For every million-dollar idea, there’s a business owner without the necessary funds to bring it to fruition. For Black and Brown entrepreneurs, funding can be the difference between launching a business and letting an amazing idea sit in the drafts.
Looking to address the wealth gap — which finds white families with a typical net worth 10 times greater than their Black counterparts — Mountain Dew launched the Real Change Opportunity Fund Pitch Competition to combat a situation described as "the result of years of system racism.”
Open to Black and Brown entrepreneurs and recent graduates from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), aspiring business owners were encouraged to pitch and share their ideas with a seasoned panel of fellow founders and entrepreneurs, including personalities like LaLa Anthony, Breakfast Club alum DJ Envy and Blavity CEO and founder Morgan DeBaun.
Going a step further, Mountain Dew provided an additional financial incentive to the winner’s HBCU to provide invaluable financial aid to an entirely new generation of aspiring entrepreneurs.
With more than a million dollars in prizes and resources up for grabs, following a flood of fresh ideas and pitches, three finalists were ultimately selected, including third place winner Pocket Advisor ― dedicated to making financial literacy more easily accessible to Black Americans ― and second place winner Gaba.
Finally, after months of hard work and laying it all on the line, rising startup Eventnoire was crowned the inaugural winner of the Real Change Opportunity Fund Pitch Competition. The brainchild of two Howard University and University of Illinois graduates, the innovative ticketing platform prides itself on being a haven “[w]here Black culture and events intersect.”
Now a leading ticketing solution for events across the country, Eventnoire has quickly risen as a way to elevate and promote events exclusively created for the Black community, while making it easier to find new events in the process. To address unrealistically high processing feeds, the brand has set itself apart by providing an option that allows partners to decrease ticket fees upon request.
It’s a business model that DJ Envy applauded: “It was everything. No matter what it comes to, you buy tickets for something. The fact that they have their own platform, but they give back to their own company — why wouldn’t I want to use it?”
Citing the brand’s resilience, DeBaun also credited the duo’s efforts to empower Black creatives as a whole. “Not only are you putting money back into the community, but you’re putting more money into Black creatives’ hands.”
Meet the 2021 Mountain Dew Real Change Opportunity Fund pitch competition winners:
Eventnoire was founded by Jeffrey Osuji, Femi Mashal, Hameed Bello, Karron Hurks and Josh Mercer.
How did everyone meet, and what led to collaborating together?
Eventnoire: The team met through hosting events in Chicago together. Josh and Karron started hosting together in the mid-2000s, while Jeff, Femi and Hameed actually attended college together, which led them to meet Josh and Karron. We realized that as event organizers we made nightclubs and liquor brands millions of dollars, but we didn’t own any piece of the value chain. Since we served a primarily African American audience, it was our duty to find a way to make sure we hired staff from our community, and did our best to recycle dollars back to the people that kept our events thriving.
We also felt we needed a Black-owned ticketing platform because the general platforms were over saturated. Most platforms don’t take into account the fact that we generally look for specific experiences that embrace Black people and culture. Moreover, we realized that both event and community organizations can benefit from additional revenue gained from ticket fees.
With the influence Black people have on art, music, culture and entertainment, Eventnoire is giving us a voice and position in the $67 billion global event ticketing industry.
What do you wish you’d known before launching your startup?
Eventnoire: We wish we’d understood how expensive building and managing technology is. We have bootstrapped from the beginning and had to scrap our initial MVP after spending quite a lot of money on it. We also wish we’d focused on one market at a time. When we launched we initially worked with partners all over the country and even in Nigeria; however our future approach involves focusing on hyper growth in key markets.
What do you hope to accomplish with the brand, and what’s next for Eventnoire?
Eventnoire: We aspire to become a global platform, not only to highlight Black culture and experiences but to provide economic solutions and engaging content within the event industry for the Black community. As we continue to build our community of event curators across the country, our priority is to help keep dollars circulating by investing back into our event organizers and Black organizations. We know the Black dollar stays in our community for six hours compared to 28 days in some communities, and we believe our platform can fuel growth and provide much-needed value to the event industry and community organizations alike.
As HBCU graduates, what are your thoughts on their legacy, and what advice would you give other entrepreneurs?
Eventnoire: When we think of HBCUs, we think of history, legacy and tradition. As HBCU graduates, we are well aware that we stand on the shoulders of giants and the responsibility that we have to pave the way for the next generation of leaders.
As for aspiring entrepreneurs, always be willing to invest in yourself. If you won't invest your own money into your business, you can't expect others to. We didn’t want to speak to anyone about Eventnoire until we paid to build it out ourselves and tested it for months on our own events. We’ve also met with numerous investors who didn’t understand the need for a platform like Eventnoire because they didn’t understand our culture, and that’s okay. It’s about pitching to investors who have an interest in the work you’re doing and have a track record of investing in founders like you.
Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so keep going! Our culture and your vision is enough. Our dollars are enough. Your vision is meant for you to manifest and bring to reality. Big ideas will not always be supported at first, but that’s the beauty of having big goals. The challenge every founder has is to get others to buy into your vision. Lastly, practice your pitch!
Want to learn more about how Eventnoire is changing the game? Stay connected and get to know what these enterprising founders have up their sleeves here.
This editorial is brought to you in partnership with Mountain Dew.