September 22, 2022
WEPOWER Announces First Investment in St. Louis Startup, Bold Xchange
Today WEPOWER announced Bold Xchange was selected as the inaugural capital recipient from the organization’s $1.5 million dollar investment fund. The pilot fund offers targeted investment in companies owned by Black and Latinx entrepreneurs with a strong growth trajectory to ignite economic growth and prosperity in St. Louis.
Bold Xchange is an e-commerce platform founded by Danielle Deavens and Doug Spencer that curates a collection of products from Black-owned brands. From candles and books to snacks and branded swag, customers can purchase items from their catalog or build customized gifts for events, holidays, or company milestones. Bold Xchange is a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), certified through the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and relocated to St. Louis in 2020 after winning an Arch Grant.
Bold Xchange has worked with major global companies already, including Home Depot, Spotify, CarMax, Centene, and Advance Auto Parts. They've also sourced products from local companies Pure Vibes and Butter Love Skin, who also were members of the WEPOWER Accelerator Program.
”What makes this opportunity so exciting is that WEPOWER not only provides capital and community, but also offers to leverage their connections with universities, hospitals, and large corporations to support our growth and expansion,” said Bold Xchange Co-Founder Danielle Deavens, upon receiving the investment from the fund.
WEPOWER’s fund uses a revenue sharing model of investment, where monthly repayments are a fixed percentage of revenue. This shares risk with the business owner while allowing entrepreneurs to remain majority owners of their companies, unlike traditional models of venture capital. WEPOWER manages the only fund in the region that uses revenue sharing to expand access to capital for systematically excluded entrepreneurs leading promising early stage companies. Traditional loans often require personal guarantees and minimum credit scores, which can be barriers for many systematically excluded entrepreneurs. WEPOWER’s fund does not seek personal collateral or minimum credit scores, instead taking a more holistic approach to underwriting investments by evaluating the leadership team and business model, the financial health & prospects of the company, values alignment, and the potential to create positive social impact.
Yoni Blumberg, VP of Community Wealth Building at WEPOWER, described how they decided upon the revenue sharing investment model: “When we looked at the options available to entrepreneurs, we saw risk-averse banks on one side and venture capitalists looking for big bets on the other side, and very little in between.” Blumberg notes, “Our goal is to build community wealth, so it was important to find a model that is both accessible and wouldn’t remove ownership from those that are building the business. Revenue sharing achieves that by letting us take more risks than banks, with fewer barriers and without requiring entrepreneurs to give up a significant share of ownership.” Future investments are to be disbursed over the next few years ranging between $50,000 to $200,000. Blumberg says there are a number of other investments in the pipeline.
WEPOWER Founder and CEO Charli Cooksey explains, “To transform the St. Louis region, we must have a dynamic set of solutions that involve both changing inequitable policies at the regional level and creating economic opportunities at the neighborhood level which can be accelerated by financing the success of high potential Black and Latinx companies.”
WEPOWER envisions a future where systems are accountable to powerful communities that have been historically oppressed, and nurture our freedom, well-being, dreams, and joy. WEPOWER trains, activates, and supports Black and Latinx folks to design equitable policies, organize to transform education and economic systems, and build thriving businesses that create wealth for our communities. In their first three years, WEPOWER activated 300 community leaders, won a historic ballot measure that guarantees public funding annually for early childhood, supported 30+ businesses with access to capital, coaching, and connections. To learn more, contact Yoni or Amina at [email protected].
About WEPOWER Capital
WEPOWER Capital provides Black and Latinx business owners with “capital+” (i.e. financial capital paired with social and intellectual capital, in the form of connections and business coaching), with a mission to build community wealth and power. WEPOWER Capital primarily uses revenue-based investing, where entrepreneurs repay a fixed percentage of their revenue until a pre-agreed total has been paid back. This model is more flexible than traditional loans, sharing risk with entrepreneurs and tying the investors success to the company’s growth, without substantially reducing their ownership or control over their company. WEPOWER Capital will put all net returns (i.e. what remains after repaying external investors) towards two purposes: (a) reinvesting back into the fund to make similar investments in Black and Latinx-owned companies and (b) financing community controlled funds to resource shared political and economic priorities.
Written in partnership with Whitney Bembenek.