Self-made multi-millionaire, Angela Reddix, Ph.D. has built a successful career as an entrepreneur in the health care and nonprofit sectors. But as a black girl born into poverty, she did not see many business owners in her Norfolk, VA neighborhood. She never imagined she would one day be an employer.
“While I felt motivated as a child, I never thought that I would become an entrepreneur. I just knew that I wanted to be successful and show other young girls like me, no matter their ethnicity, that they can be successful, too,” she says.
So after launching ARDX, a multi-million dollar healthcare management and IT consulting firm in 2006, she founded Envision Lead Grow in 2017, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase the rate of entrepreneurship and break the cycle of poverty for middle school girls in underserved communities throughout the United States. The organization is committed to helping girls, 90% of whom are African American, build their future through entrepreneurship by creating a community to support their success. But that is only part of the story. The organization is growing an impressive national presence having expanded to welcome 600 girls across the nation from 30 states. In a few months, those numbers will increase to 1,000 girls over 48 states from the east coast to the west coast of the United States (including Washington, D.C.) And future plans include a global presence with expansion into Haiti, Kenya, Argentina and Canada to begin. In so doing, Reddix says she is effectually raising a world of impressive girls through her national nonprofit that not only provides role models but tangible resources for girls to launch sound and sustainable businesses.
Over the years, the organization has inspired 671 girls to become entrepreneurs. Examples can be found in girls like a fifteen year old Girl Boss from Norfolk, Virginia who first joined Envision Lead Grow in 2017. Since 2017, she has established not one but two businesses, a non-profit organization that brings science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to title one schools, and a supplementary, fundraising, custom apparel business.
But studies say inspiring women and girls is not enough to help them succeed in business. While from 2007 to 2018, the number of firms owned by black women grew by a stunning 164%, according to the 2018 State of Women-Owned Business Report by American Express, businesses owned by black women face sustainability challenges. For example, the gap is widening between the average revenue for businesses owned by women of color and those owned by non-minority women. For women of color, average revenue dropped from $84,000 in 2007 to $66,400 in 2018, while for non-minority businesses, revenue rose from $181,000 to $212,300. And the gap between African American women-owned businesses’ average revenue and all women-owned businesses, Amex found, is the greatest. Black women suffer from lack of capital, too. Only a mere 0.2% of all venture capital funding was allocated toward startups founded by black women according to Black Enterprise.
And only three percent of all minority firms have sales of $1 million dollars or more, according to MBDA.gov, which means that by definition, Reddix herself is as anomaly – an African American woman who is a multi-millionaire who employs more than 100 people. “Envision Lead Grow is doing more than arm these young women with everything they need to become who can sustain businesses,” Reddix says. “We are helping them become entrepreneurs who are employers, who are able to be highly contributive to the workforce by providing a pipeline for economic growth in our cities, and providing streams of income for their employees and business communities around the world.” Reddix adds she encourages girls to consider STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), because those disciplines generate higher revenue than some of the more traditional industries.
Reddix says what makes Envision Lead Grow different is the 4-pronged approach to entrepreneurship it provides to the middle school girls she calls “Girl Bosses.” After Summer Immersion camp, entrepreneurs receive 9-Month Mentoring Support, Webinar Support and membership into an Entrepreneur Institute which provides ongoing training including partnering with adult mentors. The program’s mentors are high-performing women in business who check in with mentees regularly to keep them and their businesses on track. ELG also provides information on how to sustain successful businesses and get funding.
“We’ve reached the point where we will go deeper not wider,” Reddix says. What makes her nonprofit unique is the depth to which she helps girl-preneurs. A girl who joins ELG as a middle schooler, for example, receives mentoring and support through high school and beyond. “We are helping these entrepreneurs go to college, get results on their SAT/ACT tests, and win scholarships. And we are also raising money for endowments so that the vision of each entrepreneur can be can be realized.”
“Future boardrooms across the world will be filled with girls who are triple threats – educated, innovative and confident.”
Reddix is on a mission to inspire girls around the world by telling her story of humble beginnings and teaching valuable skills that encourages them not only to dream, but gives them a recipe for success. The recipe simply begins with advice she would give her twelve year old self.
“Envision that [your dream] can come true,” she would say. “Don’t wait for anyone else to lead the way, you lead the way down the path that’s been created for you. Grow where you’re planted. Everything you’re learning today can be the seed for tomorrow.”