Black Ambition: Pharrell Williams’ $1 Billion Blueprint for Black and Hispanic Entrepreneurs

About a month ago, at a private dinner in New York, Felecia Hatcher who is spearheading experiential marketing, product launch and social media campaigns for global-big tech companies, uttered words that reverberated with a profound sense of purpose, capturing the essence of Black Ambition, a nonprofit co-founded by music mogul turned entrepreneur Pharrell Williams. Hatcher, Black Ambition’s CEO, eloquently articulated the debt of dedication owed to those who came before, leaving even Williams, a seasoned collaborator with the likes of Jay Z, in awe of her powerful message.

Image of Felecia Hatcher, CEO of Black Ambition, Leo Creer, Co-Founder and CTO of Expert IEP, Grand Prize Winner Antoinette Banks, CEO and Founder of Expert IEP, and Pharrell Williams, Founder of Black Ambition (from left to right)

“Black Ambition is changing lives,” Hatcher asserts, reflecting on the organization’s recent third annual Demo Day held in New York on November 9. This event saw more than 30 companies awarded over $3 million, bringing the total amount distributed by Black Ambition since its establishment in 2020 to an impressive $10 million across 100-plus companies. Partnerships with entities like the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Chanel, Billionaire Boys Club, and the Rockefeller Foundation underscore the collaborative effort to address the critical issue of capital scarcity for Black and Hispanic startups.

Founded to combat the systemic lack of funding in minority communities, Black Ambition specifically targets entrepreneurs in high-growth sectors such as technology, healthcare, and consumer packaged goods. “But the lives that those entrepreneurs are going to change as a result of the investment — that’s what matters the most,” emphasizes Hatcher.

Felecia Hatcher, with a background in marketing and entrepreneurship, entered the fold of Black Ambition after co-creating Black Tech Week in Miami. Her commitment to the cause is palpable, and her journey intersects with a pivotal meeting with the late Virgil Abloh, a meeting also attended by Pharrell Williams. Their shared vision of financially supporting Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs and emphasizing mentorship became a cornerstone of Black Ambition’s mission. Abloh, who passed away in November 2021, left a lasting legacy by designing the organization’s logo.

Black Ambition prides itself on mentorship, claiming to have mentored over 750 entrepreneurs, including those from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Moreover, companies funded by Black Ambition have raised nearly $100 million in venture capital. Pharrell Williams sets an ambitious goal for 2030 — $1 billion in venture capital raised by Black Ambition-funded companies.

“We need real change,” Williams asserts, emphasizing the urgency. He draws a distinction between equality and equity, underscoring the potency of the latter. The wake of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020 prompted major corporations to pledge billions to address racial inequity. However, funding to Black-owned startups, after an initial surge, regressed to $2.3 billion in 2022 from a high of $5.1 billion in 2021, according to Crunchbase data. Williams, interpreting the fluctuation, remarks, “A lot of it felt like marketing.”

As Black Ambition propels forward, Pharrell Williams and his team are not merely aiming for financial figures; they are architecting a blueprint for entrepreneurial equity, grounded in mentorship, financial backing, and a commitment to creating lasting impact in the lives of Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs.