At 28 years old, entrepreneur Tammy Charles has turned her passion for fundraising into a business.
Charles launched her company, TMC Strategies LLC, earlier this year, after corporate relations and community development stints at Metropolitan Ministries and Frameworks.
“My goal is to empower and support community leaders to grow their fund development activities,” Charles said. “Fundraising is intimidating … but I love fundraising, I love asking for money to support community initiatives. I realized I had a knack for it, and I also realized that other nonprofits and businesses needed help with that. So why not start a business?”
Charles told her story at Tampa Bay Entrepreneurial Trendsetters, a meetup group organized by Steve Rosen and Brock Gant, and designed to help business owners connect by sharing their expertise. The group has been meeting monthly at The Attic in downtown Tampa, with Rosen interviewing a featured guest in a TV talk show format, including questions from those in attendance.
Young black female entrepreneurs made up a large majority of the crowd of about two dozen people who turned out for the Oct. 22 gathering to hear Charles’ story, including how she was able to find a purpose – something that many millennials struggle with.
Charles, who is of Haitian descent, cited a trip to Haiti in fall 2011, one year after a devastating earthquake. There, she saw abject poverty firsthand.
“That trip defined my purpose,” Charles said. “That experience kept me up at night. That experience made me frustrated and angry. That experience made me emotional and I knew that this was my life’s work … that I do work that leaves a lasting impact in the community.”
One of the challenges she faced in starting her own business was a lack of confidence, she said.
“I didn’t feel I was good enough. Who would want to work with me? If I had more confidence and believed in myself more, I probably would have started a long time ago.”
Women entrepreneurs often face higher barriers than men when starting their own companies, Charles said, citing comments she heard during a Startup Sisters USA event Oct. 19 in Tampa.
“One of the things they talked about was there’s a different standard. When you’re a woman you better come prepared with all your I’s dotted and your T’s crossed. You have to come perfect. And as a woman of color, it’s another extra challenge,” Charles said.
Access to capital also is more difficult for women founders. Since 2009, black women–led startups have raised $289 million in venture/angel funding, with a significant portion of that raised in 2017, according to digitaldivide’s ProjectDiane. This represents .0006 percent of the $424.7 billion in total tech venture funding raised since 2009, the report said.
Charles talked about a friend, a woman of color in San Francisco who is developing disruptive technology decentralizing access to Wi-Fi.
“She went to a meeting with a lot of investors, many of them Caucasian males, and one of the guys told her, ‘I love your technology and I’m going to steal it, because I can do it better than you,’” Charles said. “The respect level is different, especially for women in tech. Tech is a very male-dominated industry, and women are breaking into that field. They get questions like ‘Who really developed that? You built that? There’s no way.’”
To get past those potential pitfalls, Charles said she attends each meeting with a strategy and a goal.
“I struggle with confidence sometimes, but I’ve had to put my power pose on and say I can do this,” she said. “If a guy is talking and he interrupts you, you take control. You show them that I’m here to play too.”
The candid hour-long discussion also touched on the darker side of entrepreneurship, including battles with depression. Charles said therapy, a supportive network of friends and her faith have helped her navigate tough times.