Photo: Black Ambition
"I also realized that so much of it was just not listening to everyone who said just go get a job or go to vocational school or be relegated to something that wasn't an opportunity."
Access to opportunity
CEO, Black Ambition, Miami
When her high school guidance counselor said college wasn’t in the picture because of academic reasons, Felecia Hatcher applied for and received more than $100,000 in scholarships, prompting her mother’s friends, her church and high schools to ask her to help other students. So she created a company to do just that.
“I thought, ‘Hey, I figured this out. Let me share what I know.’ I also realized that so much of it was just not listening to everyone who said just go get a job or go to vocational school or be relegated to something that wasn’t an opportunity,” says Hatcher, who attended Lynn University. “I owe everything from a mindset standpoint to that lesson that I learned at 17.”
After working in marketing for Sony, Nintendo and the Minnesota Timberwolves NBA team, Hatcher moved back to South Florida and founded Feverish Pops, an ice cream business, during the Great Recession. Feverish had a social mission and donated to community programs.
She and her husband, Derick Pearson, then started the non-profit Code Fever in 2013, a youth tech training company. Over the next six years, they opened an entrepreneurial co-working center in Miami’s Overtown, started a venture capitalist-in-residence program for Black entrepreneurs and launched a conference called Blacktech Week — creating a community for Black entrepreneurs in South Florida. Those endeavors, plus a startup incubator, wrapped into their Center for Black Innovation in Miami. In 2021, Grammy-winning recording artist Pharrell Williams was starting a $1-million national prize competition for Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs and wanted Hatcher as CEO, offering a platform to share all those insights and lessons she learned the hard way. Besides monetary support, Black Ambition offers access to key decision makers.
In year one, Black Ambition invested in 34 companies and supported 250 with mentorship and in some cases grants. Those companies have gone on to raise more than $50 million. One Black Ambition company is rolling out its services at Marriotts across the U.S.; another startup’s product is now in 350 Targets.
“Access is something that I didn’t have, and it’s really important. Oftentimes, Black and LatinX entrepreneurs are just told to keep their heads down and work hard and are never told the way relationships and circles work.”
Black Ambition now aims to open venture studios at historically Black colleges and universities because Hatcher discovered that about 80% of HBCUs lacked entrepreneurship programs. “We want to do something about that.”