1863 Ventures’ Melissa Bradley Gets Honored For Her Work In Financially Empowering Black Founders

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 18: Founder & General Partner 1863 Ventures Melissa Bradley speaks onstage during the 2023 Concordia Annual Summit at Sheraton New York on September 18, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

Melissa Bradley broke barriers when in 2016, she launched 1863 Ventures, an investment firm bridging entrepreneurship and racial equity to amplify underserved entrepreneurs and help them reach their goals. Now, she’s getting recognized for her considerable contributions in building a viable Black business ecosystem.

Bradley was recently presented with the John Carroll Award during the 72nd Annual John Carroll Weekend at the Royal Dublin Society in Dublin, Ireland on April 20, 2024. The Award recognizes alumni whose achievements and record of service exemplify the ideals and traditions of Georgetown University and its founder.

“We started in the summer of 2015,” Bradley told ESSENCE in 2015. “We did a conference, similar to HerImpact DC, east of the river (Washington D.C.) to see if there was interest amongst entrepreneurs of color. And there were about 107 people who came two days in a row. We also had a pitch competition, and it was great. So people started to say, “what are you gonna do now?” So we canvassed and did a landscape of what was happening in the city and realized there was a tremendous amount happening for entrepreneurs. But only at a micro level. There was nothing for companies who up and running trying to be million dollar companies. Trying to employ people. So we made a bet with the city that if they would stop doing all this micro stuff and we could find 500 scalable businesses in three years, then they would change their policy. And we found over 500 in 18 months. We found 545 companies doing $267 million dollars of business a year in D.C. creating 3,000 jobs. From there we realized there was a real opportunity. And realized the policy tide was not going to change. It’s a lot easier to give out thousands than it is to give out hundreds of thousands. So we shifted the name because we already served 500 — to 1863. Recognizing 1863 as the year of the emancipation proclamation and as the new majority, as we call it.”

Bradley, who is a Professor of the Practice at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, further demonstrates her commitment to supporting the closure of the racial wealth gap by educating the next generation of business leaders.

” I want to leave behind as many African American, Latino millionaires as possible,” Bradley previously told ESSENCE. “And not just because it’s about the money. But the reality is that the economy changes as politics change. And in a capitalist society one of the ways that we’re guaranteed to have our footing is to have access to capital. So if we are able to build businesses, whether they’re venture-backed or not, and ultimately have them create jobs and multiply the effect, that’s how I define wealth for our community. There is not a single entrepreneur that doesn’t come through our program who doesn’t say I’m not doing this for me, I’m doing this for my community.”

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