business run. Stimulus…uses data and analytics to help companies (of all sizes and across industries) make better purchasing decisions on products and services. I started Stimulus because B2B companies that offer a product or service to another company go through a mixture of manual tasks and utilizing several platforms. Most industries spend 90% of their annual revenues with other businesses. Despite that large percentage, most do not invest in managing the process — and I wanted to fix that problem.
Bacon: I’ve been working in Revenue Operations since 2017, and after facing the same problems while implementing dozens of revenue projects, I realized that some of the fundamental issues I faced could be solved with some framed decision making, and a more comprehensive data model to unite the GTM objects in Salesforce.
Vincent: It was the simplest way to solve the problem that I was facing as a sales rep. More time than I would like was spent on non-commissionable activities; the bulk of which could have been more easily done via software.
Hear what motivated Angela Bacon, CEO & Founder of RevPop, to start her business.
Hawkins: Access matters.
Stanard: The program has been a great mix of connection, collaboration, and learning that showcases the importance of building strong relationships throughout your business. The opportunity to grow your startup within the Salesforce ecosystem is tremendous — my team and I are very excited to take advantage of various Salesforce technologies/resources and launch on AppExchange.
Bacon: The connections with internal Salesforce experts, and the ability to tell a story that my customers can relate to, that highlights the why behind my product. That has been invaluable.
Blanks: The Accelerate program allowed me to meet with mentors who helped me to clearly articulate my value proposition and articulate my company’s value in the marketplace. Additionally, my mentor also helped me to clarify the problem my company is solving for our customers and helped me to better define what we’re building and why it’s valuable. This in turn has helped me to become more confident with promoting and communicating my business value, thus, boosting interest and lead generation.
Vincent: You don’t have to build from scratch. Within the Salesforce ecosystem, there are frameworks, advisors, and tools that can provide everything needed to go from idea to deployed product. Accelerate bundles all of those together and walks you through them. Take advantage of it!
Stanard: Being a Black female startup founder is…a lot of things. It’s amazing and hard. Gratifying and frustrating. Empowering and gut-wrenching. I have to definitely work extra hard to obtain opportunities especially in funding, but there are advantages to working extra hard. It’s taught me how to keep operational costs down, negotiate office space, and obtain multi-year resources. I’m meticulous with every dollar we generate and stretch them as far as possible. Thus far, I’ve landed corporate partnerships, amazing investors that truly believe in the company. I am incredibly blessed to have gotten so far in just a few years — but it’s also been challenging.
Vincent: There are many ways to get started. And, especially in tech, there are waaaay more profitable ideas floating out there than there are people to successfully execute them. So pick a problem/idea and get started!
Blanks: I want the ebbs and flows of my entrepreneurial journey to empower other Black entrepreneurs with the realization that they have the ability to achieve their wildest dreams. Tolerating a culture that values on-demand services and instant gratification more than real hard work and achievement, I believe we are losing sight of the pillars that true success and greatness rest on — grit, resilience, and the belief that you have what it takes to achieve what others consider impossible. These three attributes are not about being strong and macho. They are not about ego or self-pride. They are about embarking on a quest for something bigger and nobler than yourself-and that’s what I am doing. And that’s what I hope others can take from my story. I want to encourage them to submit their genius and detach themselves from all feelings of being incapable because the truth is we can and we have to save the future of our community.
Bacon: There are many different ways to do things, and the way you do it is your superpower.
Sherisse Hawkins, CEO of Pagedip, shares tips for new entrepreneurs.
Vincent: Being a startup co-founder. I never would have imagined that I would have been one. I always told myself that I would be an early employee, but that I’d never have been able to start something. Never say never.
Bacon: My proudest moment in this journey has been pitching my product in the Salesforce Accelerate Pitch-Off because it was an opportunity for my friends and loved ones to see the results of years of trial and error…and bugging them with my ideas.
Stanard: My proudest moment is going from ideation to execution and hiring a team that gets just as excited about those items as I do. Every day, people come up with ideas but there is a shortage of people turning those ideas into profit or companies. I am very thankful to finally reap the benefits of my 15+ year entrepreneurial journey and see the light at the end of the tunnel, and understand why it’s important to never give up and keep going. As the Stimulus team just released V2 of our product in 2021, I can remember scribbling our first logo in my notepad years prior.
Blanks: I am living in one of the proudest moments of my life right now. I am seizing the unique opportunity to help bridge skill gaps, increase employability, and save the future of Black and Brown America. I feel incredibly lucky to be at a time in my career when I can be a part of such a monumental movement. I’ve worked with some amazing companies, but never before have I been able to work on something so important. Black and Brown Americans are among the most underrepresented people in tech, and I am thrilled to be working on the frontlines to help fix this.
Hawkins: People like to give their time and advice and this is fantastic. Just make sure to be early adopters and buyers of the products as well. Vote with your dollars, be an evangelist with your voice, and tell others. Yell the positive things and praises about a new idea as loud as you can. Privately give constructive feedback and help make the product better with real insights and suggestions.
Bacon: Referrals and feedback. Nothing is better than getting a new customer or finding a way to improve your product or service.
Blanks: We know that Black entrepreneurs face more barriers than the average business owner, particularly when it comes to financing. In fact, because of systematic barriers, black-owned businesses tend to earn less revenue than their white counterparts. Solutions for this problem could include better, more equitable financial instruments — such as micro-loans — to support the growth and viability of these firms. And I believe the ecosystem can help to change this.
Stanard: As reported, Black founders are over-mentored and under-funded. In addition to funding, underrepresented founders (early-stage to growth) need the belief offered to other founders, follow-on investments, introductions, resources, and a safe space to voice issues. We figure out how to do so much with so little and can stretch every resource — which pushes us to solely focus on customer revenue, success, and case studies. When we do receive funding, we double — even triple — our growth and a lot of us are becoming early angel investors to ensure the next set of entrepreneurs have a better experience.
Vincent: Advice and mentorship. As a founder, I spend a lot of my time actively searching for the ‘unknown unknowns’. By the time I discover them, they should have already been done weeks ago. So it would be great if someone who has stumbled through those steps themselves could lend a few minutes to shed light on what’s up ahead. Entrepreneurship is hard enough, so giving me a heads up is always appreciated.
Hear from Stimulus CEO and founder Tiffanie Stanard on tips for entrepreneurs.
We are all excited to see each of these entrepreneurs as they take the next step in their journey, and we look forward to seeing their ideas launch on AppExchange soon.
You can explore innovations from Black-owned businesses already on AppExchange, giving you the ability to invest in underrepresented communities.
- Date of publication:
- Thu, 04/22/2021 - 08:03
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