“No” Is Just a Hurdle: Insights for Entrepreneurs of Color


As part of their #OfficeHour series, our friends at Camelback Ventures are asking: what do entrepreneurs of color need to succeed?

Camelback believes that while genius is equally distributed, opportunity is not. They are working to ensure that everyone has the chance to break into the social innovation space and apply their talents to some of the most important issues of our time. It is with this in mind that Camelback recently sat down with our own Cheryl Thompson and Heather Harding, directors on our National Education team, to dive into this topic.

Cheryl and Heather shared a bit about their own journeys and what they look for when they meet with founders and entrepreneurs of color. They emphasized that as tough as it is to break into the philanthropic world, a compelling vision and straightforward strategy will go a long way.

Here are a few highlights from their interviews. Catch the full #OfficeHour series on the Camelback Ventures Facebook Page and subscribe to the Camelback Ventures newsletter here.

What’s your best advice for women and entrepreneurs of color?

Heather says: 
“No” is just a hurdle. Persistence is important.

Cheryl says: Know your own worth and remain present.

Why is it important to fund women and founders of color?

​Heather says: We’re just limiting our ideas and our possibilities when we aren’t more inclusive.

What’s the difference between a good idea and a great idea?

Cheryl says: It’s a lot about the vision and the level of impact founders can have.

What’s the one thing you look for in a successful founder?

Heather says: I’m looking for passion and a great articulation of what it is they hope to do.

Cheryl says: When I look at a founder, I’m looking for clarity of their vision and clarity of their model.

As a philanthropic funder, how do you decide which founders to meet?

Heather says:
As a black woman in philanthropy, I actually try and meet with any person or leader of color who asks.


Cheryl Thompson is a Director of Education Grantmaking at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. She oversees Schusterman's Equity by Design work, which aims to increase the diversity of the educator workforce and establish more equitable policies and practices in schools.

Heather Harding is a Director of Education Grantmaking at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. She oversees Schusterman's Policy and Public Understanding work, which uses advocacy, research and strategic communications to strengthen policies that can help foster high-quality teaching, professional development and equitable school practices.

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