The Fearless Fund Conference

Members of the Backstage Catalyst 2023 cohort, Adrienne Blanks and Kalish Nesbitt, share their reflections on their journey to the Fearless Fund conference, which took place on August 18, 2023.

The Founder’s journey is a dynamic one full of twists and turns. Along this path, you have the potential to face obstacles, achieve remarkable victories and uncover your profound purpose, all while embracing the call to pivot towards new horizons.

Tapping into the startup ecosystem of Houston, in 2021, we crossed paths at a networking mixer. It didn't take long for us to realize that our stories held striking similarities. United by our previous respective experiences as product-based business owners, both in pursuit of funding and growth, we formed a connection rooted in the shared journey of solo entrepreneurship. This bond extended to our shared transition into the world of consulting, where we channeled our insights to empower fellow entrepreneurs on their path to success.

Our combined passions both have found us into the realm of venture capital, a world we were both eager to explore.

A pivotal moment came when Adrienne had a chance meeting with Arian Simone, co-founder of the Fearless Fund at the 'Good Soil' conference in May 2023. Eager to understand the nuances of setting up a fund, Adrienne posed the question to Arian. Without hesitation, Arian suggested attending her upcoming Fearless Fund VC Conference for a deeper dive into the subject. When Adrienne shared this with Kalish, there wasn’t a second thought. We both felt the urgency and knew we had to make our way to ATL in August. 

Every moment thus far in our journey has felt like destiny calling, especially when we both were accepted in the highly competitive Backstage Catalyst program in June. This initiative, created by Arlan Hamilton, the managing partner of Backstage Capital, was our entry ticket. We knew this was an opportunity to commit ourselves to dive deep, learn relentlessly, and wholeheartedly embrace every nuanced opportunity in the program. To make this opportunity even more golden, we learned that Arlan is an investor in the Fearless Fund, aligning and confirming our path towards the venture investing world. 

We jet set to Atlanta and attended the Fearless Fund Conference on August 18th and 19th. The air was thick with inspiration and determination, particularly due to the ongoing lawsuit accusing the Fearless Fund of discriminatory practices because of their mission to fund underrepresented women of color. To us, attending this conference amid such a backdrop felt like a clarion call to action. In our hearts, supporting the Fearless Fund's mission and responding to their call for action by signing their petition was not merely a choice; it was an imperative, a moral obligation we embraced with conviction.

Here, we had the opportunity to finally meet Arlan in person after months of virtual Zoom meetings. In this brief encounter, we engaged in conversation, captured memorable moments, and cherished the value of an in-real-life connection. Knowing that our mentor and guide is an investor in the Fearless Fund elevated the conference experience to new heights of significance.

Fueled by the energy of the Fearless Fund conference, we purchased tickets for the Black Women Making Millions (BWMM) conference, scheduled for the same weekend. This decision allowed us to maintain the momentum of entrepreneurial empowerment and inspiration. As an exciting bonus, we were delighted to find that Arlan would be delivering the keynote address at the BWMM event.

During both conferences, we had the privilege of observing visionary founders as they passionately presented their ideas. With a sharpened acumen honed through our participation in the Backstage Catalyst program, we listened to their pitches with newfound clarity, identifying promising ventures more effectively. It’s always an inspiring experience to witness fearless, underrepresented entrepreneurs compete for the chance to secure funding, poised to propel their companies to greater heights.

In unity, our mission is unmistakably clear: champion opportunities, confront discrimination, and be the force of change we’ve always aspired to be. As Arlan eloquently emphasized during her keynote speech and fireside chat at BWMM, "there are those who adjust your crown and those who stick their foot out to trip you." In our unwavering dedication to fostering a more equitable entrepreneurial landscape, we are committed to adjusting crowns, offering a helping hand to those who stumble, and we wholeheartedly encourage you to join us in doing the same.

Adrienne & Kalish

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