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.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
Kenny: How are we doing out there folks? This is your host with the most Kenny Vaughn, and I would love to welcome you to another episode of OneHaas, your Berkeley Haas alumni podcast. Boy, let me tell you, we’re here for a treat today. Look, I ain’t going to lie to you. I’m just excited. I’m here with my classmate, with my sister, with my dear friend, Elisse Douglass.
Elisse, thank you so much for making the time. Welcome to OneHaas. How are you doing today? How are you doing?
Elisse: Oh, man. Thank you for having me. I’m just so excited to be here with you, particularly, not just friend and classmate, your co-president, it’s a pleasure to be here. I love Haas. I love you. I love that you guys are doing this, so, just excited.
Kenny: I would be remiss because, you know, it’s different when you classmates, but now that we officially alumni or alumnus, I got to get the verbiage, folk got titles. So, Elisse happens to be quite a distinguished friend of mine. She is the VP of Signature Development, and the co-founder of the Oakland Black Business Fund, both of which I will love to hear more about, but before we dive into that, can you just tell me how you’re doing?
This is just such an interesting time in history, right? We all have been collectively in some form of quarantine, lockdown. So, how have you been holding up? Like, what is your day-to-day? How are you doing mentally, spiritually, emotionally? What type of state are you in?
Elisse: It’s a good way, I think, to start this conversation. And honestly, because we all live in our realities and don’t necessarily preface that in terms of where we come from when we tell our stories. It’s been a rough year. I’m currently in California. I’m here in Oakland.
I had been about the past seven months or so in Philadelphia with my family. I think I had like everybody just having very visceral reactions to everything that was going on. Starting with COVID, especially over the summer killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, I’m really dealing with that violence on black people within the crisis of the pandemic. Seeing black people around me suffering and dying. It was just a lot. I think I was generally processing a lot of that and it certainly affected a lot of the work that I’ve done in the past year, for better, for worse.
And now a year later, really trying to gain some perspective on, okay, now, where are we at? Where does that leave me? Where does that lead me to how I want to live my life. So, that’s kind of generally where I am today.
Kenny: So, one of the things that I’d love to ask you is I feel like each one of us individually has learned something about ourselves, something about our family, something about our network. What’s an insight that you’ve gained into yourself that you don’t think you would’ve otherwise gained had we not gone through this.
Elisse: I think we’ve all just had to face our realities in a way that can be uncomfortable. It really makes us reevaluate every decision we’ve made. I think for me, I’ve had to reevaluate why I live where I live and where I work and who I was in my life and the different relationships and everything that’s had. So, my takeaway from that is just being more selective about those things and being more appreciative and gracious to what I have, to where I am, who I have in my life, what I’m doing. It’s just been a real eye-opener when you kind of strip away a lot of the other things, the commuting, the brunch, whatever it is that you’re doing. And what are you left with without all this other stuff and then sort of facing that, what do you want to change? What do you want to keep, I think has been my biggest takeaway.
[00:04:00] Kenny: So, you’ve mentioned lightly the work that you do, I would love for you to unpack what it is that you do, why it is that you do it. Can you kind of peel back the layers on how you ended up where you are right now, professionally? That’s a very big open-ended question but you do some very focused work with some very focused communities. So, I would love to hear in your own voice, what’s your work means to you and some things that you’ve seen just in the past 12 months.
Elisse: I guess I can start with my background. I think that provides context. A family from Philadelphia. Grew up there. And I had a number of early experiences that kind of exposed me to the realities of cities, the realities of why where you live matters, fairly or unfairly.
Kenny: You say from Philly. What part of Philly are you from? Like west Philadelphia, born and raised, like….
Elisse: That was, I wish, honestly, because it’s like, if no other reason I could have a song to think, my family is like deep roots in Philly, post great migration. By the time I grew up or I came about, I mostly grew up in Cheltenham. My mom lived in Cheltenham. My dad lived in Mount Airy. Most of my family still lives in a little triangle, Sheldon and Mount Airy, Germantown. It’s a great place.
It’s very black. I love it very much. It is a microcosm for a lot of places in America, but it’s also in some ways more diverse and I love it there. It’s my favorite place in the world. It’s a lot like Oakland, actually.
Kenny: Can you share a little bit more about some of your favorite memories growing up in Philly? What was it like growing up and what do you think it was as you look back on your childhood that drew you to, cause you are an architecture major in college, right?
Kenny: Yeah, I was.
Kenny: Architecture, and then now you’re in real estate development. So, was there anything about your childhood that you were exposed to that really planted a seed into the work that you’re doing right now?
Elisse: Sure. My mom lived in Cheltenham, which is a place, where I spent most of my childhood. And that is a pre-working class kind of neighborhood. But it’s very diverse.
it was actually at the time when I was growing up, it was about half black, half white, and a wide range of incomes. Everything from really wealthy white people, wealthy black people, poor black people, poor white people. It was like a very diverse place in that regard.
And when I was in the eighth grade, I got a scholarship for high school to go to a really historically wealthy prep school, across the city on the other side. And I was struck by how that experience was just very different from mine and the type of resources and access that people had there versus where I had.
I was doing a lot of work at the time in high school where I lived in different communities and neighborhoods in Philly, specifically black communities and neighborhoods. And I was just like, I cannot reconcile between the access and the wealth and the privilege that I see over here with what I see on the ground over here, five miles away. Like, what does that mean?
Kenny: This was even a high school when you’re having these thoughts.
Elisse: Yeah, I had a couple of experiences where my prep school bought a new campus that was even further out in the suburbs. And I was working with a community development organization in north Philly then was doing a lot of work in neighborhoods that were really affected by new affordable housing and things like that. And I was just like, okay, I think naively but also reflective of my experience at the time, it was like, okay, well maybe if we build things nicer and more thoughtful and with more intention, we can sort of attract the resources and the opportunities that we need.
We can make these things happen simply by the physical spaces that we create. And so, I went to architecture school and I graduated and I started working in the field and I was like, oh, wait a minute, it’s a little bit more complicated than that because it’s not just the way things look, it’s the economic activity behind them.
And that was a thing that I think I certainly learned in the recession, like the 2008 recession, because at that time, I don’t think anybody in my family had a job. Everybody got laid off. I think my oldest brother had a job, but like, I’m looking at mass unemployment, I’m looking at every black person I know in my family, not only not having a job, not being able to get a job, very few exceptions and sort of like, okay, so the problem isn’t necessarily what your house looks like, or how big your yard is or whether you have a sighting, interesting architectural details.
The problem is how are we creating opportunities and economic problems for these communities beyond just kind of what they look like, a mile and included, specifically for black people. And so, at that time but nobody could get a job in 2008. And so, it was kinda like, all right, well, everybody needs to figure out something.
Everybody needs to go out and whatever resources we have and sort of make some happen, kids gotta eat. And I remember, at that time is when I got into development and it was just around like post-recession going in 2010, 2011, they like, oh, okay. There’s actually like people that have assets that use them, that create opportunities for themselves.
They take a house that they own and they redo it and they rent it and it’s like, oh, so, you mean you can create opportunities, you can use your real estate, you can use your assets, you can grow something from that.
Kenny: Now, do you mind if I ask a silly question here? I’m just listening to the arc of your story already, and one question that comes to mind is, did you have a mentor? Did you have a role model? Did you have someone that kinda guided you along this path? Because, and this may sound crazy, I didn’t even know what real estate development was until I went to business school, like, I didn’t know development was a thing so like even just having insights into there’s this problem that I see, which is economic opportunity, there are these levers that I can affect which have a very tangible impact on issues that are meaningful to me.
How were you able to connect those dots? Was that something that you had just seen someone else do or was it intuition? Can you walk me a little bit through that process?
Elisse: I think then the firm that I was working with, I saw a lot of like, the developers were like young white guys that were not much older than I was. But they just had money to do this, to put it at risk. And I was like, well, why don’t black people have that? Why can’t we have that?
Why can’t we do that? And I started kind of going around and just finding black people that I do that were doing this. And then like kind of just tagging along and learning. And I took continuing education classes. I like classes at NYU. I just signed up for stuff to learn it.
I started doing a consulting thing basically cause at that time I was really good at the permitting process in New York City and getting stuff approved, especially on historic buildings, navigating that process, public meetings. So, I would trade information with people.
I’ll be like, listen, I’ll help you get this stuff approved. You just need to tell me what you’re doing on the finance side. Like, what’s a performance, how do I do one, what’s Excel, that kind of thing. And so, I just piece stuff together and just kind of learned what I could learn.
And I actually got laid off. I got laid off in like 2012, 2013. And I was like, what do we do? I had made it through the recession and I thought I was good, but I was also like, I hadn’t been learning about development and I’ve been learning about these things and then like, okay, wait a minute.
There’s a way to use real estate now in a way I didn’t realize, the way that people are doing all over the place. Like, how do I like, do this? If this is a problem I care about, how do I apply myself to that? And I ended up meeting a guy randomly at a conference who had founded a private equity firm.
That was one of the impact investing firms that were doing impact investing in hard asset businesses to create jobs, with the idea that they could kind of grow and support specific communities. And so, they were looking at doing a number of kind of real estate and construction place.
So, they were like, well, you don’t have a job, you want to come do this? And I was like, okay. And so, I joined their team and I spent time basically building strategic plans for our portfolio companies and really learning like, okay, well, how do you invest in a business? If you have a mandate or you have a thing, like you’re trying to create jobs in this specific neighborhood, which is what we did, we picked central Harlem and said, cause we had funding relationships and said, okay, we’re going to try to build a business that would be able to grow and support and employ people that live in this specific zip code.
So, what are the skillsets that they have? Let’s build a business around them. So, I wrote the strategic plan, did the resources, put together partnerships. We actually ended up building like an insurance consulting business. This was around the time when the Affordable Care Act was coming up. We got it funded.
And that was like our portfolio company. And I was like, okay, that was not what I came here to do. I thought I was going to be doing construction but the thing that I learned was, oh, okay, you can build businesses. Didn’t know that. Two, you can go out and you can invest in stuff. You can find businesses, you can build them.
There’s this whole world out here around minority businesses, supplier diversity, this all actually directly relates to what I’m trying to do on the real estate side. I’m trying to combine these two things; how will we build and create jobs and opportunities with real estate. And that’s actually why I went to a little place that you might be familiar with. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it. I think it’s called Berkeley? I don’t know!
Kenny: I was gonna ask you about this Berkeley Haas thing because I’m listening to this story, and I’m intrigued. And I’m like, okay, I see this young black professional woman who is navigating the ropes, who was piecing these things together. But the theme that I noticed is east coast, east coast, east coast, east coast, east coast.
So, please tell me how, of all the places that you could end up, you end up clear across the other side of the country in Berkeley, California. How did that happen?
Elisse: Let me tell you something. There was a snowstorm and I said, I can’t do this anymore. No, that’s all I need to know. I just checked the forecast and I said, I got to go. I think I’ve done my time.
No, I didn’t even spend a lot of time in California, honestly. One of the partners at my firm had gone to Haas, she’s an alum and she was incredible. And I was like, oh, I love her. I love the way she thinks, I love the way she communicates. I love the way she does everything. Her name’s Jenny Machita. I was like, she’s the best. I don’t know anything about this school. If she went there, I kind of want to go and applied and I was really lucky to get in.
And, California for me, I was like, well, I know I want to play in this space between real estate and impact investing and kind of like job creation. I feel like there’s an impact blend to that. And I felt like Haas was the only school that really spoke that language to me. I am a leadership principle Stan.
That really did resonate with me. And I was like, okay, well, I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I definitely know I’m done with cold weather. I should like try this stuff, just see what it is. And luckily, they said, okay, you can do that. Yeah, that’s kinda how I ended up at Cal.
Kenny: I, for one, am personally glad that you did, because, I know we got a chance to share our Haas experience together. We got a chance to serve as co-presidents of the Black Business Student Association. What did that experience mean to you?
Elisse: 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, but like more so 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. I’m like an introvert, I’m your classic introvert. I can turn it on for my professional reasons but in general, I’m a small, cool circle of friend kind of girl. So, just being in that environment with those types of people, it was just perfect for me.
And I really do value a lot of those relationships. It was great. It just showed me like, listen, there’s other people out here who are looking at the same problems as you from like an innovation lens who are looking at trying to do stuff differently, who are like looking at doing it at scale, who are just generally curious and like piecing stuff together as they come across it.
And not just like handed a solution and told to execute. And that just meant everything to me. I look back at that now, especially years later since we’ve graduated, especially in the past year, a lot of the momentum and things I’ve been able to accomplish, like I would not have been able to do that without Haas, without Berkeley, without the people there. And in some ways, I feel bad. It’s like, I think I took that for granted, but I think it’s also something I knew, which is why came there in the first place. Like these are the types of people that genuinely care about these things and are action-oriented kind of in the same way that I am.
Kenny: So, speaking of an orientation towards action, I think you know where I’m about to go with this because we’re going fast forward a little bit. We’re going to fast forward to 2020. I think for all people, but I think particularly for black folks in this country, I think a lot of us were rocked to our core and I don’t use that phrase lightly, I think as we look at some of the tragedies that have gone on in this country for a very long time, this was not news to black folks. But I think the way in which we had to witness some of these tragedies play out was different. And each one of us dealt with our respective feelings and emotions in our own way. I remember to this day, standing in the living room with my family, holding hands as we’re joining Al Sharpton in the eulogy of George Floyd, and the whole range of emotions that have taken place as you are trying to come to grips with the dichotomy of being black in America, this love that you have for this country that has so many opportunities while still being faced with the reality of just the tragedy that we see.
And this is a very long way of me saying, a lot of us had a lot of things that we could have done when we’re going through these emotions, you chose to do something very interesting. And I know for folks who are staying really plugged into the highest community Haas network, you may have already heard about this story, but you chose to start a GoFundMe. And you said you were going to raise $5,000 to help support local black businesses out there in Oakland. And then something pretty amazing happened. What was it that made you decide to do that first and foremost? And then can you just kind of walk me through the next several weeks and months after your $5,000 GoFund me goes north of a hundred thousand dollars? And now you’re talking about billion-dollar funds. Just walk me through that entire journey if you can.
Elisse: Yeah, it was probably the longest week of my life. I think black grief is generally very private. We, as a black community, mourn quietly because our grief is not necessarily understood and we’re used to it. We know what to do when something tragic in the black community happens. Like we all know who we reach out to, who we talk to, we pray to, which coworkers we reach out to, especially those of us in corporate America where you’re not going to get that acknowledgment of that black grief or pain publicly.
And so, the thing about this summer that was so crazy in a lot of ways was because that black grief all of a sudden was publicly knowledge in a way that I think a lot of us were like really unaccustomed to, for better or for worse. And so, I think, I, like everybody else, was just responding to the black grief that was going on around me and looking at sort of my particular role in the world.
Elisse: So, in my current job I work at, real estate development firm in Oakland, and a lot of the work I do focuses on building relationships with tenants for our buildings. And we try to really over-correct and find and partner with black or women or local or other minority-owned businesses.
So, I’m like deep into the weeds with those business owners and how they are fairing both in regards to the pandemic and insurance, just the larger economic stuff going on. And so, in doing that work, I think when you see this constant trauma to black folks, I think my response was still private.
It was like, okay, black people out here, they’re dying of COVID, they’re getting killed. Our businesses are closing. Like, let me do one little thing that I can do within my smallest circle to do whatever I can. So, I reached out to, I said, well, you know, I’d probably get like a couple more people to gather a couple of thousand dollars.
We could probably go help fix some windows, paint over some storefronts, or whatever, just so we don’t have to focus on damage that’s been caused by protests or anything like that. We can just help people stabilize. And this is just like a word of mouth thing. I can text business owners.
I know I can walk around in downtown Oakland, not a big deal. So, I texted business owners and I texted my friends and I posted on my personal Instagram. And I don’t even think I posted on LinkedIn until well after the fact, and it’s like, Hey, just trying to get this thing together.
Here’s the people that he’d probably need some help. Anyone has any money I’m going to put some money in this and let’s do that. We’re all kind of collectively grieving. And I know a lot of you are action-oriented in the same way I was. And it kind of just blew up from there.
And I actually do attribute that a lot to Haas people. So, it was like, oh, you want $5,000? And y’all gave me like a hundred thousand dollars in a week. And I was like –
Kenny: You gotta love the Haas community. I will say.
Elisse: Yeah. It’s such a testament again to this if there’s someone 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.
So, in that first month, we raised, well, $100,000. We had about 150 people sign up to volunteer with our organization in whatever capacity, even moving trash, calling business owners, whatever. We had lots of media mentions. We have lots of people just coming in and like, okay, fine, let’s help.
Let’s do this. And so, it was really a combination of just response and sort of like as public grief now around black people and the whole structural inequity of being black in America, combined with COVID and unrest, and all these things together that kind of burst this fund that we put together.
Kenny: So, I’m reminded of a phrase that I used to hear growing up. You may be familiar with the phrase too, but it’s the phrase that, your gift will make room for you.
Elisse: I love that.
Kenny: We got a chance to start with your origin story first because as I listen to you tell your story and we are making our way through this collective chaos every single event that not almost every single event, but there were some very critical events and experiences that you had that in a strange way, almost prepared you for that moment, and to see and to celebrate the success that you’ve already achieved, and the continued success that I know you’re going to drive, that’s a blessing to my heart to see. I would love to hear if you don’t mind sharing, what’s the future looks like for you, for the fun that you’ve started, what is the next five to ten years look like as you’re now spearheading this charge?
Elisse: Yeah. I think, on the fund side, what we’ve seen is now people are ready to have the conversation about how we support black businesses more broadly and not just from an altruistic sense but from a, like, this is a really important part of our economy.
Retail and hospitality businesses hire 40% of black people nationally. Like this is an important area where we need to make sure that we’re applying resources, not just for our black community but the economy as a whole. So, the fund is kind of growing and adapting to continue the initial mission of supporting local businesses here in Oakland. But also filling a lot of the white space around where services are not meeting them. So, for example, black businesses only got, I think, 12% of PPP funding in the first round. So, like there’s resources out there and they’re not connecting with this community. So, the fund is really growing and orienting and adapting around how do we make sure those resources get some black people, black entrepreneurs, and really valuing and leaning in this is an important part of that ecosystem. I think for me personally, doing the work that I do, I’m really leaning into this relationship between those businesses and the real estate in our place-based businesses.
I say place matters, right? Brick and mortar businesses matter when our countries and our community is facing gentrification. We actually do need to stand up and claim space for black people, black businesses, black brick and mortar, black entrepreneurs, all these things.
And so, through my work in real estate, with my understanding and working on the business investing side, it’s really sort of orienting around, well, how do we combine these things and create these engines that actually protect and grow our community? Like, that’s the thing that I’m really most interested in and excited about like, well, what are we doing both in our real estate development, in our brick and mortar landscape, and in our business community to really orient around equity.
My future is about looking at the relationship between black businesses and real estate, how we own it, how we control it, how we invest in it, how we make sure that our real estate is equity base. How we make sure that we incorporate these two things together because I think we’ve seen that retail needs new models. We know that black people need to be a part of that conversation in leadership and equity roles. We know that that disproportionately affects the community. And we know that real estate and real estate development has far more control of what our cities look like, who can purchase a pate and where that money goes.
And anyone likes to admit, but that’s the reality. So, the work I’ll be doing going forward is really leaning into that relationship and how do we talk about businesses and those economic engines in relationship to our real estate.
Kenny: Would you mind share on a success story with our listeners? I know you’ve got a chance to get exposure to a lot of things since you started the fund, you’ve got a chance to interact with a lot of great business owners. Are there any particular success stories that stick out?
Kenny: That you’d love to share?
Elisse: So, I have a co-founder named Trevor Parham. He’s the owner of Oakstock, which is a coworking community space in Oakland. And so, Trevor runs a lot of the day-to-day at this point in terms of the fund. And my role is on the strategic side and really thinking through the kind of like what the future of the organization looks like.
So, we had actually one of our earliest successes, a business, they came to us, and I think this is like a great story. Like 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, lead innovation in a lot of different ways that often aren’t monetized and they’re not appreciated.
So, that’s what black entrepreneurship means, right? 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, like COVID happened, they’re still finding a way. So, we have in this community of entrepreneurs, we have these two really, really important things that venture capital is looking for all the time. And is going to the same places all the time to get it.
So, this story is one of my favorite examples because there was a business that’s here, it’s downtown Oakland. They’re selling crystals and they do spiritual readings. It’s a community space. They do a bunch of different things.
It’s a pretty unique, actual business model, something that’s newer entrepreneurs, retail paradigm types, or whatever you want to call them. And they came in pre-COVID when the shore sat down when the county came in. So, no one could open. I think they lost about 90% of their sales but they showed innovation and resilience and they put together their own e-commerce platform. They were selling stuff on Instagram. They were out on the streets, setting up tables on the sidewalk. They were able to make back almost 80% of their sales themselves. And so, when I tell people why we invest in black businesses, that’s what I’d be.
That’s what you’re looking for. Those are the types of entrepreneurs that never get the looks but are doing the work. And so, our friend Damon, we came in, we helped them with some of the damage that they had received from protests. We worked with them through our partnership with Square who came through to Haas alumni to get them hardware and set up their e-commerce site.
We worked with them on some of their marketing. We kind of provided all these wraparound services to fill plugs in where they weren’t getting what they needed so that they could just take what they were already doing and do it better and less risky. That’s the work that we’re interested in. It’s not just going out and throwing cash at people and with a smile and saying good luck.
Although don’t get me wrong, I actually really do sometimes just want to give people money, go about their business. Cause I just do it, do what you can, you’re already doing it. Y’all got it. Right. But it’s like sometimes, there’s a real way. If you have limited dollars, which we all do, it’s like, you can actually be strategic on how you deploy those resources and you can make one plus one to go like three or four or five or whatever.
So, that’s like a story. I think at this point we have just under $300,000. We’ve deployed capital of dill to I want to say 90 businesses the past six months. And a lot of that, honestly, it’s been from, it’s all volunteer-run. We don’t pay anybody every dollar we get in and goes out, anything anyone’s ever Venmo me goes right back into the fund, it’s just one.
And he comes in and it goes out and we have a system of volunteers. I think it’s just been a really incredible resource that I think most importantly, just values and trusts black businesses and black leaders to do what they need to do to get stuff done. And let them lead. And we’re just here to support and provide resources where we can.
Kenny: I feel like this is a great note to do a final transitional. You
Kenny: –do a little song for the culture. So, how long have you been in Oakland now?
Elisse: 2014, so about six and a half years.
Kenny: So, for the people who are not in the bay, for the people who may be making their way to the Bay, can you just share with me a little bit about that Oakland culture? I mean, it’s just dripping with culture, man. Can you just share some things that you’ve seen, what you love about it?
Elisse: Yeah, I mean, I share from my perspective, like, I’m not from here, I’m not going to claim from here because I’m from Philadelphia and I love that. I think Oakland brain’s is a strong black city. It’s historically black city.
There’s deep roots here, their sea culture. And when you come here, you feel that you feel black, you feel it everywhere but you also feel how it’s threatened, how it’s being displaced, how it’s being pushed out, and what people are trying to do to fight and survive that, but also thrive. We have a whole parade called the Black Joy period, so culturally, there’s a richness here that I think people just respond to that deserves protecting, that deserves investment.
It deserves the opportunity to grow and thrive even more. Actually, even when we started the fund because my co-founder’s from here so he has a lot of deep relationships and connections here and investment here.
And I think when you talk about legacy, right? We’re talking about free breakfast was born here. So, when you come out and you say, Hey, listen, there’s a problem that I’m trying to solve, there’s a lot of people here, there are going to be like, okay, cool.
What do you need, no questions asked. In so much as like, this is a community-driven place, it leads with the community. And so, I think that’s really important. I think that’s something that makes it really, really special. And I’m really happy and proud that we were able to do the work here that we have.
Well, folks, I tell you what, this has been more than a pleasure. Look, I’m trying to tell you, we brought this thing from the root to the tuna and in all seriousness, you know, what’s funny, I’m going to bring it back.
Kenny: I’m going to bring it back full circle because in all seriousness not only as your classmate, but just a friend, as an outside observer of your life, I am so proud of the work that you’re doing, what you represent, the things that you stand for, the voices that you are helping to empower in this moment and to see someone champion black communities, black entrepreneurs, black businesses in such a deliberate focused, in a strategic way. Man, that’s a thing of beauty. So, I salute you and I appreciate you taking the time to share your story with our community. I’m at a loss for words, and I mean, seriously, I really am.
Elisse: Thank you for inviting me here. I’m proud to be able to do this work. It’s humbling. It’s hard. It’s personally challenging. My dad passed away in October, so I had a lot of stuff happening at the same time to me personally, but this is all a part of it and I appreciate the support.
Kenny: Folks, I’ll tell you what, if you enjoyed today’s conversation, we would love it if you like, subscribe, follow, and just support the OneHaas podcast. We are so thankful for you joining us and tuning in today. And, we will see you all next time on the high ground. Once again, this is Kenny Vaughn, signing out with our great and gracious guest, Miss Elisse Douglass.
Elisse: Thank you.