Big Ideas

'Turn fear into faith': Five founders on overcoming challenges

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Jessica Matthews rings the opening bell during Forbes "30 Under 30" Rings The NASDAQ Opening Bell at NASDAQ on January 25, 2016 in New York City.
Jessica Matthews, co-founder of Uncharted Power, rings the opening bell at NASDAQ in New York City.
Photo by Brad Barket | Getty Images
Darlene Gillard is the director of community for digitalundivided (DID), a social enterprise that encourages women of color to take ownership of their economic security through entrepreneurship. Based in Atlanta, DID has helped founders raise over $25 million in outside funding. Here, Gillard spotlights five innovative founders from the DID community.


Portrait of Jasmine Edwards, CEO and Founder of iSubz
Jasmine Edwards
Jasmine Edwards, founder and CEO of iSubz, is on a mission to harness the gig economy to empower substitute teachers. Within the $670 billion K-12 education space, she is focused on ensuring that a target market of 21 million students in low-income schools get quality substitute teachers and that 6.7 million substitute teachers receive same-day pay to make it easier for them to provide for themselves and their families. Jasmine is a graduate of DID’s BIG Incubator and is currently a Camelback Ventures fellow and Echoing Green semi-finalist.
My experience as a founder has been absolutely difficult, yet rewarding because I own my work. Once I was able to proudly own my agency as a Black woman in the tech startup space where so few of us make it past the bootstrapped phase — I knew that I wouldn't allow any obstacle I faced to stop me.
Jasmine Edwards, founder and CEO of iSubz
Portrait of Aly Nicely, CEO and Founder of BEAUTY IN COLOR
Alysia Nicely
Alysia Nicely, founder and CEO of BEAUTY IN COLOR, is a former Fortune 100 marketing leader turned entrepreneur on a fierce mission to diversify the retail landscape and help entrepreneurs of color scale their consumer brands. Nicely’s e-commerce marketplace helps retailers discover emerging indie brands that meet the needs of the Black and Latinx shoppers who drive the $525 billion global beauty industry; BEAUTY IN COLOR also connects diverse founders to the resources they need to grow. Alysia is an alumna of DID’s BIG Incubator and helps Black and Latinx women build startups as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the organization.
Each day, I wake up and make a decision to bet on myself. I've faced anxiety, fear, and self-doubt, and I still do. But, I'm here. Choosing to continue to leap and risk everything because I know my purpose is so much bigger than my fears. Because I know my company and my story will change lives.
Alysia Nicely, Founder and CEO of BEAUTY IN COLOR
Portrait of Farah Allen, CEO and Founder of The Labz
Farah Allen is the founder and CEO of The Labz, a cloud-based blockchain music creation and real-time collaboration platform that has raised over $250,000 in Venture Funding from Quake Capital. The Labz helps song creators protect and memorialize their music by centralizing their collaboration, automatically logging the contributions of individual team members, and instantly publishing their work on a blockchain-backed song information page. Farah is a BIG Incubator graduate and former Entrepreneur-in-Residence at DID.
I have an Alabama-born, Israeli, male Chief Technology Officer. I felt tremendous pride when he told me that when he was a highlighted speaker at a Black female tech conference he made it his mission to find Black female tech talent for our company. Since then we have on-boarded three Black females that have joined our development team.
Farah Allen, Founder and CEO of The Labz
Portrait of Jessica Matthews, CEO and co-founder of Uncharted Power
Jessica Matthews
Jessica Matthews is a Nigerian-American inventor, CEO, and venture capitalist. She is the co-founder of Uncharted Power, which made Soccket, a soccer ball that can be used as a power generator. Jessica is based in Harlem, New York and, as her Twitter bio states, is a believer in all things authentic, disruptive, and empowering. Her list of accolades includes Fortune’s Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs, the Forbes 30 under 30 list, Black Enterprise’s Innovator of the Year, and Harvard Foundation’s Scientist of the Year.
As a Black woman at the helm of an award-winning infrastructure technology company, I am often in rooms where my mere presence, let alone my leadership style or vision, is jarring, to say the least. In these moments, it can be easy to harden and try to shield myself from the gaze of those who dare to underestimate me because of how I look, but this is in fact when I must strive to be as open and inviting as I possibly can. The goal: demystification. Triumph is sometimes just this: leading loudly and openly in your authentic truth, one room at a time.
Jessica Matthews, Founder of Uncharted Power
Portrait of Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, CEO and Founder of The Braintrust
Kendra Bracken-Ferguson is the founder and CEO of The Braintrust, which helps leading companies and influencers build their brands on social media and beyond. The Braintrust was formerly part of CAA-GBG, the largest brand management agency in the world, where Kendra was Chief Digital Officer. Prior to CAA-GBG and The Braintrust, Kendra saw an opening in the market for digital, social, and influencer marketing and co-founded Digital Brand Architects (DBA). DBA grew quickly from an idea at a kitchen table into the go-to firm for influencer management and was recently acquired by United Talent Agency (UTA).
I’ve lived both sides as an intrapreneur and entrepreneur and had success through the psychologically challenging times of both. In every situation, I turn my fear into faith. When you are humble, you can respond to and learn from criticism, whether it is deserved or not deserved, without becoming defensive. Likewise, you can be aware of your failures without being emotionally devastated.
Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, Founder and CEO of The Braintrust

Posted: May 1, 2019
Edition: Impatience


The ideas and views reflected in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Evoke or Melinda Gates.