Kathryn Finney didn’t learn her grandmother’s real name until she turned 10 years old. Doonie Hale was an entrepreneur, a single mom, and the owner/operator of her own business as a seamstress in Milwaukee. Her story, her spirit, and her work inspire Kathryn Finney’s work today as the Founder of digitalundivided and The Doonie Fund.
“I was 10 years old when I learned that my grandmother’s real first name is Kathryn,” says Finney. “The lessons the original Kathryn taught me about being a Black woman entrepreneur, about creating beauty, is the reason why I’m here today.”
Through The Doonie Fund, Finney makes micro investments of $100 in other Black female entrepreneurs in her community. Since its inception on April 5th, 2020, the Fund has already made investments to more than 500 businesses owned or run by Black women.
“We acknowledge that $100 might look like a small amount of money for many people, especially if you are in a privileged socioeconomic position,” Finney notes in an interview with ROI New Jersey. “However, it’s a frictionless $100, and we give it quickly.”
The impact of this micro-funding helps businesses bounce back from COVID-19 pressure, whether that $100 goes toward payroll, social media ads, or something as small as a team lunch.
“We’ve seen entrepreneurs who were able to, with the Doonie Fund micro investment, pivot their businesses to adapt to these challenging times,” says Finney. “Some used it to gain new customers and increase revenue, and others simply needed it to buy groceries or pay for utility bills to sustain their livelihood, so that they can focus on pivoting their businesses during this time.”
“Instead of protracting the funding process, as is the unfortunate and often debilitating status quo for entrepreneurs, The Doonie Fund was quick in providing needed financial support,” says Yasmin Mattox of Arkatecht, a grantee of The Doonie Fund. “Arkatecht could better reach working families via social media, and help them navigate an uncertain time. As a result, The Doonie Fund has furthered our reach, so we can further our impact.”
Furthering reach and impact is what Kathryn Finney’s work is all about. As the Founder of digitalundivided (or DID), Finney focuses on data-driven research to support entrepreneurship in Black and Latinx communities.
DID uses data to create system change. Calling themselves “a catalyst for action,” the organization works to further inclusive innovation by supporting women entrepreneurs and professionals from historically under-represented communities.
In 2015, DID started a research initiative, called #ProjectDiane after civil rights activist Diane Nash. #ProjectDiane gathered data on Black women in tech entrepreneurship, and among its many findings, revealed that Black and Latinx female founders receive less than 0.2% of all venture funding. Results from #ProjectDiane, released in 2016 and 2018, have since informed campaigns from major industry giants. According to DID’s research, the number of startups led by Black women has tripled and funding for black women-owned ventures has increased by 500% since 2016.
Finney recently stepped down as CEO of digitalundivided, but her work with The Doonie Fund and in championing DID’s programs has not stopped.
It’s fascinating to see the impact of a grant, even one so small as $100, on giving women entrepreneurs the motivation boost they need to make it through the COVID-19 crisis. The success of the Doonie Fund begs the question: when broken up into these small, easily divested chunks, how many women entrepreneurs could we support with just a little more funding?
Along with the $100, Finney wants entrepreneurs supported by the Doonie Fund to hear a very encouraging message: “We want you to stay in business, and we believe in you,” she says. “We see you. We see the work that you’re doing, and we understand the challenges of building a company, especially right now. We’re giving you this as a symbol of support.”
About digitalundivided (DID): Founded in 2012 by tech pioneer, Kathryn Finney, Didtechnology, Inc (d.b.a digitalundivided), is a social startup with 501 (c) 3 status that merges data and heart to develop innovative programs and initiatives that catalyzes economic growth in Black and Latinx communities. To donate to DID and The Doonie Fund, click here.
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