Award-winning producer and fashion icon Pharrell Williams has announced the launch of his new nonprofit initiative, Black Ambition, “dedicated to Black and Latinx entrepreneurs who are launching tech, design, healthcare, and consumer products/services start-ups.”
In a press release sent to The Root, the initiative will also include two prize competitions: The Black Ambition HBCU Prize and The Black Ambition Prize, The former of which will offer cash prizes and mentorship for current and past students at HBCUs while they develop “seed and early-stage ideas and launch companies in tech, design, healthcare, and consumer products and services.” The latter will “find, support, and seed early-stage companies in tech, design, healthcare, and consumer products and services and ventures must have at least one founder or co-founder that identifies as Black/African/African American and/or Hispanic/Latino/a/Latinx.” The competition will culminate in one major national event in July 2021, where the winners will additionally be awarded access to peer networks, expert connections, opportunities for media exposure, introductions to venture capitalists, angel investors, and accelerator partners.
Overall, Black Ambition’s long-term goal is to “level the playing field and foster the ingenuity, determination, and resilience of underrepresented entrepreneurs,” and to ensure that inclusive entrepreneurship becomes the new normal. Speaking on the importance of his initiative, Williams explained:
Recent events and tragedies have illustrated the always existent stark divisions in the American experience, and while entrepreneurship has long been a tenet of the American dream, marginalized people have faced long-standing barriers to success. With Black Ambition, the goal is to help strengthen the pipeline of talented entrepreneurs and close the opportunity and wealth gaps derived from limited access to capital and resources.
Black Ambition’s advisory team will be led by Pharrell with support from The Bridgespan Group, a global nonprofit organization that advises mission-driven organizations and nonprofits. Other partners include Adidas, Chanel, The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation, Tony’s Chocolonely and the Visa Foundation. There will also be collaborations with Mattel and Toney Chocolonely’s to further support and spread awareness, the latter of which will take the form of a special Black Ambition chocolate bar with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the initiative.
The Root’s Michael Harriot had a little more insight on the initiative, having been privy to a brainstorming session after Pharrell reached out to discuss the idea in its early phases. “I have no idea how he got my number, but it’s Pharrell,” joked Harriot, before adding a more serious endorsement. “He has been intentional about finding ways to help Black creators and entrepreneurs not just have a seat at the table, but how to build their own tables with actual avenues for economic empowerment and ownership.”