Above is a snapshot of my last 3D build.
I have been working to build an independent content studio since March 2017.
What is a content studio?
What it means is different from company to company and executed differently from brand to brand. Red Bull was the first company to do it, but many large and medium brands have followed suit, including Pepsi, Sprint, Unilever, Marriott and many more.
In-house content studios in corporate settings typically are business units or subsidiaries that develop, produce, and distribute branded content of all types for the brand or brands itself. It has increasingly meant hiring in-house talent, creative in-house development, with production in or out of house, and many differing possible workflows.
Many large brands have invested in in-house teams to lead story driven creative and content for every vertical they publish to.
What is ‘my’ content studio about?
Content is King, but the Story is Queen.
I am building a modern publishing house that creates content and builds profitable scalable platforms that are on brand, contributing to a new system of work for BIPOC/BAME content creators.
My team and I strive to create best in class, high fidelity, content rich platforms that passionately engage our audiences. We tell stories, ancient and new, across the omnichannel.
Who am I?
I am a writer, journalist, web developer and content developer. I am a digital native/nomad (I follow the good Internet). I’ve been a professional nerd for 23 25 27 years and a professional big mouth for thirty plus years. I write for print, build websites, make content, run communities, design and develop for the metaverse and I am the mother of a sixteen year old boy named Dayo (Dah-yo), who I have been raising alone. I’ve done far too many diverse things professionally to fit into this box, but to read more about me, you can visit here or here .
The Size of The Problem
I’ve been trying to build this company with huge chunks of my own money, and was very close to getting the last few crucial pieces of equipment to get going on my own, when in March of 2020, my ‘business partner’ (a very mediocre white man) essentially ‘appropriated’ what amounted to approximately $8KUSD of my money.
Shortly after this, he blew up, one by one methodically, almost every contract that we had. Just like that my income became unstable and coupled with the extremities of the ballooning, then sustained pandemic and its aftermath, I have been personally and professionally hobbled by the losses. The final straw was when he ignored a serious health problem I was having that shut me down, and insisted on making manipulative attempts to get me to ‘save his agency’.
“If there’s no me, there’s no you!”
Me: IKYFL 🙁
My mental health (or rather my fucking patience) could take no more and I walked away from the ‘partnership’ in February of 2021. But while I have had some work here and there, I have been unable to regain my equilibrium for more than two years.
If I was not a Black woman, a single mother, or in the Caribbean there is a chance I could have recovered from this.
However, the financial devastation of this coloniser’s appropriation of my money, his utter disregard for my humanity and my needs, his unwillingness to fairly compensate me for my work a timely manner, has made the last two and half years almost unbearable.
Dayo and I have again been experiencing food insecurity, the horrors of rent arrears and an unfriendly, unaccommodating, thoroughly unpleasant landlord, and despite small influxes of cash, we have joined the millions of those worst hit by the pandemic: Black women and their children.
All progress I had made since 2017 has been fundamentally eroded, degraded and simply inadequate.
I found myself unable to justify what I have been doing since I left London, pregnant with Dayo in 2006. I found that despite all the back breaking work, my specialisations, and my natural abilities, that for me at least, the ability to continue working professionally in the way I had was just not possible any more. For the last year, I just threw myself into working on the studio and fundraising for it.
I May As Well Be Fundraising From Venus
I have done personal crowdfunding in the past, but I said to myself if I was going to crowdfund for the studio, I wanted to be able to produce a nice campaign like they do on Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Especially since I am asking for more than a computer this time.
Except for the catch-22 of a four and a half year old computer that can’t run Zoom, no working phone and being unable to run software to let me cut and edit video, or even storage to record it, or monetise anything I am working on adequately. At the time it was just so embarrassing to me.
My ADHD comes with crippling Imposter Syndrome that takes nothing short of screwing up all my courage, and running a full mental decathlon to overcome. So I didn’t want to crowdfund this, not at first.
I spent month after month combing for venture capital and grants available to Caribbean women for startups. Any business funding really. I don’t meet any loan criteria for a bank, even if they funded businesses like mine, which they don’t.
I have no assets because my life has been hand-to-mouth for so long. I don’t qualify for most Caribbean available grants because my business is a US registered LLC. Most grants for the Caribbean go to the government and NGOs involved in a specific thesis. I don’t qualify for grants in the US, because I’m not a US citizen.
I qualified for no pandemic relief from any government on earth that I am aware of, so Dayo and I largely starved through the last half of the pandemic and did without.
A few months ago, like a miracle, someone invited me to a meeting with some venture capitalists. Local ones!
My team and I were so excited.
I refined a great business plan, ran numbers, put together a pitch deck and pursued it. I got myself all the way in front of the fund manager.
My shitty computer died on me twice during the presentation. Despite that, they said they were interested… Then I never heard from them for two months.
When I pressed them last week, the response was, “Not now, maybe later”.
The venture capital landscape is brutal. Globally, it is also currently in an extreme contraction being dubbed a “funding winter”. Black and minority founders get less than 1.87% of all available capital. That’s a mere $582m out of $31.8b across more than 200 funds. That amount has to be shared among white women, BIPOC men and women, and the LGBTQ+ community.
Black women get 0.0037% to be precise.
“While DEI investments have garnered broader attention from the industry, the amount actually invested into DEI strategies does not add up,” said Sarah Millar, Chief Operating Officer at Diversity VC. “The Equity Record surfaces the continuing inequities of capital allocation to underrepresented minorities and women, from the perspective of general partners raising capital and founders seeking aligned investors. It’s clear the money is out there – our data dives deeper into the disconnect.”
And that 1.87% is only available if you’re born in the global north or Africa. The Caribbean gets nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
In the Caribbean, funding is almost entirely controlled by a very small group of men in the region, and that’s it. Despite all the talk at local levels about service exports, innovation and helping small companies to develop and scale, I guarantee it is nearly uniformly lip service. They give us just enough to eke out an existence and not a fucking cent more. The SME Loop is a real granite ceiling where I was born.
The global climate, with both inflation high and a recession looming, not to mention the implosion of crypto and other financial markets, has made any available money shrink, and made the barriers to access to it even higher for someone like me.
When it comes to creating a MVP or being able to create traction for our most promising project, it’s a gap that’s hard to breech. The few spots where I might find an opening, I was already out of the game. “Traction from where?”, I have asked myself. Prototype with what money? On what computer fam? How can I pay server fees, when I am fighting for my life?
So, while ‘not now’ doesn’t mean ‘no’, it definitely was the closest I was going to get to that kind of investment this year.
I know things are hard out there in VC-land right now. But the reality is the Caribbean is to date the absolute hinterlands of venture capital, with money set aside for SMEs through the government and almost no one else. If it’s hard to raise capital in the US and the UK if you’re a Black woman, it’s 1000% harder when you’re a Black woman from the Caribbean with no rich family to reach out to and back you. If you’re a tech or operating in niche spaces, it’s even harder than that.
I thought it was benign neglect, but I realised as I got older it is instead designed to keep Black Caribbean matriarchy under control. For the same reasons white Xtian pastors and their permed, Negropean affiliates, don’t sell that ‘submit to your husband’ gospel in the Caribbean, it’s the same reason they don’t fund our companies at the same levels or the same amounts. To keep our economic power non-disruptive to the standing oligarchs. I have largely stewed in frustration with every roadblock I have encountered.
I have deeply researched every other avenue for business funding and almost nothing exists I can currently access. I’m pre-seed, pre-revenue and reeling from financial injustice. In doing this deep research, I realised no clearer message could be sent: These men and their representatives do not believe in Caribbean women or in our businesses.
Even if my business was laminated in gold and kissed by blonde, blue eyed cherubim, I don’t think I have either the energy or the will to pitbull my way into the VC environment to beg them to let me make them money. That just feels like signing up for more of the same exploitation… and allyuh, I can’t. I just can’t do it right now. Maybe never.
About Being the Only Full Time Team Member
I am the only one full time and it has come at an extremely high cost. Although the team has been supporting me with whatever funds they can, it cannot cover more than a few of our meals each week.
I mostly have been not eating and letting Dayo eat the lion’s share of everything (again and always), because he has to go to school. It has meant grinding hunger (the kind that keeps you awake at night on the verge of hopelessness) as well as other deprivations.
Dayo and I are as close as we ever were, if not closer, but we are both traumatised by hunger and lack of resources.
I need my community’s support while I create and build this company. Not just to buy groceries or to pay a bill here or there. I need help to escape the cycle I am in. I need help to help others escape this cycle.
This is why, rather than just say I need a new computer or I’m going to die, which might be true, what I want to say is this: I need to build this organisation for my community or I’m going to fucking die.
Better. More true.
I’ve tried to approach this post and this campaign in a way that is based on my business plan and not just on emotion or feeling. I’m never going to be a ‘perfect’ investment. I am just the right one to make and the right person to support.
Despite my efforts to secure alternate contract work, nothing substantial has materialised and it has created such extended cash flow problems that I am exhausted trying to stop the water rushing out of the dyke. I am almost completely out of blood to bleed out.
My Imposter Syndrome may be screaming, but I don’t doubt my ability to do this or the depth of my need. I have endured for a long time, hoping for relief that should have been just around the corner, but which simply hasn’t arrived.
Like most Black women, I think in terms of community, vote and spend along those lines. I have only ever envisioned my work in ways that benefit the collective, and this is no different.
I’ve been building and creating platforms for my communities without funding, and out of my own pocket for twenty-eight years. I haven’t succeeded doing it alone, but maybe together it is possible. It’s an experiment worth running, don’t you think so?
USE OF FUNDS:
- Equipment (Computers and other equipment for content creation)
- Operations (Servers, marketing)
- Research & Development (Preparing products for launch)
- Food, rent, lights etc.