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Jessica Norwood on How to Close the ‘Friends and Family’ Capital Gap for Entrepreneurs of Color

June 19, 2019

If you want to start a small business in the U.S., you’ll need about $30,000. Many entrepreneurs looking for initial capital turn to friends and family for help. Depending on your race, however, this pool of cash can look different. The median net worth of white households in the U.S. is $171,000, while black households have a median net worth of $17,600. This disparity creates what our guest presenter, Jessica Norwood, founder of The Runway Project, calls the “friends and family” capital gap.

The Runway Project aims to close this capital gap by providing early-stage funding options and holistic business support as a wealth-building strategy. In her Next City presentation on June 19 at 1 p.m. eastern time, Norwood discussed the Runway Project and this strategy. The Runway Project has made 13 loans over the past year, and so far has a 100 percent repayment rate.

“This [closing the ‘friends and family’ capital gap] is the one thing that keeps getting missed in the story,” Norwood told Next City in 2016. “It’s a very obscure, small piece, it doesn’t seem like it would register or create as much of the ripple effect that it does, but it’s the beginning, it’s the genesis, it’s the part of money that tells people ‘I’m with you. I believe in you.’”

Norwood is founder of the Runway Project and is also the executive director of the Emerging ChangeMakers Network, an organization dedicated to working with inspiring leaders and innovative ideas that end economic inequality. Jessica previously spent years in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, as a political fundraiser and consultant, raising millions of dollars for various campaigns. Jessica is a past member of the board of directors for the Highlander Research and Education Center, a former Emerging Leaders Fellow at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, and the Political Power Fellow with the Hip Hop Archive at the Du Bois Institute at Harvard University.

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