575 Jill Johnson:

The brutal murder by police of George Floyd last year sparked a deepening awareness of the pervasive … …injustice of institutionalized racism in this country – and with it a commitment from many entrepreneurs and business owners to take decisive action to build truly diverse teams and support businesses owned by people of color. So how far have we come in practice?

MELINDA

I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring African American entrepreneur who is changing the game for black and brown female founders.

Jill Johnson is the Co-founder and CEO of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership and also Women of Color Connecting. She has nearly 30 years of experience as a business strategist with expertise in financial analysis, marketing, and business development.

Today we talk about hiring diverse team members, why its vital to build a diverse network, and how to support black-owned businesses and vendors. I can’t wait to introduce you to Jill! First…

All too often, companies at every stage of growth build teams sourced from their own networks – from connections to people they already know. If your network is not diverse, if you are not connecting with people different from you, your chances of building a diverse team and using your business to address our profound racial inequities will be stillborn, even with the best intentions.

Jill Johnson is an advocate for community businesses and microenterprise, and a leading authority in the area of minority inclusion in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. With Women of Color Connecting, Jill is building a growing ecosystem connecting people around gender and racial parity – with authentic conversations, networking, and conscious action.

Today Jill shares practical steps and resources we can all use to truly walk our talk on building vibrant diverse companies – from consciously building diverse networks to buying from black and brown owned businesses.

Jill is also an in-demand speaker on topics including: community economic development, business plan development, entrepreneurship, minority and women small business growth, and access to capital.

Let’s put on our wings with the inspiring Jill Johnson.

Melinda Wittstock:         Jill, welcome to WINGS.

Jill Johnson:                       So good to be here Melinda.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, it’s great to talk to you. I want to just kick off with how far did we get last year in 2020 really grappling with diversity and changing the way we do business, and what has to happen as we really enter the new year?

Jill Johnson:                       That’s a great question Melinda, and I laugh because I think that it depends on your perspective. From the perspective of many people with whom I’ve had conversations, and these conversations have happened last year, I think that there are a lot of people who really had almost this awakening. It was this period of enlightenment for them personally.

Jill Johnson:                       Now I have to say most of those people were not people of color. Most of those people were white, and for them to just understand that many of the things that black people have been talking about for years and years and years are true. As a black person, last year for me was no different than any other-

Melinda Wittstock:         Any other year. Right.

Jill Johnson:                       … year.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. It’s kind of like welcome to my world. How come you’re just noticing now?

Jill Johnson:                       I have four black sons, and so just having to have the conversation with them when they reached driving age about what to do if you get stopped, that was the same conversation, you know, 10 years ago, 20 years ago. So I think when you say how far have we come, I do think that there has been a new awareness, but I think that we’re going to struggle a lot this year with how to really implement, how to do, how do we make this happen now that so may more people are aware.

Melinda Wittstock:         Exactly. So there’s this new found empathy or understand and, yes, it is translating that into action. A lot of white people are like oh, man, am I putting a foot wrong here? Am I saying it wrong? You know, there’s this really weird self-consciousness, because there’s well meaning in there, but there’s also a fear, right?

Melinda Wittstock:         So as we put these things in practice, I know in my case I’m growing a really diverse team, so I want to make sure that my hiring and our processes and everything makes our company attractive to black and brown people. We can’t succeed, we can’t even address our market, if we’re all the same. It’s imperative not just for business, but also because it’s the right thing to do.

Melinda Wittstock:         So where does a business owner start who looks all around their team and their entire team is white and they have the right intention but they don’t know what to do?

Jill Johnson:                       I don’t think it’s as much about intention. I think you have to be intentional in terms of the corrective action that you’re going to take, but I think that it’s really more basic than that Melinda. How do most of us get jobs or find opportunity? It comes through our network. And when you look at the network of most people, their network is very homogenous. It’s very similar people or similar backgrounds, or you went to the same schools, our you’re in the same country clubs, different things like that.

Jill Johnson:                       So I really believe that so much of it starts with you’re own personal network, and I have really been advocating for people to expand their network. Get to know more people, and not just in a superficial sort of way, but talk to people. Get to know them. Get to know their families and exchange dialog and ideas and all those good things, and so then when you go to hire for positions your outreach is not simply oh, okay, I got to check the box for a black woman, I got to check the box for an Asian man.

Melinda Wittstock:         Exactly.

Jill Johnson:                       You’re reaching out to your network, and because your network is diverse the referrals that you will get will reflect that.

Melinda Wittstock:         I think that’s so true. So let’s talk about this in practice, expanding your network during a pandemic where you can’t get face-to-face time, right? I take that to heart, because I’ve been doing that for a number of years now, where often I would be one of only a handful of white women in a group of either black women or Latinos or… Right? I would be like the only one, and I consciously made that effort.

Melinda Wittstock:         During the pandemic it’s a little bit harder. So how do you in practice really expand that network and get that real connection with people when you can’t go to a conference or meet people face-to-face?

Jill Johnson:                       I actually thought it was so much easier, truth be told. Now I don’t want to sound like a commercial for LinkedIn. However, I have to say that I am a LinkedIn junkie. I’m on LinkedIn a lot and I’ve connected with a lot of people through LinkedIn, reaching out to them, and a lot of people have reached out to me.

Jill Johnson:                       With the pandemic we don’t have as much of the excuse anymore of I’m traveling, I’m in all these meeting, I’m so busy, so I’ve actually found it easier to connect with people because they’re home. They’re not moving around. They’re not traveling.

Jill Johnson:                       So I’ve connected with so many people really over the last 12 months or so, just being in place and being able to set a time to talk and using video conferencing in that way. Last year a lot of us got very Zoomed out, so to speak.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, God.

Jill Johnson:                       I actually loved it. I actually liked it, because I felt like I was there with the person, and I think that that’s important, to not just be on the phone where you’re distracted and maybe doing something else kind of on the side, but where you’re really able to look someone in the eye and see them and connect.

Jill Johnson:                       I think that there much more of an openness for people to be willing to receive a request to connect if it seems that your background and what you do has relevance for that other person, or it just seems interesting.

Jill Johnson:                       I’ve gotten people from the family foundation world, the private equity world, all different types of people, reaching out and connecting, just saying, “Hey, you know what? What you do is really interesting. What you’re talking about is really interesting. I would love to know more. I would love to connect.” What’s the worse that you can say, right? No. Someone says no, or they just don’t accept it and that’s that. But you would be surprised. A lot of people say yes, because there is more need for people to connect right now.

Melinda Wittstock:         Earlier this year, we hired a chief diversity officer we looked at everything to do with our hiring, everything to do with our marketing materials, everything to do with everything, like understood our intention as a company to be truly diverse.

Melinda Wittstock:         Here’s what I found that was interesting. Just even trying to find stock photos of African-American podcasters or African-Americans that look authentic were very, very difficult to find. It was like almost like all the stock footage libraries have an institutionalized racism about them. It was hard to find photographs.

Jill Johnson:                       Well, think of what I’ve gone through for 52 years now, trying to find photos that reflect the audiences that we serve. And again, where white people are stepping into this awareness, have stepped into this awareness more recently, these are the things that black people, that people of color in general have been dealing with.

Jill Johnson:                       On the stock photos, I will follow your suggestion and give you a resource for that. There is a company called POC Stock that specializes in stock photography representing people of color.

Melinda Wittstock:         POC Stock? That’s amazing.

Jill Johnson:                       And it is owned by a black guy.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s fantastic. I’m going to be going there. This is good. I mean this is the other thing too, just awareness of resources that are there.

Jill Johnson:                       Again, I think that’s where going back to having those authentic relationships really matter, because if we have a relationship and you feel comfortable enough to ask me questions, “Hey, Jill, if I sent this would you take offense at that? I’m not meaning it in that way, but would you take offense, or why did someone express offense at what I said? I’m not sure that I understand.”

Jill Johnson:                       You have to have those relationships so that you can really just understand other people and their customs and culture and traditions and just thinking.

Melinda Wittstock:         Absolutely. But you know when we look at the impact too of coronavirus and all the economic turmoil and it’s disproportionally affected African-Americans, there’s no doubt about it. So here we are going into 2021, even all the vaccines… Given the history of how African-Americans were experimented on, like say the Tuskegee airmen or whatever, there are all these issues.

Melinda Wittstock:         What role can businesses play in really addressing some of those really institutionalized divisions in equities meaningfully? Because I do believe that business really is a profound, or can be a profound agent of social change in this way.

Jill Johnson:                       Absolutely. I’d actually like to go back to something that you said a little while ago, where you mentioned that you hired a fractional chief diversity officer. Is that a person of color?

Melinda Wittstock:         Yes. Of course.

Jill Johnson:                       You know what I find interesting? I have very mixed feelings. I think that there are many people who are in these positions who can really affect change. What I have observed though is their ability to affect change is often capped by leadership and how leadership use their role.

Jill Johnson:                       So when you talk about business actually having this role of being a change agent, I think that that tone is set by the leadership. And while I think that a chief diversity officer can come in and point out areas that need improvement and ways to improve, I think that it’s really incumbent upon leadership to make sure that everybody feels the weight and everybody shares in the responsibility that’s inclusion.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s exactly what we’re working on. So even within our hiring process, we won’t hire anyone who we don’t test out, and actually figuring out how to test that out, because everybody says, “Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, I believe in this,” but do they in practice?

Jill Johnson:                       It goes back to not knowing each other. So if someone comes in who looks like you… Not even looks like you, but just went to the same types of schools, had similar experiences, because you’re there in that place and you view yourself as being successful in that position, you just do pattern matching and you assume that people who fit your same pattern are going to have the same level of success that you have had.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, but that’s exactly what we’re trying not to do.

Jill Johnson:                       But that’s human nature, and that’s why it’s so difficult to overcome.

Melinda Wittstock:         To overcome, right.

Jill Johnson:                       Because it’s not really anything sinister. So yes, there are people who are just racists or sexists and they’re not going to hire anyone who is not exactly like them looking. But there are others where it really just is about human nature, and you bond and you tend to gravitate to people who have shared experiences.

Melinda Wittstock:         Okay, so say you’re in a situation where your company is hiring and you’re on a fast scale path, you’ve got to hire a lot of people quickly.

Melinda Wittstock:         And not only are you hiring diverse, but the people that you’re hiring will actually be good at hiring diverse themselves, right? So like how do you infuse that in your entire culture and make sure you’re really smart about the hiring so that it’s not just one person saying, “Hey, let’s do this,” but that it’s actually systematized through the whole company in its entire ethos in the way that it operates?

Jill Johnson:                       Yeah. I will admit hiring is not my area of expertise. But with that said, again I still think it goes back to having a large pool from which to select and making sure that there are people… So for instance, if you’re hiring for a position where many of the people in your company let’s even say are Ivy League, to bring in someone who is not Ivy League may not necessarily be a fit, but the fact is is that there are many black people who are Ivy League.

Jill Johnson:                       Often I find that in the rush to oh, we have to create diversity, but then pulling in people or going to pools of candidates that in no other way fit the description or criteria, and then it becomes very easy to say, “Well, that person’s not a fit,” or, “Oh, look, we brought in this black person but they didn’t succeed. They left.” But you weren’t setting them up for-

Melinda Wittstock:         For success.

Jill Johnson:                       … success in the first place if the only thing you saw was that they were black. I think that that’s the part that people have to get over, is that if you are looking for a black person that has specific tech skills, if you’re looking for a black person who has certain… You know, who has to be able to lift things, if you’re looking for a black person who has to have certain communication, you can find a black person who has any of those traits if you look and if you are earnest in reaching out and having a broad pool of candidates from which to select who actually fit the criteria.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yes. Yes. This is so important. It’s really important to just get these things out and speak openly about them, so this is so, so important.

Melinda Wittstock:         So here we are in 2021, and how do you see the year going? What most urgently needs to be done?

Jill Johnson:                       I think that one of the things that we have to recognize is that the coronavirus had a disproportionate impact on people without resources and people who were lower income, are lower income. Often we in some ways create a false narrative in looking just at race without the overlay of income and the impact of income and equality.

Jill Johnson:                       So the challenges that the… When you look at the black population and the percentage that falls into a low income category, many of the issues that are happening are not because they’re black, it’s because they don’t have the resources, and in our community that again is something that we really have to address in creating pathways to earning more income, to higher levels of income, and actually to wealth creation.

Jill Johnson:                       When you look at black women it’s very interesting that we’re over-indexing on education. We are like the most highly educated often in the positions that we have. When you look at black women entrepreneurs, often again they are very highly educated with multiple degrees.

Jill Johnson:                       So I think that there maybe is finally coming to light that recognition, but we’re still not actually… I think it’s still tough for a lot of people to act upon that knowledge and that awareness.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. So how can they better act on it?

Jill Johnson:                       I think it’s recognizing… You know, something I want to point out is we often talk about teams doing better when there’s more diversity, when you have women at the helm, when you have people of color at the helm. The challenge is there, Melinda, that what we certainly have to recognize is that those people would not be at the helm unless they were the best of the best, and better than everyone else, and 10 times as good.

Jill Johnson:                       I think we have to look at the fact that we’re really asking black people often to show up in a way that others do not, and show up with a level of talent that others do not, and have a performance that is so over and above… You know, over the top, that we don’t ask other to show up in that way.

Jill Johnson:                       What I see often is that we have to… We focus on proof, that black people have to demonstrate proof, where other people are supported on promise. I think that that’s the thing that we have to be very careful about and people who are in positions to hire is what is it that we’re really looking for and what are the questions that we’re asking, and are we operating at a baseline of proof or promise? Pick one. Either one is fine, but make sure that that applies to all candidates.

Melinda Wittstock:         Absolutely. There are things that business owners can do as well, which is source and buy from minority businesses, minority owned businesses. I remember though back last year, Fourth of July, and my daughter really wanted to boycott all white owned businesses, right, and support black owned businesses. She is a singer/songwriter, and her studio producer is an amazing African-American man, and she said, “Hey, so [inaudible 00:23:34], what are the black owned businesses, because we should buy from them,” and there was this long pause, and he said, “I don’t know any black owned businesses,” and my 17 year old daughter was absolutely shocked.

Melinda Wittstock:         So there’s this disconnect, because I think on this podcast for instance we talk all about how women really can support women in business by buying from each other, promoting each other, mentoring each other, vesting in each other. So let’s expand that conversation out. How can we support minority owned businesses?

Jill Johnson:                       Yeah. You know what’s really interesting is that for a long time… And this even exists to a degree today, there are a lot of black owned businesses that don’t want people to know that they are black owned, because for so long that was a negative. So if you look at different consulting sites or various websites, the owner or the entrepreneur won’t have their picture up, and that was something that was very intentional for business owners for a long time.

Jill Johnson:                       I know now there are some of the sites that will provide the icon so that people can readily identify as a black owned business. I think that there are some people that are comfortable with that and others who might think, you know, this is kind of… This has been a fad. At some point this is going to be over, and was the flavor of the day for a while, but if people know that I’m black owned they might have a lower expectation or they don’t want to support my business because of that.

Jill Johnson:                       So yeah, I think that that’s really the genesis of that. Then my mother has talked for a long time about the impact of desegregation, and when areas in communities were segregated and blacks were not able to shop at white businesses you had very thriving communities full of black owned businesses and black professionals.

Jill Johnson:                       So I think it’s been a mixed bag as far as the path that we have taken since then. There was kind of this goal to… Or thinking that if it’s a black owned business it’s less then for some reason. Hopefully people are getting over that. There are some amazing brands, amazing businesses that are black owned, and I do hope that people will when they shop in my neighborhood will learn something about us and take a look and see who the ownership is.

Jill Johnson:                       I, for one, have made a decision that when I go to different service providers and look at different tech companies for different services I do look at the about us, and if I don’t see some level of diversity I look to choose someone else.

Melinda Wittstock:         That is happening more and more and more, and not only around diversity, but also things like, do you have a clean supply chain? Do you care about climate change? Are you doing something good? Do you have a social impact mission? All these things.

Jill Johnson:                       Yeah, all those things. I think that it is important to bring up… And again, going back to kind of the diversity officer, in many cases that diversity officer is only focused and only given the responsibility around hiring, versus looking at all the ways that a company can support inclusion, and it certainly does include the supply chain and the vendors that are used. If there’s a holiday party, if flowers are purchased, identify black vendors, identify minority vendors that can provide those services.

Melinda Wittstock:         Absolutely. Our CDO is tasked that way, because it has to be holistic, you know. When we think about say for instance social impact missions, you see a lot of major advertisers just kind of patch something on inauthentically. I think one of the inadvertently funniest one, but tragic also, was Kentucky Fried Chicken putting a Susan G. Komen pink ribbon on a bucket of carcinogens, you know, right? So there’s a lot of that around.

Jill Johnson:                       Right. Absolutely. I want to point out actually just a couple of brands that I love that I would encourage people to take a look. There’s one, IVT, that is amazing, a really great black woman owned company. [Partake 00:28:50] Cookies, for people who have allergies and gluten issues and things like that, nut allergies… Her cookies are like free of everything but they taste amazing, so much so that my kids, who poo-poo kind of anything that is like that, they actually liked the cookies, and that’s Partake Cookies. She recently received not too long ago I guess the… I guess it was a little while ago now, but she received some investment from JZ’s venture capital firm.

Jill Johnson:                       Then there’s a marketplace that is one of our entrepreneurs, is part of our Women of Color Connecting Initiative called oneKIN, and they are a curated online marketplace that helps multicultural consumers and people who want to purchase from multicultural vendors to find each other.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, that’s great. I’m going to put all of those in the show notes, because this is the other thing, is just educating people to what the resources actually are, because sometimes people are looking for something but they don’t know where to look, and there’s… Are they trying hard enough? But all the same, right, increasing having access to that is important, as is access to capital.

Melinda Wittstock:         Women still only get 2% of the venture capital for companies that actually qualify for that. It’s worse, obviously, for African-American men and African-American women. How do you see that changing? Is that changing? What can we do to get better at really making sure that minority owned businesses get the capital they need?

Jill Johnson:                       It is unfortunate, Melinda. I think we’re still a long way away from that changing, and I think that a lot of people hide behind the cloak of economics and return. The challenge that I see really in that space, and the one that we are very focused on addressing, is the on ramp to venture capital.

Jill Johnson:                       You will know, since you’ve been in that space of taking angel money and capital that is part of that continuum, if you don’t get the money very early stage, if you don’t have personal savings, and if you don’t have friends and family money, which by the way those two pockets contribute more to business capital than venture capital and everything else, bank capital, combined-

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. So if you’re starting from zero it’s very hard.

Jill Johnson:                       And you don’t have, again, that friends and family and personal savings, which is a function of wealth, right, and community wealth… If you don’t have that, it’s very difficult to find your way then on a path to venture capital or even bank loans.

Melinda Wittstock:         I love the story of Backstage Capital-

Jill Johnson:                       Arlan Hamilton.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, Arlan Hamilton. Yes. Gosh, she was sleeping in airports, you know, or whatever, in her car, raising money for her fund, but she succeeded. She got money for her fund. Her fund outperformed other funds. I mean-

Jill Johnson:                       Well, well-

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s not the story?

Jill Johnson:                       I would not say that. So by many measures she was successful. However, if Arlan, with all of the notoriety that she had and the story that she created and all these people saying how much they supported her and loved her, et cetera, and were supporting her mission, at the end of the day there were a lot of people who did not write check who initially said that they were going to.

Jill Johnson:                       So what I look at is the fact that so many of the folks who are out there fighting that fight like Arlan are still not able to aggregate a bunch of capital and launch $100 million fund, and that is really the entry point for a lot of people that are starting funds and do funds. They come out of some other shop and they create a fund, and it’s $100 million fund minimum.

Jill Johnson:                       When black fund managers seek to go into the marketplace it’s well, 100 million, that’s a lot… Well, 50 million… Where are these deals? How are you going to find them? How are you going to deploy the capital so quickly? So you see a lot of the micro VC funds falling in that range of 25 to 50 million.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, and that’s not enough to really-

Jill Johnson:                       And they’re struggling to get that.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. See, that has to change. So that goes back to the LPs. That goes back to all the pension funds and the insurance companies.

Jill Johnson:                       Well, again it goes back to not believing in the ability of black people to manage money and to control money. You even saw this last year when all the money was going out of the door after the murder of George Floyd and people, again, had this awakening and awareness, and we’re going to put money on the street, and we’re going to create a fund to invest in black entrepreneurs, but then they would park that money or move their dollars and grant funding to businesses through white companies, and some of them led by white men, or through organizations that were white led instead of putting that money in the hands of black people so to create some first time fund managers, to create opportunities for black people to be in control of the capital.

Jill Johnson:                       People don’t stop to think about that. They’re thinking oh, I’m doing something good. I’m going to take this money and I’m going to use it to support black people in some way, but they’re not even thinking about all of the steps along the way where they could impact inclusion and where they could get someone black involved in the process at every step, but they don’t really think about that.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. But it’s vital that we do.

Jill Johnson:                       Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         It’s absolutely vital that we do. I mean if you look at just the macroeconomics of this country and a wealth gap that has grown, We’re almost back at the robber baron era, right, with the income gap and all these structural inequities, just institutionalized racism, whether we’re talking about the police or we’re talking about access to capital, and the divisions have never been greater. So how do you kind of start in that very divisive environment that we live in?

Jill Johnson:                       Well one of the challenges is that many people don’t even understand the origin and they… You know it’s funny, one of my kids said, “Pretty much you learn slavery, you learn Jim Crow, maybe you learn a little bit of reconstruction, you learn freeing the slaves, you get to Jim Crow, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, maybe George Washington Carver, and then present day.” That’s kind of the story of black people in the United States.

Jill Johnson:                       There is not the education about how blacks have been systematically excluded from being able to grow up.

Melinda Wittstock:         Everything from redlining or just… You know, just different rules, right?

Jill Johnson:                       Melinda, do you know the number of people though… And I found this out again last year as I was doing a lot of speaking to different groups, the number of people that never had any awareness about redlining at all, and the fact that like for FHA loans that were used to really build the white middle class, they were not available to black people. Black borrowers were not able to get FHA loans.

Jill Johnson:                       So it’s things like that along the way that… You know, I think that more people have to really go back in history and educate themselves. An excellent book that talks about many of these things is The Color of Law. But to really educate themselves to understand that the problem is not the lazy black people who just are ne’er-do-wells and-

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s so offensive.

Jill Johnson:                       … have laid the bed in which they rest today. But that is what is in many people’s minds, even if they don’t say it, and even if among the people that consider themselves to be progressives it is still not the recognition of how we got to where we are today and it’s not-

Melinda Wittstock:         Well, there are all these subconscious things, so even if you’re not even aware of it you were bathed in it.

Jill Johnson:                       Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s what has to change, and the recognition that there was a grave, grave, injustice done to black people for many years and we are still feeling the impact of that today, and to reverse that it really is going to take everyone going over and above to turn that around.

Melinda Wittstock:         Absolutely. You mentioned education, the education has to change, the awareness, the laws. I mean it’s just driven through our entire culture and the entire founding of the country, every single thing, so it’s not an easy task and it has to be approached at kind of all levels of the system.

Melinda Wittstock:         We’ve talked about sourcing from minority owned businesses, hiring, really understanding the culture that you’re building, access to capital

Melinda Wittstock:         Because wealth is cumulative… There’s a tremendous amount of education that has to be done.

Jill Johnson:                       Yeah. Absolutely. And while it can seem overwhelming, like oh, my gosh, this problem is so pervasive and widespread, what can I do, it’s out of my hands, what I really like to focus people on is doing what you can within your own sphere of influence.

Jill Johnson:                       Again, you talked about making purchases as a business owner or even as an individual. I think we all have to think about how do we open the door for someone else? How do we use whatever the platform is that we have to open a door for someone else, whether or not we even know that person, but just really being very intentional about creating opportunity and using our individual platform and what we control to affect change?

Melinda Wittstock:         Jill, we could talk for hours about this, it’s such a big topic. I want to make sure though that women can find you, work with you. What’s the best way?

Jill Johnson:                       Absolutely. So we started an initiative in the beginning of 2019 called Women of Color Connecting. The purpose is to, yes, connect women of color, amazing women of color entrepreneurs, who have the potential to grow, scale, and to reach others, but really this initiative is about connecting champions and the allied community to these amazing women of color entrepreneurs, so that all the people that are saying that inclusion is important, that diversity is important, actually have an opportunity to act upon that, and especially among women.

Jill Johnson:                       We see so many initiatives that are focused on gender parity that unfortunately there’s not the same intentionality around making sure that women of color are included in that gender parity conversation. So this initiative is really a way for people to connect. We pride ourselves on creating opportunities for people to have very authentic conversations.

Jill Johnson:                       In our summit event last year, in February 2020, we had a panel called Unpacking Privilege, a Conversation with Four White Guys, and it was this amazing conversation where we really unpacked things. But we want to do that, because we want people to get to know each other, to understand these amazing entrepreneurs, and to really figure out with whom they connect so that we can create a community of support around the entrepreneurs to help them, again, get on that grow scale exit trajectory to creating wealth. When you create wealth, that’s what then becomes the friends and family money, and that’s what starts to change the cycle.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s absolutely true. So how can women… Business owners listening to this podcast get involved with and support Women of Color Connecting?

Jill Johnson:                       Absolutely. We’re at WOCCON we call it, WOCCON.org. People can also follow us on Facebook or Instagram @WOCConnecting.

Melinda Wittstock:         Wonderful. Jill, thank you so much for a great conversation, putting on your wings and flying with us.

Jill Johnson:                       Melinda, thank you so much for having me. As you say, we could have talked for hours, and I really appreciate you providing this platform.

Jill Johnson
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