William Blair was honored to host a dynamic group of Black women entrepreneurs, recent graduates of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago’s Breedlove business accelerator program, for a pitch demonstration of their companies to colleagues and guests.

The 12 entrepreneurs own companies ranging from financial services and real estate to haircare, makeup, and food enterprises. Through YWCA’s Breedlove Entrepreneurship Center, they learned finance, marketing, sales forecasting, strategy, and brand building, with an end-goal to sell, gain more funding, or grow through acquisition.

Breedlove, founded in 2021, is a YWCA initiative committed to ensuring that women of color business owners realize success and prosperity. It focuses on supporting Black women entrepreneurs running businesses with annual revenues of $100,000+ that are undercapitalized. While Black women are among the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S., they are the least likely to get funded.

William Blair was so impressed with YWCA’s strategy for Breedlove that the firm selected it as a global community partner in 2022.

“We were drawn to the YWCA’s Breedlove Entrepreneur Center for its empowerment of Black women entrepreneurs to achieve scale, increase access to capital, and create employment opportunities across communities,” Nancy Bonges, William Blair’s director of community engagement, told the gathering that met at William Blair’s headquarters in Chicago on May 24.

“Through this partnership we activated our wealth building initiative, the Capital Collective, and deployed our employees’ skills and talents to lead workshops, including how to pitch to investors,” Bonges added.

Nicole Robinson (left), YWCA chief executive officer; Nancy Bonges, director of community engagement for William Blair; and Dave Coolidge, vice chair of William Blair and the president of the William Blair Foundation, during the pitch demonstration.

The Breedlove Entrepreneurship Center receives its inspiration from early 20th century entrepreneur Sarah Breedlove. Professionally known as Madam C.J. Walker, she was America’s first self-made female millionaire, creating sales jobs and a pathway to the middle class for many Black women. Born to sharecropper and formerly enslaved parents, Breedlove rose to success building a hair care empire with products specific for Black women.

“Today we talk about social innovation and social entrepreneurship, but she was the original—she transformed what was possible,” said YWCA CEO Nicole Robinson, who spoke at the event. “The entrepreneurs here today share those values. This is what Breedlove is about, supporting you, helping you grow and develop.”

The Breedlove graduates pitching their companies were:

Diontra Common
Beat Hive
Amanda Christine Harth
Monday Coffee Company
Ruthie Milton
Ruthie Milton Interiors
Javon Nicholas
The Flavour Unit
Iris Patterson
Chicago Integrated Health
Adodo Robinson
Chéz Délali Salon and Day Spa
Délali Robinson Cosmetics
Mo’nique Smith
Smithson Bancorp
Myiti Sengstacke-Rice
Bronzeville Life
Pam Trice 
Tress Organix
Doranita Tyler
D. Tyler Agency
Stephanie West
Clean It Best
Tiffany Willis
City Property Consultants
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