Today we celebrate entrepreneurship as never before. After all, it drives the innovations we turn to every day, at work, at home, on our phones. It energizes industries and lifts economies. It’s the essence of the American Dream — and our underlying competitive advantage: Here in the land of opportunity, if you dream it, you can build it.
But entrepreneurship in the United States is also stubbornly exclusive. Consider: Fewer than 10 percent of venture-backed companies have a woman founder, and fewer than 1 percent have an African-American founder. And then there’s the prevailing myth that game-changing innovation only happens on the coasts.
This divide troubles Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, and her husband Steve Case, the venture capitalist who co-founded AOL and who knows a thing or two about entrepreneurship. As a society, Jean says, we’re counting on entrepreneurs to solve our thorniest problems, but "we’ve been doing it with one hand tied behind our back." Who better to combat complex social issues than entrepreneurs who have firsthand experience with them? And why leave half the team off the field? Why not harness the ingenuity and innovative spirit of all entrepreneurs?
Of course, we won’t harness the power of inclusive entrepreneurship without improving access to capital, to talent, and to mentors. We need role models. We need best practices. They’re definitely out there. Now’s the time to redefine our collective thinking about who is — and who can be — an entrepreneur. How? By shining a spotlight on entrepreneurs’ stories — stories like yours.
What twists and turns has your own journey taken? The #FacesofFounders campaign is eager to hear how you’ve overcome limited resources, conventional thinking, and any other challenge that tends to hinder diverse entrepreneurs.
We also want to hear out-and-out success stories as we celebrate what’s possible from entrepreneurs such as yourself. What were the keys to your success? What motivated you to persevere?
Submit your founder story here. Five entrepreneurs selected from the submissions will be profiled in sponsored stories on FastCompany.com and at FacesofFounders.org.
#FacesofFounders is powered by the Case Foundation, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs, and UBS.
This article was created and commissioned by Case Foundation, and the views expressed are their own.