Navigating Race and
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Nine founders get candid about race, identity, personal struggles, and a global pandemic, revealing hard truths about what it really takes to succeed as a Black and Latino entrepreneur in America today.
Founding in Color, a three-part docuseries from Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs, shines the spotlight on startup founders Michael Maponga, Max Tuchman, Shanel Fields, Karlos Walkes, Trish Miller, India Hayes, Jasmine Jones, Renato Carregha, and Danielle Johnson, who get candid about navigating race, identity, familial complexities, and a global pandemic to survive as entrepreneurs.
Renato Carregha is the CEO and Founder of Tegger, a crypto-based digital solution that collects and cross-checks precise consumer information for digital advertising.
Before launching Tegger, Renato founded Mexico’s first open-ended cryptocurrency investment fund, Carregha Asset Management (now NAOS Blockchain), in May of 2016.
Renato recognized an unfair relationship in the world of browsing data where users and sites were getting nothing in return for the data they contributed to online advertising. This inspired him to create Tegger, which provides consumers value for sharing data while browsing online. Tegger is the only service that provides cross-browser, cross-device, and cross-site data without additional software downloads.
Born and raised in Mexico, Renato is a recognized industry leader, who has participated in national and regional panels, and a talk at National Congress. In 2020, he participated in the Comcast NBCUniversal The FARM Accelerator in Atlanta. When he isn’t overseeing the day-to-day operations of his thriving business, he spends time with his large family.
Shanel Fields is the Founder and CEO of MD Ally Technologies. The company enables an innovative EMS-provider collaboration that optimizes community-based medical services, establishes strong patient-provider relationships, and ensures patients great clinical and financial outcomes.
Each year, millions of 9-1-1 calls are made for non-emergency medical concerns like sore throats, toe pains, etc. These calls place an incredible amount of strain on emergency departments and drive billions in excess costs. MD Ally integrates telehealth into 9-1-1 dispatchers and first responders so they can provide non-emergency callers with access to telehealth and more appropriate levels of care.
As the child of a volunteer EMT, Shanel has always had a deep appreciation for first responders and launched MD Ally after learning that low-income communities have higher rates of “dead on arrivals,” because of longer ambulance wait times caused by a person’s need to use emergency care as a primary care resource.
Early in her career, Fields realized that health tech was a place that fed her desire to make an impact, thus she decided to combine the two influences when setting out on her MBA journey. This allowed her to tailor her business school experience completely around what would eventually become her startup, MD Ally. The company’s mission is to enable greater connectivity between 911 services and the broader healthcare ecosystem.
To date, the business has raised over $4.5 million in funding, which in turn helps MD Ally save: ambulance crews 1.12 hours in offload time per run, patients $2,070 in avoidable emergency care costs and a 5 1/2 hours in care wait times for patients.
Graduating Magna Cum Laude from Cornell University with a Bachelors of Arts & Sciences degree and Wharton Business School with a Master in Business Administration,
Born in New York, Shanel still resides in her hometown, and when she is not tending to her thriving business, Shanel enjoys playing tennis, surfing, skiing and chess.
India Hayes is the founder of the compassionate tech hub Mini City. This smart tech for the homeless unlocks legal forms of identification for the homeless and homeless care providers.
India comes from a family of community activists and advocates. Her parents advocated for the rights of women, farmworkers, immigrants and to close the disparities faced by the youth of color. Her father, Herold, a Haitian immigrant, mentored youth and worked in behavioral therapy and substance abuse recovery. Her mother and aunts, southern-born Black women, attended conferences worldwide like the World Women’s Conference (United Nations, China) and World Social Forum (Brazil).
India graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Early in her professional life, she worked for the CDC, Turner Sports, and CNN before finding a home at Atlanta Tech Village. She has also volunteered domestically and internationally for more than a decade.
India began her journey to community advocacy at a young age when she assisted the homeless of Atlanta through her work in women’s shelters. She provided employment and job placement assistance through Success Kits with founding member and friend Anita Jones. When they saw how closely their passions aligned as communicators and community advocates, they began to work on various homeless prevention projects together.
They created Mini City during a hack-a-thon, and the team has since grown into a successful startup that assists vulnerable groups on the path to sustainability. In 2020 it was part of the Comcast NBCUniversal The FARM Accelerator.
Mini City has supported more than 2,000 homeless citizens during the global pandemic and is active in 18 locations across Georgia. The company has raised over a quarter-million dollars and has retained 95% of its customer sites during this critical time.
Danielle Johnson is the founder and CEO of Spark FM, a digital radio platform that empowers and amplifies the underserved voices of the community. It is the first digital station, to be owned by a black woman, in the history of radio in Boston, MA.
Spark FM Online was created to empower underserved voices of the community. Based in Boston, but with a global listenership, the station provides a local and professional platform where DJ’s, personalities, and artists have the unique opportunity to create their own messaging, mixes, and music, while engaging listeners on every level. Spark FM offers affordable radio advertisements and promotions to businesses, brands, and corporations alike.
Widely known by her on-air handle “Ms HotSauce” Johnson has been featured in local and national publications, news outlets and is a highly requested workshop presenter and keynote speaker. Some of her most notable appearances to date have been in Black Enterprise, We Buy Black, Boston Magazine and Business Journal amongst many others. Her consistent message is highlighting the success of her station as a result of strategic collaborations with local creatives to rejuvenate the local radio scene.
While sharing the artistry of both local and mainstream artists is the heart of Spark FM, one of its primary goals is to intentionally invest in the community through partnerships, community service, and providing access to important information and resources.
Since its inception, Spark FM has grown exponentially in both staff and listenership. While leading her 40 person team of engineers, on air personalities, DJ’s, staff and interns, Danielle manages to also be a mom to CK, her favorite notorious 9 year old, as well as the curator and host of her own weekly podcast entitled “Henny & Hotwings” where she and her co-hosts invite guests to have lively, candid discussions about sex, love and relationships.
Prior to founding Spark FM, Danielle used her twelve plus years of experience and skill in radio to empower and train 200 teen girls annually in her full time role as the Program and Broadcast Manager at GRLZ Radio, a Dorchester program that provided a platform through creatively curated, web based radio broadcasts! Danielle currently sits on the Board of Advisors for E for All Roxbury, a national nonprofit whose mission is to accelerate economic and social impact in the communities it serves through inclusive entrepreneurship. She is also on the Boston chapter leadership team for AllRaise, a community based program that amplifies female voices, accelerates their success and creates a culture where women are leading, shaping and funding the future.
When she is not running the business, Danielle enjoys being the personal comedian to her group of amazing friends, a perfectly cooked medium well rib eye steak, and consistently well-mixed adult beverages. Born in Boston, Danielle still resides in her hometown.
Jasmine Jones is the founder and CEO of Cherry Blossom Intimates. The company offers breast cancer survivors across the nation fully insurance-billable breast prosthetics custom created with 3-D printing technology so that all women can wear the perfect fit.
Inspired by her grandmother’s battle with breast cancer, Jasmine created the company to address the challenge of finding well-fitting post-mastectomy breast prosthetics that match a full range of skin tones.
Cherry Blossom Intimates is the first direct-to-consumer breast care company that accepts health insurance. Located in a 2000-square-foot luxury boutique in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the retailer is poised to scale across the nation. Recently, the company was featured on Good Morning America and received overwhelming responses from survivors around the country asking for products and services. As a result, Jasmine is now accelerating her plans to launch a virtual fitting option through Jasmine is a Fashion Institute of Technology award-winning lingerie designer and Tory Burch fellow. The former Miss District of Columbia USA was named a Forbes Under 30 List Maker in the Retail and E-Commerce category. In 2020, Cherry Blossom Intimates closed a $1.25 million seed funding round, making it one of the few Black woman-owned startups in the world to secure over $1 million in venture funding.
Receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in Entrepreneurship from Trinity Washington University in Washington D.C., Jasmine speaks fluent French, enjoys traveling, hosting family and friends in her home, and advocating for breast cancer survivors on Capitol Hill, when she is not working. Born in Washington, DC, Jasmine still resides in her hometown with her puppy, Knight.
Michael Maponga is the founder and CEO of AfroLandTV, an online streaming service featuring the world’s largest collection of Pan-African films and TV shows for free.
He was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, and moved to the United States with his mother and siblings at ten years old. Michael spent the remainder of his childhood in Dallas, Texas. It is here Michael fell in love with television and film and embarked on an acting career.
Before devoting himself full-time to AfroLandTV, Michael was a working actor with numerous movie and television roles to his credit. In 2016, he landed his first significant role in an international feature film called “Finding Mother.” The franchise film grossed millions at the box office and allowed Michael to travel the world. In 2018, Michael played his first leading role in an African movie filmed in Norway and Ghana. This experience, and so many after, showed Michael a lack of quality African stories distributed globally and in the mainstream. He noticed the stories he did see highlighted one-dimensional African characters, unlike the vibrant and culturally-rich African stories he watched as a child in Zimbabwe.
This disparity became the impetus for Michael to create AfroLandTV.
Inspired by founders like Elon Musk, Michael’s vision for AfrolandTV is to become the world’s largest media distribution and production company for African movies and shows. With this kind of reach, AfroLandTV will cast a broader net to share its rich and diverse stories, authentically told by Africans, globally. In 2020, AfrolandTV participated in the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars. Through connections made during that program, it secured a partnership with Xfinity’s Xumo streaming platform to bring its feature films to its 24 million monthly active users.
In addition to being the founder and CEO of his own company, Michael continues to act regularly. He is best known for his roles in ‘Lagos to Oslo,’ ‘Finding Mother,’ Finding Mother 2,’ and ‘Run.’ Michael continues to reside in Dallas with his wife, Brittin, who runs the company with him.
Trish Miller is the founder and CEO of SwemKids and the William Pleshette Company (also known as the Ane Swim brand).
The mission of SwemKids is to ensure that Black children and their families have a healthy and safe relationship with the water. The William Pleshette Company is a product design company that develops inclusive swimming apparel and equipment to eliminate obstacles that keep people from enjoying the water.
With 20 years of experience as a corporate and public health professional, Trish is passionate about children’s well-being and works to create equitable opportunities for their development. Her own near-drowning experience as a teenager fueled her passion for overcoming cultural norms and ensuring that she and other members of her community learned how to swim. She launched SwemKids, a culturally relevant water safety program, to equip Black children to exist and interact in and around water. The company wants to eliminate the barriers that keep people from enjoying the water recreationally and saving themselves and others from drowning.
Originally from Chesapeake, VA, Trish received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from The University of Virginia, a Master of Business Administration from the College of William and Mary, and a Master of Public Health from Emory University. Trish has been recognized by the state of Georgia for her work in reducing drowning rates in Atlanta-area communities and, in 2020, participated in the Comcast NBCUniversal SportsTech Accelerator.
Trish enjoys spending quality time with her fourteen-year-old daughter, Ava, and twelve-year-old son, Evan, in their home in Atlanta, Georgia.
Maxeme (Max) Tuchman is the CEO and Co-Founder of Caribu. This interactive video-calling platform helps kids have virtual play dates with family and friends when they can’t physically be together.
Max has long been passionate about education and equity. Early in her career, Max taught 480 high school students in Miami’s underserved communities as part of her time with Teach For America. This nonprofit organization enlists, develops, and mobilizes our nation’s most promising future leaders to strengthen the movement for educational equity. Max later became the executive director of Teach For America in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Her experience led to working on educational innovation projects with organizations such as the Harlem Children’s Zone, Washington D.C. Public Schools, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Before co-founding Caribu, President Obama appointed Max to serve as a senior policy advisor and White House Fellow at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Max is a graduate of the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs, the Miami Fellows Leadership Program, and Babson WIN Lab for Female Founders. She received her B.A. from New College of Florida and holds an MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. Born and raised in Miami, Max still resides in her hometown with her parents and younger sister.
Karlos Walkes is the CEO of XiQ, a non-automotive vehicle and machine security and informatics technology company. Their patented smart device, known as the “FleetQi™” is a digital key that replaces the conventional key ignition while enabling connectivity, asset data, and user engagement.
Before devoting himself full-time to XiQ, Karlos was an actor for twenty years with roles in the films: Big Fish, Dear Willie and Tyler Perry’s Meet The Browns. His most memorable role to date was his parody of former President Barack Obama on The Jimmy Kimmel Show. Walkes portrayal of POTUS was so uncanny that he was asked to appear on Kimmel’s show several times. This led him to eventually do more on-air work, as well as voice-over work for National Geographic, E! Entertainment, PBS, FOX Network, and Columbia Pictures. In addition to acting, Walkes has also held various roles in media and the nonprofit sector. Early in his career, this Emmy-nominee showcased his talents behind the lens and in front of it, as an associate producer and sports reporter for “Campus Live!”
Karlos was inspired to become a founder by those who persevered and thrived despite personal and societal challenges. XiQ’s company goal is to empower customers with tools to engage their assets. The essence of this engagement is the human experience. Driven to enable the evolution of human inclusion with innovation, XiQ embraces giving people control over their ‘things’ to enhance work, play, and life. Not the other way around.
When Walkes isn’t busy running his company, he enjoys his time at home with his wife and son. Born in New York and raised in the south, Karlos now resides in Avondale Estates, Georgia.