Raising Mental Health & Wellness Awareness for Black Founders in Venture Capital
By Morgan Williams
As a student-athlete and communications major, I had the privilege to work at Zane Access as a Scholar in Residence (SIR) intern for the summer of 2023. I am honored to share my closing article on prioritizing mental health for Black Founders raising capital. While Venture Capital exists to support business development and acceleration, it comes with its difficulties and obstacles. The nature of fast-paced businesses and their focus on innovation, growth, and acceleration are great opportunities for Black Founders but often result in overlooking the mental strain of raising capital.
Zane Access, the nonprofit arm of Zane Venture Fund, is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and focuses on helping founders navigate the world of raising capital with confidence. Zane Access is trailblazing the Southeast’s venture capital growth as trends show the Southeastern venture ecosystem is the best it’s ever been and will continue growing. Atlanta is currently the number one metro area for the lowest cost of doing business; 1.9 million forecasted jobs are projected to be created by 2040, and 1.5 million residents are expected by 2050. Invest Atlanta; a city-wide organization focused on supporting small businesses, partnered with Zane Access to work with the growing small business community.
With Atlanta being a growing city, there will be an increase in businesses and industries seeking capital. For Zane, venture capital is one way to invest in the city's most promising startups to scale businesses. Additionally, with the new generation learning about the intersection of artificial intelligence and venture capital, the industry is rapidly changing and growing everyday companies.
However, what comes with working in a fast-paced industry for the underrepresented founders at Zane Access is that mental health is an essential part of a business’s health and sustainability. During my time at Zane Access, I had the privilege to witness and further understand how venture capital firms work. Learning how resilient Black founders were and how they processed the good and bad of the often tumultuous journey of raising capital was even more impactful. So I became curious: What if venture capitalists and startup companies prioritized workplace and work culture wellness just as much as they prioritized capital? I realized that Black founders should be supported both financially and emotionally.
So I contacted mental health professional Zane Access Alum and Startup CEO/founder Naya Powell of Utopia Global Wellness, based in Raliegh, NC, to learn more about this topic. Naya informed me that 72% of entrepreneurs are dealing with mental health issues, and the Black community suffers from mental health challenges 20% more than the White community. Talking to her allowed me to understand better mental health and the emotions Black founders experience that affect them daily. She also shared the importance of removing the stigma that Black people can’t have mental health problems to grow a community. One of the questions I asked Naya was, “What are some ways to help improve your mental health?” She explained it perfectly, “Being a Black person means taking care of yourself first and processing the ups and downs of raising capital by talking to someone, journaling, and more.” Talking to her allowed me to understand mental health better while working at a company and the emotions founders experience as Black people.
It is essential to show up for yourself as it’s been proven that the work-life balance is not as it should be, and people overwork to make sure their business is thriving. Working is fine, but show an identity outside your business, celebrate your wins, and remember why you started your business. Specifically in venture capital, working with startup firms, you can face the constant uncertainty of whether their investments will yield positive returns. Raising capital can be challenging; you can feel a struggle or think of failure.
I learned that it’s critical to keep negative thoughts from overpowering my positive thoughts and to remember there is always an opportunity for growth. As a student-athlete, a strategic communication major, and a psychology minor, I know how and why people think the way they do in the business world. Working at Zane Access exposed me to Black entrepreneurship and how we can develop Black wealth and health at the same time.
My message to Black founders: to build a habit of putting yourself first and ensuring you take time out for yourself. As you work on your mental wellness, a few simple but effective ways to get started are to journal, speak to someone you trust to care for your emotions and well-being as you process life’s challenges, and reduce negative thoughts through meditation. Working at a business, mental health, and well-being should be prioritized. You must take some time to ensure you are getting what you need. Make sure you have a work-life balance.
While speaking with Naya, she talked about her business having classes for self-care and mental health offerings. Utopia offers meditation and mindfulness, mind-body, cultural movement, wellness coaching, cardio/strength training. She has community retreats every year and is also launching a new founder wellness, African Wellness Collective, this retreat will be perfect for black Venture Capital firm founders.
Here is the link to her website: https://www.utopiaspaandglobalwellness.com/