Empowering Entrepreneurs from Underrepresented Backgrounds
Capital One is teaming up with the D.C.-based nonprofit Halcyon to help founders from Opportunity Zones scale their businesses
Americans that hoped to send a special gift to an incarcerated friend or relative over the holidays didn’t get to choose between dropping off a home-cooked meal or mailing a hand-knitted sweater.
Many corrections agencies bar family members from sending gifts that are not bought from private vendors to prevent drugs and weapons from entering jails and prisons.
Yasmine Arrington, a Washington D.C.-based entrepreneur whose father has been in and out of incarceration throughout her life, recognized that families and friends of incarcerated people are left without the option to share handmade gifts while companies that offer care packages stand to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual net sales.
Determined to fill that gap, Arrington joined the Opportunity Intensive incubator program at Halcyon to develop IncarciCare — a for-profit startup that seeks to enable friends and family of incarcerated citizens to purchase and send personalized care packages to incarcerated loved ones, returning citizens and people on home confinement.
“IncarciCare is my way of supporting this community based on my personal experience and my father’s personal experience,” Arrington said. “I created IncarciCare to provide affordable care packages that are made and filled with love to uplift and support this community.”
As one of 10 Washington, D.C.-based entrepreneurs selected to participate in the 2020 cohort of Halcyon’s Opportunity Intensive Fellowship program, Arrington joined other local founders that either serve or are based in designated Opportunity Zones, which is part of a federal program that provides tax incentives for investments in new businesses and commercial projects in low-income communities.
During the 12-month Opportunity Intensive program that concluded in December 2020, fellows participated in skill building workshops, monthly learning sessions and two week-long residencies at Halcyon’s facilities in Georgetown. That cohort virtually came together each month to work through case studies, explore how to acquire customers, pitch their business, seek investments and create projections.
Each fellow was provided with a personal leadership coach and legal assistance in addition to receiving expert advice from companies including Capital One.
Capital One associates volunteered to help mentor Opportunity Intensive Fellows through hosting marketing and branding workshops, financial modeling coaching and guest lectures.
Bridging the Equity Gap in Entrepreneurship
Capital One and Halcyon have teamed up to combat inequity in the startup space since 2014 when the Halcyon House in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. was established as the nonprofit’s headquarters.
“This program wouldn’t exist without Capital One’s early support,” says Ryan Ross, Chief Innovation Officer at Halcyon. “We’ve been thrilled that they share our passion for expanding impact in our own backyard for founders who are incredibly talented but fundamentally underrepresented and under-resourced. We’re looking forward to continuing this relationship so that even more talented founders in the D.C.-area can grow their businesses and have a meaningful impact.”
Recognizing that women-funded startups receive 3 percent of venture capital funding while Black-founded startups receive 1 percent of that funding, many of Halcyon’s incubator programs focus on empowering these entrepreneurs.
Nearly 60% of all ventures that Halcyon has supported were founded by women. That number jumps to nearly 70% for entrepreneurs supported that are people of color.
Capital One’s support comes as part of its initial $200 million, multi-year commitment to advance socioeconomic mobility through the Capital One Impact Initiative.
Launched in October 2020, the Capital One Impact Initiative seeks to create a world where everyone has an equal opportunity to prosper through advocating for an inclusive society, building thriving communities and creating financial tools that enrich lives.
Amelia Desorrento, a Capital One associate who leads People Strategy for Product, Platforms and Data within Capital One's Retail and Direct Bank, has seen the impact Halcyon has on the entrepreneurs it supports firsthand. Desorrento was a Halcyon fellow before joining Capital One and teamed up with fellow associate Rebecca Blenderman to lead a virtual branding workshop for the Opportunity Intensive fellows in October.
“As we think about our mission to change banking for good, leaning in to support entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds has the potential to fundamentally change the way people access goods and services across the world,” Desorrento said. “Through mentorship and funding from Capital One, we are accelerating the growth of these businesses and the impact they can have on communities.”
The 2020 Opportunity Intensive program came to a close last month for Arrington and her cohort, culminating in a virtual showcase that gave each fellow a platform to pitch their businesses and demonstrate how their startups developed throughout the program.
“I can’t put it into words how phenomenal of an experience it was to be a part of the Opportunity Intensive and see how Halcyon is uplifting social entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds to create real change,” Arrington said.