Bringing VC funding to black and women-owned firms across the globe.
Shelly Omilâdè “Omi” Bell is a multitalented serial entrepreneur, disruption strategist, and nonprofit executive, taking the world by storm as CEO of Black Girl Ventures (BGV), a nonprofit social enterprise that helps provide female founders of color with access to social and financial capital.
Bell founded BGV in 2016, with the intention of addressing the challenges Black and Brown women face in accessing social and financial capital to grow their businesses. “I created it in response to the news that Black women were starting businesses at six times the national average yet receiving less the 1% of venture capital,” Bell said.
To fulfill the goal of accelerating 100,000 Black and Brown women entrepreneurs and closing the funding gap they experience, BGV has implemented three programs: BGV Pitch, Change Agent Fellowship, and BGV NextGen.
The BGV Pitch is a live crowdfunded pitch competition, in which the audience votes with their dollars for the founders that they like best, and in turn, the founders are granted that capital back. The Change Agent Fellowship is a nine-month leadership skills development program created specifically to expand the capacity of early-stage entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders to strengthen the ecosystems of Black and Brown women founders. Lastly, the BGV NextGen program services the next generation of Black and Brown entrepreneurs attending HBCUs through access to capital, training, mentoring, and new networks.
Influencing HBCU students specifically through the BGV NextGen program is a matter close to Bell’s heart as she is a proud HBCU alum herself. She graduated from North Carolina A&T (NCAT) with a degree in Computer Science in 2003. Bell says that her time at NCAT helped shape her into the businesswoman she is today.
“The sense of belonging that gets created when you are at an HBCU, you carry that in your heart,” Bell said. “Even though there may not be a sense of belonging in the corporate environment…because I went to an HBCU and had the experience of learning, growing, and developing around people who look like me, I carry the sense of belonging with me and in turn, through efforts like Black Girl Ventures, create a sense of belonging for other people.”
Creating a sense of belonging for people is something Bell has been able to do through BGV and beyond. She has worked as a K-12 educator, a patent examiner, a spoken word artist, and is one of the eight original Google Digital Coaches. She is also a mother of three, an inspirational speaker, a computer scientist, and the host of “A Dose of Disruption,” an interactive podcast experience for creatives, small business owners, and entrepreneurs.
Bell has been named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Business by Entrepreneur Magazine and was acknowledged as a Rising Brand Star by Adweek. She also has trained over 5,000 entrepreneurs, held over 300 events for empowering leaders, managed multi-million dollar contracts, and scaled over 100 businesses.
With such an impressive career path and taking on so many different hats, Bell says that she has gotten better at juggling it all, and has created a sense of harmony that allows her to explore all her passions. Her advice to women looking to do the same is to “make the move.”
“Our intuition, our own gut feelings, our own judgment is one of the best things we have. It’s a superpower,” she said. “Trust your gut, trust yourself, and make the move.”
As for the future of Black Girl Ventures, Bell says she plans to expand the organization globally to create a “massive level of sisterhood that nobody has ever seen before.”