Nov 10, 2021
I think a lot of black women suffer from imposter syndrome and like having to constantly prove yourself, it was really nice to just... have this resource that, really truly believes in you and knows that you're going to be successful in. You don't have to jump through a million hoops to get access to resources for your business.
And what I really like about the Dooney fund is that, it's wanting to help people of color at scale. So, it's one of the first resources that I've seen that is really truly equitable. Whereas,it's saying I want to support all black women and not just the 1% of black women or elite group of black women who fit some type of, archetype, that they will fund or that they think is going to be successful.
“In This Episode of Build The Damn Thing I’ll talk about how I started the Doonie Fund, the concept of frictionless investments, and how to invest in black women”
And so, I started to think of like, what could I do…. personally? Like what more could I do for people who weren't a part of our program?
I usually go on a big trip around my birthday and we were going to Alaska on a cruise. That was never, ever going to happen. Aaand I had this extra money, about $10,000, that was refunded as a result of not going on that cruise. And I was like, "I need to do something because I can't go on a cruise. I'm feeling really bad. I'm not going to be able to go to Minneapolis and see my grandmother who's in her nineties, and who's an inspiration for me in terms of building the business." And I was like, "I don't know what to do."
And so, the idea was to do this sort of micro investments and we called it the Doonie Fund. And we called it the Doonie Fund after my grandmother, who I couldn't visit, who I couldn't see and who I'm named after. Her name’s Kathryn Doonie-Hale and Doonie had such an important part in my life and she was an entrepreneur. She's a reason why I'm where I'm at. She's the reason why my style is the way it is. And so, I couldn't see her, I couldn't go on vacation. I couldn't do anything. But when I could do is take this money, this $10,000 and give it to other black women. I had the power to do that.
I'm Robert Finney. I'm Kathryn Finney's older brother.
I had seen this woman struggle, have hardships hit her in her life, but that never stopped her from going after the things that she wanted. Dooney showed us what it took to actually own your own business, to have to make sacrifices in your life, to do the things that you needed to do.
so the Doonie Fund, it's probably one of the greatest things I've done in my life. And I've had a lot of highlights, but that is the greatest thing. And I did it because I could. ...And I think it's one of the greatest things that I did in my life, not because it just helped people and stuff and that, and that is really important, but it showed me the power that I had as a black woman.And it showed other black women, the power that they have.
So a number of black women reached out to me and created their own versions of Doonie Funds. Maybe it was named after a mother who just passed away or an aunt or someone they cared of. So a number of Doonie Funds, and they're not named Doonie Funds, of course, but that were created as a result, like Doonie Funds became a catalyst.
I was inspired by what Kathryn Finney did with the Dooney fund and from how she was able to lift up and amplify,, black women from three perspectives first and foremost,, Kathryn has been a trailblazer and a leader in,, empowering,, black women owned businesses for many, many years,, next,, Kathryn recognizing her grandmother and the influence she had,, on her with her,, various endeavors and third, the great inspiration and recognition to so many black women owned businesses that were part of the Dooney fund that inspired me to launch, the kitty fund and recognition of my mom. Kathryn kitty was her nickname, tabla Webster.I launched the kitty fund,, in 2020 March of 2020. My mom had passed away, at the start of COVID with COVID related,, challenges and in honor of my mom and appreciation for my mom's, support of women entrepreneurs, recognizing women being able to, do the hard work of raising their family, leading their company and actually being a leader to their employees. Our first year we recognized, 25, women owned businesses that had two to 50 employees, And in our second year we recognized 50 of those businesses and provided each of them with a grant of $500.
And that, to me, showing other black women that we have power and how to use our power positively, how to impact other people is that greatest gift, because that's literally been the theme of my life is empowering other people.
I don't recall how many seconds between the time I read that Kathryn was establishing the Dooney fund and clicking to donate, but it couldn't have been many... because here she goes again. And frankly, just about anything that Kathryn is offering an opportunity to put our money where our values are. I want to be there with Kathryn. That is a place I want to be because she is going to take me to a place that brings power and example to the underrepresented, historically speaking communities in our country and beyond.
I have always believed that you should get the most return on your investment if at all you can. And when I look at the United States of America and every system that fails humanity, what would fix it fastest? It's women of color in power in every position, no one is more generous to their community.
No one cares more about individual health and welfare, family and faith. Nobody cares more about being fair because it hasn't been fair. I trust women of color more than I trust any other group to lead at this time in our lives and into the future.
I've always believed it's important to bet on women and people of color., one, because there's an underdog role that we've always played. And,, it's also a role of untapped brilliance, And untapped,, sort of wealth, the potential for wealth creation. If you constantly ignore a group and you've seen them innovate, you've seen them do the most with the least, what would happen if you actually leaned in. And believe that they could create and build something new and beautiful.
I love the fact that Kathryn’s unapologetically black and always herself. And that is a person who absolutely believes in black women, black people, in general, and, believes in us even more than, than sometimes we believe in ourselves.Kathryn Finney (02:18:45):
When Kathryn launched the Doonie fund, I thought it was just such a sweet, simple way to tell women, particularly women of color, particularly black women, that we see you. We see the struggle and here's just, it's, it's a little token, it's a small amount, but I think it was really the gesture and the warmth of that gesture. And I, I wanted to be a part of it. I want it to amplify what Kathryn was doing. So I just quickly was like, Hey, I'll match you. let's do more. Let's help more
I've known about Kathryn Finney for a long time, and she asked me to step up and it's so rare actually that people ask, but Kathryn has always been very good at asking for what she thinks she needs and what she needs from you.
In the past 18 months we've seen a lot of talk and not a lot of action. I call it diversity theater and I'm really keeping my eye out on Who's actually writing the checks, uh, there's way too much talking and not enough check writing. And, we really need to make some major changes in our economy and it starts by actually doing something and not talking about it. (chuckles) Less talk more action.
Man I people who were like, "$100 is not a lot of money." I was like, "Yeah, it's not a lot of money until you need $100."
My name is Jennifer Vandam and I'm director of platform at genius Guild.So the future of the duty fund is community. We've built community at GG, which is an incredible space for the Doonies to connect with the genius guild team, to connect with Kathryn Finney, to connect with potential investors, uh, and to connect with each other. So really all of the things that you need as an entrepreneur to grow and scale is what we're providing in community at GG
And the impact was profound. What we found was people were able to use this $100 as a catalyst, and that it wasn't even so much about the $100 it was more about someone like me, who had achieved this sort of entrepreneurial success in the status, saying to another black woman, I see you, I believe in you, and I trust you to do whatever is best for yourself. And there was something profound about that, because that doesn't really happen.
It was probably the most frictionless, the least painful process that I've ever been in. Every other process has been like painful. you invest so much time into the applications or getting references. You pretty much have to like give them a vial of blood and a DNA sample before you get access to funding. But with the doonie fund, it was like, “Hey, I believe in you. Um, I know you're gonna do what you need to do for your business. And I want you to get working on your business right away. I don't want you to spend time trying to convince me that you're worth investing in.”
It truly, truly was,, a little boost of confidence. Like, Hey, okay, something is going right. Somebody believes in me and it really did help to, get us through the pandemic, just to give us that little energy boost. And, that also led us to access to other opportunities and being able to apply to the innovation challenge and be a recipient of that award as well. It just continues to just give us a little bit of life, a little bit of air to keep us going. And, I think Kathryn Finney truly understands what it's like to be a black woman entrepreneur. And she's getting to the pain points and really helping to make the process different for us and like easy for people of color.Kathryn Finney
We had one founder who she was like, "No, you get a lot more than $100, $100 is the monetary gift that you gave, but what you gave was this gift of you saw me at a time when no one else saw me." And that of being seen and being recognized and being acknowledged, it's important. It's important for everyone. But as a black woman, as a black woman leader, that's something that we don't get often and people will see us, but they don't see us.Michea Rahman
The Dooney fund came to me through a list of resources of possible grants that you could apply to…. Didn't think I would get it because mind you, I wasn't getting any of the others I was applying for either, but lo and behold, I received it and it was a truly overwhelmingly beautiful experience.My name is Michea Rahman, and I am the proud owner of the children's language center
I literally remember receiving the email and being so touched because it was not just a standard email. It was a personal email and it was for me, a virtual hug coming through at a time saying, I see you, I hear you. You are not alone. And I am going to do everything I can to make certain that you do not fall. And I needed that hug so much of that time. (chuckles) I needed that. Um, I needed that reassurance. I needed the monies to, but I needed the reassurance and, the positive push, far more. And, it was beautiful. It, it meant so much to me, it meant so much to the, my families and it meant so much to the children I service. Um, it was truly incredible.Kathryn Finney
Robert FinneyMy grandmother, Kathryn Doonie hail, or Doonie as we call it would be extremely honored and feel extremely blessed to have left such an indelible mark on Kathryn, myself, and then also the greater good. Being a very religious person, she believes in doing things for others, you help spread your blessings to them. And by having the Dooney fund as a part of what her legacy is and will be, that's something she's truly, truly honored to have truly honored, to have been an inspiration and to continue to be an inspiration for others around her, around Kathy, around the United States, around the world.