In the United States today, there are 114 % more female entrepreneurs than there were 20 years ago. With every one out of every five businesses streaming a revenue of $1 million or more being owned by a woman, Behind The Leaf — a 501(c)(3) non-profit — is assisting diverse women in seeing small business ownership as a viable opportunity for economic advancement through educational products, workshops, and networking events.
Vivian Olodun-Anderson, the ghost writer behind luxury real estate articles published in the Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel, and Dr. Tracy Timberlake, the million-dollar course creator, are the driving forces behind the non-profit and Flourish Media — a business funding mediator for entrepreneurs that creates business development educational products, workshops and networking events to help businesses grow. The dream team is assisting women in achieving their goals through the FMC (Flourish Media Conference) Small Business Grant, the only conference that provides business funding to women.
Since its inception in 2017, FMC’s main goal has been to put business funding in front of women and minority business owners. The 6th annual Flourish Media Conference took place at Level Three Miami on February 17-18, 2022.
Olodun-Anderson and Dr. Timberlake, as well as other speakers, donate to the FMC Small Business Grant, which gives $1,000 to up to three entrepreneurs. Venture capitalists, angel investors, and hedge fund investors are all supporting the Flourish Media Conference. Those same investors will be pitched to by conference attendees during the Investor Pitch segment for business investments of up to $15 million.
Olodun-Anderson had a lunch conversation with a business colleague that turned a joking question into a reality, which led to the formation of FMC. Olodun inquired about her colleague’s willingness to put his money where his mouth was, and to her surprise, her colleague responded with a list of reasons why he would be willing to invest in women-owned businesses. Her colleague informed her that when women invest in their businesses, they are more likely to keep them open longer, they are excellent problem solvers, and that they are more likely to provide people with a pleasant and flexible work environment.
After their conversation Olodun-Anderson began to reach out to people in her network and discovered that many others shared his enthusiasm for investing in women-owned businesses. In 2017, FMC partnered with Florida International University, which sponsored their location for the first two years and assisted with event costs. They then teamed up with the SBA in Miami, Florida, to verify the funds of investors who agreed to allocate money, and before they knew it, they had $15 million to help women-owned businesses.
“Since 2017, a number of well-known organizations have joined the trend of hosting pitch competitions. When it comes to Flourish Media and our pitch segment, one thing we make very clear is that it is not a pitch competition. You are not fighting over a single sum of money.” Olodun-Anderson continues, “We’ve never reached a point where one woman wins and the next woman loses. I don’t think conditioning women to compete for pennies is beneficial.”
Women entrepreneurs who presented at this conference went on to secure a partnership with Kevin O’Leary “Mr. Wonderful” on Shark Tank, as well as product placement in major retailers such as Goop, Target, Urban Outfitters, QVC, and more.
The dynamic duo’s goal at the 2022 conference was to teach women of color entrepreneurs tools and strategies for building engaging and dynamic business platforms, leveraging online engagement for offline results, and creating sustainable company and brand models as they begin their entrepreneurial careers.
Dr. Timberlake makes it her mission to ensure that Black women, who are the most educated group of Americans, are recognized. “I believe that the most educated people in America should be paid the most. I’m tired of seeing people with less education or experience earn more than we do simply because they look different. My goal is to get Black women at the forefront, and give them the resources and tools they need to truly take a leadership role.”
The main goal of the two fearless leaders is to help women get to the money faster. With minority women as their primary demographic, the pandemic resulted in wage gaps, job terminations, and a lack of childcare for many of these women. One of the things the two became passionate about was making sure women entrepreneurs knew they could sell their services to the government.
“There are policies in place where the government reserves contracts worth six to eight figures for small businesses. We discovered through our research that the government is attempting to reach a 5% target. When it comes to doing business with small women business owners, especially minority women, they’ve never been able to hit that 5% mark; the highest they’ve ever achieved since 1970 is 3%,” adds Olodun-Anderson.
With a focus on women who need to be aware of these opportunities, Olodun-Anderson and Dr. Timberlake created the Flourish Media Government Contracting Guide, a free 20-page document that covers both how to get government contracts and how to get minority status for their company — both of which are required to take advantage of government opportunities.
In terms of culture, Dr. Timberlake says she’s fighting the middle-class mindset. “Both Vivian and I grew up in middle-class families. At the time, the tools, resources, and mindsets were limited, which ultimately kept people who resembled us stuck in that space.If there’s anything I can do to help us get out of it, it’s to change our money mindset and to understand money in a different way. I’m encouraging the culture to adopt positions of wealth in society that we deserve, as well as opening doors to places where we should be.”
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