Solidifying President Barack Obama’s millennial aesthetics and South by Southwest crush, the White House hosted South by South Lawn (SXSL) last weekend, billed as a “festival of ideas, art and action” inspired by its Austin predecessor. In addition to panels on innovation, a performance by the Lumineers and the premiere of climate change documentary Before the Flood, the event served as the launch for #FacesofFounders, an online campaign celebrating the diversity of entrepreneurs.
The campaign recognizes that while companies led by women founders of color are the fastest growing type of business in the U.S., they’re often left out of the stories we tell about entrepreneurship. They’re also excluded from the funding pool. According to Black Enterprise, only 10 percent of venture-backed companies have a female CEO, and less than 1 percent have a black founder.
And yet, according to the Case Foundation, a partner in the #FacesofFounders campaign, ventures founded by women are outperforming male-founded companies, and businesses with diverse leadership have been proven to provide greater returns for investors.
#FacesofFounders invites entrepreneurs — particularly women and people of color — to share their photos and stories online, in a bid to drive home the importance of inclusive entrepreneurship. The five entrepreneurs with the most compelling stories will be profiled on Fast Company.
“There are a tremendous number of women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color who are unrecognized, unfunded and underleveraged. This is not just an equity issue. This is a business and innovation proposition for America,” Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, said in a statement. “We need to support all of the nation’s entrepreneurs — from all places, all races, all genders — creating and scaling new businesses to create stronger communities, close the opportunity gap and scale creative solutions for our most persistent problems.”
#FaceesofFounders isn’t actually about investing in these companies though. “All entrepreneurs and companies profiled are for informational and educational purposes only,” states an FAQ on the website. Aka: Do it for the exposure? The deadline for submissions is November 22, and the final awards will be announced in spring 2017.
Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.