Black Women Talk Tech 2019 conference
Black Women Talk Tech
Black Women Talk Tech (BWTT) is a conference that was started in 2017 by Lauren Washington, Esosa Ighodaro, and Regina Gwynn. The idea was to gather a collective of Black women in a number of different industries, to provide Black women with the resources to build profitable companies. To say a conference like this is necessary is an understatement; reports indicate that progress by female founders of color to gain VC funding has been stagnant. The beauty behind BWTT is that it allows Black female entrepreneurs to share the secret sauce to their success with aspiring entrepreneurs. The next BWTT conference will be taking place in a few days, on February 27th-29th in New York City. One of the conference’s founders Esosa Ighodaro sat down to discuss the impact of BWTT thus far, what she hopes attendees take away from this year’s conference and how she and her co-founders were able to create such a successful and thriving conference that has continued to grow.
“The first time when we all got together, myself, Lauren and Regina, we didn’t know each other,” Esosa explained. “We just had another event and we were the only other Black women in the room, and I was just so shocked. I was like ‘hey, how are you doing? Who are you?’ We were so excited to meet each other…we said ‘okay…let’s invite a bunch of experts and…how about we just have, each hour we’ll have a new expert come and talk about a topic and we just figure out how we build and get better and navigate.’ The conference’s initial goal was to serve an underserved market and population with information that was not always readily available. With Black women being the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs, the establishment of this conference was desperately needed. “We decided to put together a flyer, maybe 10 days before the event, sent an email out…we ended getting over 300 people wanting to join…it was incredible.”
BWTT has been instrumental in helping many Black female founders grow and scale their businesses, make the connections necessary to become successful and secure funding. “I love telling the story of Crystal from…PantyProp was her old name and her new name is Ruby Love and essentially she sells underwear that absorbs…and the great thing about her product is that she got one of her first checks just from coming in to that first [conference]. She came the next year…then she did over one million within 10 months and then the next year she did 10 million dollars and then the next year she raised about 15 million dollars and she’s the fourth largest raised from a Black woman tech founder…every year we hear stories of ‘I found my co-founder here’…‘I’ve gotten an investment.’ We’ve given over $150,000 in cash into our pitch competitions…we know of over 40 women who’ve gotten an investment to their businesses as a result of coming to the conference…this is a unique space for Black women to be celebrated, recognized, and connect with…real investors who are interested in investing in their product…a real space where we can talk safely…about our challenges.”
One of the most intriguing aspects of the conference is the high caliber speakers that the conference draws in; BWTT has been able showcase a who’s who of Black founders. Esosa offered her insights on how to create a conference that is successful and draws in high-quality speakers, especially in the beginning when budgetary constraints may be an issue. “Part of the challenges when running a conference is…our audience is founders…and primarily founders are kind of low on funds. It’s really hard to price your ticket to the point where you can actually cover your costs. So, the hard part is balancing that with sponsorship and having enough budget to pay for all the working pieces that make the conference go around…what I would say is…if you’re able to create some sort of give/get where you’re like ‘hey, we’ll take care of your travel…or your room and board or we’ll make sure we’ll promote you in different places.’ Part of the exchange is that…you’ll get to be in front of an audience that you can later get someone else to hear you speak and pay for you to speak because the audience is curated and excited about hearing about your expertise…or you can get additional customers as a result of speaking…as a conference [host] you can make it worth your while as far as negotiating what you do have…if money isn’t the thing, what can you offer?”
The BWTT founders have high hopes for the future and the impact they envision the conference will make. “Our mission is to help identify, help resource, Black women to build the next billion-dollar business,” Esosa shared. “Part of that is all of those points and what we would like to see is just the expansion of…us getting together. After the second conference, many of our attendants asked us to bring the conference to other parts of the country…that’s what really inspired us to create chapters. Chapters is a space where we are allowing local Black women tech founders to get together once a month and talk about a topic that they can help support each other in…we want to expand the way we constantly connect…because entrepreneurship is hard…and doing that solo is even harder…having a sounding board can be helpful…and having some peer mentorship would be incredible for not only how to survive but how to thrive.”
To learn more about the Black Women Talk Tech conference or to attend the event, click here.
This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.