Steve Madden and Black-Run VC Fund Team Up to Support Women of Color — Inside Their Partnership

Steve Madden’s partnership with Black-run venture capital fund Fearless Fund is continuing into the new year.

The footwear brand, which initially partnered with the VC in December, plans to launch the Walk in Her Shoes campaign in March, which is recognized as Women’s History Month. As part of the campaign, Steve Madden and Fearless Fund will select one female entrepreneur of color to share her story and win a fully stocked shoe closet.

“The Fearless Fund is a perfect partner for us,” said Steve Madden’s namesake founder and creative chief. “Their work empowering women of color entrepreneurs aligns with our thinking, and we’re excited to join forces with them.”

In December, Fearless Fund announced the launch of “Get Venture Ready” — a 12-month training program that allows women of color to network, learn from and share resources with other business owners as well as industry experts. With the help of Steve Madden, the VC fund was able to offer 50 entrepreneurs free enrollment to the program, which regularly costs $997.

What’s more, Steve Madden and Fearless Fund have also teamed up for the previously announced Self Made x Fearless Fund series. Business owners who are part of Fearless Fund’s portfolio will be featured across Steve Madden’s social media channels. The shoe brand is also expected to privately offer mentoring to entrepreneurs over Zoom.

“We were delighted to partners with Steve Madden in the area of education, their ‘Self Made’ campaign and initiative is in alignment with many of the entrepreneurs we support,” Fearless Fund general partner and co-founder Arian Simone said. “It’s not just enough to give investment capital, we have to offer mentorship, and this is just one of the ways that we achieve that.”

According to Fearless Fund, United States-based companies raised a total of $130 billion in VC funding in 2018, but only 2.2% went toward female-founded companies — and 0.066% was allocated to businesses founded by women of color.

“The systemic racial and gender bias in the investment community has to come to an end,” Fearless Fund wrote about the program. “This is why we designed this program for WOC business owners to acquire the needed training, mentorship, knowledge and skills needed to gain access to capital.”

Fearless Fund invests in women of color-led businesses that are seeking pre-seed, seed or Series A financing. Its initial investment is often between roughly $250,000 and $500,000, and its portfolio includes Hairbrella, a company that makes satin-lined rain hats, Streamlytics, a data-driven content production platform and Range Beauty, a cosmetics company.

This story has been updated with comments from Steve Madden and Fearless Fund.

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