This story originally ran on CNBC.com
Melissa Bradley’s mission to help women and people of color build their businesses stems from the hardships she faced as a young entrepreneur.
The 52-year-old, co-founder of the mentorship tech platform Ureeka and a Georgetown University professor, started her first company shortly after she graduated from college 30 years ago. The business’s mission was to provide financial literacy services to parents.
Bradley says that when she went to a government agency for a loan, she was told she had three strikes against her: She was Black, she was a woman and the person said she didn’t know any successful Black women in finance.
Bradley, who recently participated in the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and CNBC + Acorns Invest in You’s “Rebuilding Better: A Virtual Town Hall for America’s Small & New Business Owners,” still managed to get her company off the ground. “I bootstrapped,” she recalled. “I kept my day job.”
She ultimately pivoted the business to provide billing and maintaining products and services for other financial advisors and, after a couple of years, sold the company.
“I was tired of the sexism and racism I was experiencing,” she said.
These days, Bradley is trying to bridge the gap between entrepreneurship and equity.
“All of these experiences made me realize that this is even harder for women and people of color because the market is not in our favor,” she said.
“It became super-important for me, even after I became an angel investor, to help people pave their way forward and really tackle the obstacles that are going to come their way.”
To that end, she co-founded 1863 Ventures, which accelerates what she calls “new majority” entrepreneurs — women and people of color — from high growth potential to high growth. These days her