The Power of a Strong Network

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In honor of Startup Grind’s Female Founder Month, Comcast NBCUniversal is featuring women innovators and founders throughout the month of May. We are proud to share these stories about women who are disrupting industries and changing the world.

Felecia Hatcher is a fearless entrepreneur, author and speaker dedicated to breaking down barriers in the tech and startup communities. A White House Champion of Change for STEM Access and Diversity, Hatcher first broke into the national startup scene as the founder of Feverish Ice Cream & Gourmet Pops.

After tripping in heels chasing an ice cream truck, she fell on top of an extraordinary idea: an ice cream and popsicle company that catered to adult tastes. She purchased an ice cream cart on Craigslist and set up shop outside popular nightclubs in her hometown of Miami. The business grew exponentially in a matter of months and she soon landed clients like Google, Whole Foods, Forever 21, adidas, Vitamin Water, and many more.

After selling Feverish, Hatcher set her sights on giving other minority entrepreneurs the tools and resources to launch their own businesses.

In 2012, Hatcher launched Code Fever, an organization dedicated to increasing the number of startups founded by people of color and within underserved communities. Code Fever offers coding and startup bootcamps, access to venture capitalists, and advanced education all aimed at creating more minority-founded, venture-backed, high-growth businesses.

“One of the biggest problems facing minority entrepreneurs is the lack of a strong personal network in the startup community,” Hatcher says. “A strong network can often be the difference between success and failure. It means having the support system to guide you in the right direction and give you good, honest advice about what you need to succeed.”

Hatcher also founded Blacktech Week, originally an annual week in Miami dedicated to bringing African-American and Caribbean entrepreneurs together for education and networking. Blacktech Week has expanded nationally and now curates events year-round. The organization just hosted its first VC-in-Residence program, where black entrepreneurs had unprecedented face-time with large-scale investors.

“The VC opens their portfolio and provides substantial and authentic advice. People who have tried cold calling or emailing, now have a chance to meet in-person with investors,” Hatcher says. “Even though the program was intended for people in Miami, we’ve had entrepreneurs fly in from all over the country just to get a chance.”

Hatcher sees tremendous upside to the growth of minority- and female-founded startups. Blacktech Week just received $1.2M from the Knight Foundation to increase the organization’s influence and the VC-in-residence program.

“We’re now seeing the model flipped to be more vertically-integrated,” Hatcher said. “As more black and women investors move into venture capital, there are more opportunities to create truly self-sustainable communities of entrepreneurship.”

Q&A with Felecia Hatcher, Executive Director Blacktech Week and Code Fever – Miami

1. Tell us about Blackteck Week.

In order to dramatically shift the way Black communities engage and create value within the innovation sector, we focus on drawing resources, training, networks, funding, and inclusive policies into the Black community to build an asset and talent filled space where innovation can thrive. Our key programs are our national conference Blacktech Week and Venture Capitalist in Residence program, that brings America’s leading VC’s into a city to better help minority startup founders gain access to networks and funding.

2. What or who inspired you to become a founder?

Both my parents inspired me, and I also wanted to help build an amazing city.

3. What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned about yourself through founding a company?

You never really know how strong you are until that’s literally all you have to rely on. Being a founder there have been many times where life and work have punched me in my gut and I didn’t know how I bounced back. But this journey helps you build a unique resiliency that allows you to overcome whatever is thrown at you.

4. Complete this sentence: As a female founder, starting a company has been…

…the hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever done.

5. What is the best advice you’ve received on your journey?

Do the things that scare you every single day because the world does not benefit from you hiding your badassery.

6. Complete this sentence: We should celebrate female founders because…

…we throw the best parties. Just kidding, we are the backbone of innovation, the real question is what will happen if we don’t celebrate ourselves.

7. How do you try to LIFT others? What should we be doing to LIFT others?

I lift others by creating platforms and opportunities to showcase and support the genius that exists in our communities when we increase deal flow and resource magnetism.