The explosion of artisan beers and liquors left Tiffany Hall unsatisfied. She wanted more choices tailored to the tastes of women, leading her to launch Empower Cocktails.
“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” she told Benzinga. “It was just a matter of finding the right product to launch. The alcohol industry seemed to be one of those that’s always open to something new and different.”
Hall considers herself a beneficiary of consumer preferences. “People want to support women-owned business but also solo-owned businesses,” she said.
And some, as Hall found, are eager to empower women of color.
“If anything, I’ve found that there’s probably more celebration for this. At the very least, that celebration has crowded out the noise of whatever negativity is out there.”
Funding A Challenge For Female CEOs Of Color
Recent studies found that women of color like Hall lead 50% of women-owned businesses in the U.S. and open an average of 1,625 businesses per day.
That pace has recently accelerated, but building a competitive brand was challenging for Hall.
“This is a multibillion-dollar industry filled with $1-billion-plus companies, brands that have $100-million-plus marketing budgets,” she said. “If I was to tell you it was easy to break in as a small business, I would be exaggerating.”
It’s hard to compete without capital, and it’s hard to obtain capital as a black female entrepreneur. According to Forbes, women of color CEOs secure less than 1% of all venture capital funding. Other estimates bring that number closer to 0.001%.
'Being A Little Pessimistic Was Positive For Me'
Hope-Noelle Davenport experienced the fundraising hurdle when she founded Haute Trader, an online platform that allows women to swap high-end apparel and accessories.
“The average startup raises $5 million [and] the average startup by black women is $30,000,” Davenport said.
“It really makes for a difficult experience. The thing is getting past that stigma and finding the grit, the hustle and recognizing that traditional venture may not be available for you sometimes.”
It’s a tough realization, but one that Davenport said served her well.
“Being a little pessimistic was positive for me,” she said. “Instead of thinking this whole thing is relying on me making capital, I knew that wasn’t what my focus is totally on … funding wasn’t going to be the most available option for me.”
Without the standard cache of capital — both human and financial — she had to be resourceful.
Davenport taught herself coding and other tech skills to keep the operation low-budget and self-fundable, and once she proved the service’s potential, she built a network to raise capital.
Empower Cocktails' Hall transferred a small network from previous work at a global wine and spirit company. That, along with know-how from careers in marketing and corporate law, were critical to Empower Cocktails’ development, she said.
“If I didn’t have that background, it would have been more of a struggle or one of those things you learn the hard way,” Hall said of navigating the regulatory environment.
She’s still learning tricks of the trade, but that’s just the nature of business.
As Davenport said, success for minority entrepreneurs depends on a “willingness to go past what your current ability set is. If you don’t know it, hustle to find someone that does, or learn it.”
Empower Cocktails founder Tiffany Hall. Courtesy photo.