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Build The Damn Thing

Nov 10, 2021

They may be called “micro investments”, but they’re anything but small. Kathryn Finney started The Doonie Fund, a social enterprise that provides micro investments to Black women entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this episode of Build The Damn Thing, learn about the importance of investing in Black women and how frictionless micro investments can change the game and disrupt the world of entrepreneurship.
Quotes from the show:
“It was probably the most frictionless, the least painful process that I've ever been in... 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.' "   -- Jamela Peterson, Build the Damn Thing, Episode #7
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Kathryn Finney
Twitter: @KathrynFinney
Instagram: @hiiamkathryn
Facebook: Kathryn Finney
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Website: Genius Guild
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Produced by Genius Guild Content Studios
Executive Producers:  Kathryn Finney and Darlene Gillard Jones
Post-Production Company: Prosper Digital TV
Post-Production Manager: Joanes Prosper
Post-Production Supervisor: Jason Pierre
Post-Production Sound Editor: Evan Joseph
Co-Music Supervisors: Jason Pierre and Darlene Gillard Jones
Show Music: provided by Prosper Digital TV
Main Show Theme Music: "Self Motivated" Written & Performed by Tamara Bubble

Jamela Peterson 
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. 

 Kathryn Finney
“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”

So COVID happened,... and we heard from our founders how hard it was for them to get the funding that they needed. And we at DID ...we decided to give out small support to our founders. I had authorized a $1,000 support to be given to founders in our program who were still in business. And I saw the impact of that was quite profound. It allowed people to pay for rent, it allowed people to pay staff and continue building their companies.

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.

Robert Finney
So my, my grandmother, KathrynDooney hail, or Doonie as we call it ... left such an indelible mark on Catherine myself, and.. she believes in doing things for others, you help spread your blessings to them.

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.

Kathryn Finney
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. 

Kim Folsom 
my name is Kim Folsom. I'm the founder, chairperson and CEO of founders, first capital partners.

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. 

Kathryn Finney 
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.

RuthAnn Harnisch:
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. 

My name is Ruth Ann Harnisch, and I'm an investor both for profit and philanthropic. 

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. 

Kathryn Finney (02:18:45):
We trust black women to know what's best for them. Why is that like revolutionary? Black women know what's best. I mean, we can turn a dollar like nobody's business. We know what's best. 

Shawn Escoffrey
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. 

My name is Shawn Escoffrey  previously I was the program director for the strong local economies program at the certainty foundation. I am nowthe executive director of the Rory and Patricia Disney family foundation. 

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):
the reaction was quite intense. On one hand, it was really positive. So we had a lot of supporters who gave to the funds and the funds started off at 10,000, then it grew to 20,000. Our first big check came from Barbara Clarke at Impact Seat for $5,000. And as a result of that, that spearheaded other people, we ended up collecting over $160,000  We gave out over 1600 Donnie Fund payments, so over 1600 black women entrepreneurs got access to Donnie Fund money.

Barbara Clarke
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

my name is Barbara Clark and I am president and co-founder of the Impact Seed.

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. 

Kathryn Finney
I'd always been told, "Oh, you can't do this. You can't get money out like that. What if they use the money to get their nails done?" And I was like, "You know what?   In the middle of a global pandemic, where people can barely get out of bed and people are dying at a high rate and nobody knows what to do, if getting your nails done gives you the strength and confidence to be able to get on the many Zoom calls that you will have to get on, and sell your company at a time when nobody's buying anything, well then girl, get all the nails done. I don't care because this idea is to keep you moving forward. And if that's what needs to keep you moving forward, then do it." And that was so bold. I mean, people are like, "Oh."

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." 

Jennifer Van Dam
I was able to speak to 60 of the Doonies from 2020 and an overarching sense of what I was hearing from these women was that they were lonely that having someone like Kathryn Finney say, okay, I see you, I see your company. I see what you're doing. I know that you're going to take this money and do whatever is best for your business. Uh, there's no strings attached. I'm not asking you for a percentage. I'm not even asking you to fill out a big application. There was something there that really made them feel seen. 

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

Kathryn Finney
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.

Jamela Peterson:
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.” 

My name is Jameela Peterson, and I'm the founder and CEO of social preneur lab. And I am a recipient of the Dooney fund. 

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
It helped me personally, in ways that I couldn't even put into words. The Doonie Fund happened where I was feeling helpless.   I couldn't see my family. I was alone. I had my husband and my son and my mom, but I was disconnected from my world, my friends, and it allowed me to do something for someone else. And there's something about doing something for someone else that helps take you out of any place that you're in. If you're ever in a bad mood, you're ever in a unsure mood, you're insecure, or you feeling vulnerable, do something for someone else. It brings you out, it helps you see the impact of the world. It also helps affirm you as a human, that you are important, that you matter in the world and that you have the ability to impact other people. 

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
just as the clinic was gaining so much momentum and we were seeing significant growth, the pandemic hit shut down occurred, and our clientele just stopped. The doors stopped. I was fighting to keep the clinic open. I was desperately applying to every grant that was available, became available to try to hold it together. 

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
there is a saying that, and I don't remember who said it, but it's “the good in me recognizes the good in you. The light in me recognizes the light in you.” ...And through the Doonie Fund, we were able to recognize the light in 1600 women. And as a result of recognizing their light, it affirmed my light too.

Robert Finney

My 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.