Dr. Cameka Smith and BOSS Network are changing Black women’s lives, one business at a time

BY Ben Ebuka Oji January 31, 2024 4:07 PM EDT
Dr. Cameka Smith
Dr. Cameka Smith. Photo Credit: Subject

In the intricate landscape of entrepreneurship in the USA, minority founders often confront a stark reality – a notable disparity in investment funding for their fledgling ventures. Despite the nation’s diverse fabric, studies consistently reveal a systemic imbalance, with minority-led startups facing hurdles in securing crucial financial support. This inequity not only hinders the growth potential of individual businesses but also perpetuates broader economic disparities.

According to The BOSS Network, less than 1% of minority founders get investment funding for the start of their small businesses. Understanding and addressing the nuanced challenges faced by minority entrepreneurs becomes paramount for fostering an inclusive and thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem that reflects the diverse richness of the American entrepreneurial spirit.

Realizing these stark challenges, The BOSS Network aims to tackle the issue by providing grants and other business transformation programs for Black women entrepreneurs to assist in their business growth. Dr. Cameka Smith, a Doctor of Philosophy, founded The BOSS Network in 2009 after losing her job. The network’s primary objective is to empower women by leveraging the power of networking and technology, enabling them to achieve success and independence. Over time, The BOSS Network, which means “Bringing Out Successful Sisters,” has transformed into an online community that fosters support among professional and entrepreneurial women. Through digital content, programs, and networking events, members of The BOSS Network assist and uplift one another. The organization’s mission is to foster the growth of small businesses and promote career development for women of color.

The BOSS Network is transforming perceptions of enterprising women and has become a valuable resource for companies targeting Black women. It is a comprehensive platform for women seeking career and entrepreneurial opportunities, offering professional connections, resources, and marketing and promotional prospects to its members and partners.

Through a variety of meticulously curated innovative, transformative, and career-defining programs, Dr. Cameka, through her firm, has supported over 200,000 women in the United States.

BOSS On Campus

BOSS On Campus is as an empowerment program and media resource designed for minority female students aged 14 – 24. It remains a vital link for students seeking valuable resources and content related to their future aspirations. Dr. Cameka collaborates with schools and colleges through BOSS On Campus to offer programs that revolve around campus events, virtual seminars, digital engagement, and essential resources tailored for aspiring leaders.

LTL Conference

LTL Conference, an acronym for ‘Ladies That Lead Conference,’ offers life-altering experiences that propel current and aspiring women business leaders towards a brighter future. Whether you are a seasoned professional, entrepreneur, mother, creative individual, tech enthusiast, millennial, or woman of faith, LTL Conference brings together resourceful women leaders with a focus on the future. It is a platform for engaging discussions, success panels, leadership talks, and actionable steps that bring women business leaders closer to achieving their goals.

Pathways to Success

Dr. Cameka, in collaboration with Sage and Swoop, recently launched Pathways to Success, an initiative for Black women founders in the Atlanta metropolitan area developed in response to the “Voices of Strength” report and the valuable insights gathered from 40 Black women founders. The report shed light on the significant challenges faced by Black women founders in Atlanta, such as limited access to funding through grants and government resources, a lack of mentorship opportunities, and difficulties in digitally scaling their businesses for growth. Drawing from the experiences shared by these women, Dr. Cameka and her partners have designed a tailored program that aims to support and empower 150 eligible Black women founders based in Atlanta throughout their entrepreneurial journey. Pathways to Success programs provide a comprehensive one-year training program, a three-year membership to The BOSS Network, and access to a wide range of additional resources and opportunities, all at no cost. Interested businesses can visit the Pathways to Success program website and submit their applications before the February 5, 2024 deadline.

The BOSS Impact Fund

The BOSS Network has joined forces with Sage, a leading global technology provider for small and medium businesses, to launch a $1.5 million three-year program to address inequality and offer support and guidance to 500+ Black women, helping them achieve their goals and successfully establish and expand their businesses. The inaugural BOSS Impact Fund, in 2022, provided financial grants of $10,000 and mentorship through the BOSS Business University to 35 Black women founders. In 2023, the program continued its mission by empowering 25 Black women founders with the same grant and mentorship opportunities. The grant application for Black-women-owned businesses for 2024 began on January 22, 2024, and will close on February 23, 2024, at 5 p.m. ET. The selected grant winners will be announced in late March.

BOSS Business University

BOSS Business University is an online platform led by Dr. Cameka and her team, offering comprehensive mentorship programs facilitated by industry experts. The primary objective is to empower Black female entrepreneurs by helping them develop a viable business model for investor financing or business expansion. Black female founders who apply will gain access to monthly training sessions, workshops, and coaching opportunities. Additionally, grant recipients are provided with a one-year mentoring program through BOSS Business University, along with additional support to enhance their journey toward becoming successful entrepreneurs.

BOSS VoS Report – Focusing on Atlanta

To gain a deeper comprehension of the challenges facing Black-women-owned businesses in the United States and to develop more pragmatic solutions, The BOSS Network, in collaboration with Sage, recently launched a survey in Atlanta. According to The BOSS Network, Atlanta stands out as the city with the highest concentration of Black entrepreneurs in the United States. This vibrant environment serves as fertile ground for innovation and economic advancement. Recognizing this, Dr. Cameka partnered with Sage to establish a Commission comprising of 40 Black Women Founders from the Atlanta metropolitan area. Together, they conducted an insightful study titled “Voices of Strength,” which delves into the experiences of Black women entrepreneurs in Atlanta. The report sheds light on their journeys and provides recommendations on how public and private sectors can better support these dynamic founders, whose roles are crucial in driving economic growth. The analysis presented in the report identifies three distinct subsets of Black women founders, categorized based on their journey stages and performance —Navigators, Maintainers, and Thrivers.

Navigators – Despite their optimistic outlook on the future, these entrepreneurs encounter considerable obstacles. These challenges include a dearth of mentorship or advisory support, limited participation in established networks, unpredictable cash flow, and the ambiguity surrounding business management and growth. To enhance their entrepreneurial journey, they would greatly benefit from tailored mentorship, business resources, business and financial planning, and opportunities to connect with expert advisors and educational materials.

Maintainers – Exhibiting resilience, Maintainers effectively manage fluctuating cash flow while safeguarding their previous accomplishments. They possess at least one official mentor or advisor and actively engage in professional networks. Assistance for Maintainers can concentrate on formulating a comprehensive financial strategy, strengthening their mentorship connections, and offering resources for marketing, sales, operations, and human resources.

Thrivers – They are characterized by their strategic planning abilities and robust support systems, which encompass formal mentors or advisors, active involvement in industry and professional networks, consistent cash flow, and a steadfast commitment to long-term objectives. In order to enhance the empowerment of Thrivers, support can be extended through various programs that encompass investment strategies, facilitating connections with potential investors, providing guidance in formulating comprehensive succession plans, and fostering partnerships with industry experts and research firms.

Ultimately, the VoS Report provides essential perspectives, emphasizing the importance of personalized assistance instead of a generic approach. By acknowledging the stages and levels of these founders, public and private organizations can effectively meet their distinct needs.

Dr. Cameka Smith

Dr. Cameka has led The BOSS Network to remarkable growth, earning numerous accolades, including being recognized as a Top 50 Website for Entrepreneurs by Inc. Magazine, one of the 10 Best Career Sites for Women by Forbes, and a top Twitter Account to Enhance Your College Experience according to Her accomplishments have been acknowledged by Ebony Magazine as a 40 under 40 Entrepreneur, and by Ariel Investments, who named her one of the Top 40 Chicago Game Changers. The Network Journal also recognized her as one of their 40-Under-40 Business Leaders, and she received a Brand Star award from Adweek. JPMorgan Chase further honored Dr. Cameka Smith with a leadership award for her efforts in uplifting entrepreneurs in the Black community during Juneteenth. In addition to her achievements, Cameka is the author of 7 Steps to Grow Your Professional Network and frequently visits college campuses with her non-profit organization, BOSS On Campus, to speak on career development and leadership topics. Currently residing in Chicago, she actively engages in charity work and mentors youth.