In today’s episode, Kenny Vaughn had a chat with Elisse Douglass, co-founder of the Oakland Black Business Fund. She is an established real estate professional and has extensive experience in private equity impact investing. While at Haas, Elisse served as co-president of the Black Business Student Association together with Kenny.
Elisse talked a little about growing up in Philadelphia, what made her take architecture in college, and then going into real estate development. She also shared the story of why she ended up at Haas and what she loves about Oakland.
Elisse also opened up about how the pandemic has taught her to re-evaluate her decisions. You’re also going to love the story of how Elisse made it an opportunity to support local black businesses.
Her biggest takeaway having gone through the pandemic:
“I think we’ve all just had to face our realities in a way that can be uncomfortable. It makes us reevaluate every decision we’ve made. For me, I’ve had to reevaluate why I live where I live and where I work and who was in my life, and the different relationships that I had. So, my takeaway from that is just being more selective about those things and being more appreciative and gracious to what I have, where I am, who I have in my life, what I’m doing. It’s just been a real eye-opener.”
On her experience as co-president of the Black Business Student Association:
“I think it showed me that there’s a place in the world for people who are thinking about that whole idea of doing well and doing good. There’s a place to be impactful, to think about innovation, and not just for innovation’s sake but innovation for all our sakes. That was the greatest thing coming out of that experience.”
On raising funds, especially from the Haas community:
“If someone is willing to do it, let’s get it done. And what I think people were really responding to is the problem was bigger than just broken windows. We all know that it’s a systemic problem, and let’s put real dollars and energy and impact into that.”
Why black businesses matter:
“When we talk about why black businesses matter and why it’s important to apply resources to this, one of the most important things is about innovation and resilience. So, black people sort of lead culture and innovation in a lot of different ways that often aren’t monetized, and they’re not appreciated.
On the other hand, when you talk about resilience, if you look at the structural issues that black people face as entrepreneurs in terms of access to capital, in terms of credit, in terms of all these different things, it’s incredible that we have any black businesses at all. Yet we do. And many of them thrive, and they grow despite all of the changes. They’re still finding a way.”