Last year, 1,821 new women-owned businesses were launched every day. Women of Color founded 64 percent of those new businesses. And yet, while white women-founded companies got only 2.2 percent of VC funding last year, companies founded by Women of Color received a mere 0.0006 percent of overall VC funding. Future For Usis aimed at closing the pay and opportunity gap for Women of Color through events, consulting, and training for women of color and allies. Since it launched in January, the organization has been a part of many events—including in collaboration with The Riveter Austin during SXSW. As a result, The Riveter had the opportunity to sit down with Future For Us co-founders Sage Ke’alohilani Quiamno and Aparna Rae to talk about lessons learned, their definition of success, and women who they want to shine a light on through their work.
What is it like to have co-founders from two different generations?
It’s fun and challenging, and if you’re committed to being communicative, there’s power in the difference. We are at two ends of the millennial spectrum. Aparna came into the workforce right in the middle of the 2007 recession, and faced a job market with few prospects, which led to leaping into entrepreneurship early. Sage, on the other hand, has access to a set of opportunities and paths to building a public profile that didn’t really exist 10 years ago. We both have a different set of skill sets and thrive off our differences. We fill in each other’s blind spots and push each other to think creatively about every aspect of our business.
What’s your best piece of career advice?
The best piece of career advice is to build your personal “Board of Directors.” This is just as important as who you start a company with or who you’re in a relationship with. Choose and cultivate your network wisely to consist of people who can tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly in a transparent, open, and honest way. Find talented individuals who are an expert in a particular blind spot of yours so they can help you navigate it.
Who are your mentors? Your heroes? What are a few things they’ve taught you?
Our mentors and heroes range from close friends, to national figures such as Arlan Hamilton, Kamala Harris, and Indra Nooyi. For both Sage and Aparna, heroes are Womxn of Color who are breaking the mold, opening doors, and forging a path forward for other womxn of color. They have taught us to:
- Be keymakers, not gatekeepers
- Assume the best intentions
- Own your own accomplishments
As people, we’re always evolving and learning. In that spirit, what is a life lesson you’ve learned in the last couple years? The last few months?Self-advocacy is something we’ve both learned over the last couple years in both of our careers. Learning how to build and nurture your self-advocacy tools to navigate seemingly difficult situations has been a very valuable tool for us, especially as Womxn of Color. Finding your voice, your value, and your purpose is a forever life lesson.
Who is a woman who you think doesn’t get enough credit and deserves more of the spotlight?
Frankly, the women working in service and at the front lines, the ones that make it possible for the rest of us to have “purpose driven” careers are the ones who don’t get enough credit. There’s a great article in The Slate that talks about how white women gained work-life balance due to the hard work of Womxn of Color. Today, women in professional fields are able to build, thanks for a cadre of unseen women.