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Business is Blooming with Morgan Debaun

May 17, 2023

Business is Blooming with Morgan Debaun

For aspiring business owners, Morgan DeBaun is a true inspiration. In fact she’s a true inspiration personally for me and I’m grateful for this full circle moment. Years ago a publicist friend of mine said, “this girl Morgan is on fire you should see how you might be able to align with her!” Well a few years later, I got a call to do Morgan’s makeup for a summit she produced in Atlanta. How divine?! Fast forward to me now being in the position of having my own media company and magazine. I had Morgan on my wish list to feature and look at God! From a young age, Morgan’s dreams have flourished into the blooming success it is today. With hard work and dedication to overcoming roadblocks inspired by being a minority woman in business, Morgan has achieved what many women entrepreneurs only ever hope for: a thriving empire built from nothing but ambition. Read on as I interviewed Morgan for a closer look at the path this self-made mogul traveled on her way to becoming one of America's top millennial business leaders!

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GP: How was Blavity created?

 Morgan: I started Blavity almost 9 years ago. A little bit about me, I'm from St Louis, Missouri and I went to school in St Louis. Then I moved to Silicon Valley right after graduation.  I didn't know much about Silicon Valley, I knew just enough to be dangerous. What I learned was how to build products at scale for billions and billions of people. One of the core things that you take away when you’re building products for people at scale is you have to really understand your user.  You have to really understand your customer and  then you have to serve them unapologetically. Now seeing that and being in that space and in the environment, it was so clear to me that nobody was serving “us”. All of these big companies are supposed to be the best and the brightest people  in the world, yet black folks were never their target customers. Blavity, Inc is a corporation designed to put black folks and people of color as our core customers. As our core users; whether that’s for AfroTech, Travel Noire, or 21 Ninety. In the beginning, it was just Blavity, our cute website at the time. Just my friends working in my apartment. 

GP: What made you approach your male peers to help build Blavity?


 Morgan:  So, I founded Blavity and then I finessed them all to join along the way. Everyone started at their own pace, but I started it with my money and bootstrapped it. Then slowly, as we got bigger everyone was able to come on board full-time.I am a realist. I'm definitely a visionary on one side of my brain. But then I also said, based on my vision and how big it is, “what is the actual practical way to get there?” I know the statistics on raising money, and you don't even need to know the actual statistics to see there's not that many female founders that have made it to scale or raised that much money let alone black women. This was 8 years ago. It's very trendy now but it was not trendy back in the day. So I knew in order to be successful and to fulfill our vision of what we wanted to do, I would need to surround myself with people who shared my vision. I went and talked to my friends who were the smartest people that I knew. I tapped Aaron Samuels, who now has his own VC firm and he's doing incredible things investing in black and brown founders, but at the time management consulted. He’s the smartest guy I know. Then Jeff Nelson, my now COO, but at the time was an engineer in Silicon Valley. He’s one of the smartest engineers that I know. Then Jonathan Jackson was so outgoing, he was working at LinkedIn. He knew how to tell stories and build narratives. He was just the best brand voice for our company. So that was our group and it was just a great balance of all four of us.

GP: Why do you think there’s such a large gap with investments into black and brown founders?

Morgan: You know when I ask a lot of venture capitalists why I don't see enough black founders, they say that it's a pipeline problem. When I talk to the biggest banks that invest in black founders and finance our capital, they say I don't see enough black founders. Then when I go into rooms like AfroTech and I see thousands of black founders I say “what's going on?” So some of the things that I've learned over time and the work that I do with Work Smart with small business owners, and then through AfroTech with black founders, I see that our dreams are really big, but sometimes we don't articulate them in a scalable way.  So it looks like our companies aren't venture backable. Also sometimes we don't speak the language. We don't have the vocabulary. So we don't really get past some of the initial people. We think we're talking to VC’s but actually, you're talking to an angel investor who may or may not actually have money. You may be talking to what I call a “Ghost VC”; people who walk around with the VC in their Instagram handle on LinkedIn, but they haven't invested in the company in five years. They don't have actual funds that have money. Sometimes we get blocked along the way and then we think it's the industry. You're not making it to the “real money" because it is a very insular community. The community can be very insular and so it can be challenging for us to know how to navigate those spaces which can be so frustrating. I think in terms of how to fix the problem, we have to help each other get into the right rooms and know which rooms are not just the ones that look good or have the vanity metric. I see people who do these pitch competitions all the time. I'm like are you building your business are you just running around the country? What are you doing to actually build a business that's going to reach $100 million dollars in revenue or $50 million? If you don't have the plan to get to that, maybe it's not venture-backable. If you think that you can, then let's go build a real business.

To read the full story head over and grab a copy of our May/June issue!

Photographer: Allen Cooley

Creative Director/Makeup Artist:MiMi Johnson

Hair Stylist:Alicia Igess Jones

Wardrobe Stylist: Angela Mullen

Location: Nourish Botanica


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