“Bet on Black” is a new television series dedicated to investing in entrepreneurs with ideas that highlight Black culture and foster social and community impact. And it features someone familiar to the Des Moines startup community.
Co-founder and CEO of Des Moines-based coffee company Blk & Bold Specialty Beverages Pernell Cezar is participating in the show, which was co-created by Target Corp. and Revolt, a Black-owned television network.
The competition show, which premiered Jan. 10, brought 25 founders of early-stage startups to pitch their businesses to Cezar and Keenan Beasley, CEO of Sunday II Sunday and the show’s host.
Cezar and Beasley selected 12 of the companies to officially compete, which means delivering a formal pitch to a panel of judges composed of investors, industry professionals and celebrity guests. One entrepreneur will receive $200,000 in funding from Target as well as mentorship from company executives.
Cezar said his history with Target brought him to the show. He worked for the retailer for three years after graduating from the University of Northern Iowa in several roles, and he has partnered with their teams since starting Blk & Bold.
“I have had this long-standing relationship with Target [where] we mutually respect each other’s values and have tapped each other multiple times to continue to further those,” Cezar said.
Blk & Bold focuses on creating purpose in communities through its business by pledging 5% of its profits to support local youth and workforce development programming. Cezar said Target aligns with those values and, in partnership with Revolt, used their “intentionality behind how they continue to amplify … the Black business ecosystem” to make “Bet on Black” happen.
After selecting the companies in the first episode, Cezar’s role on “Bet on Black” is coaching the founders as they craft their pitches to the judges.
“The benefit of this show for me is to really pour into the contestants,” he said. “That’s something I would want to do regardless of if it was televised or not.”
Inside the journey of Black entrepreneurs
Watching the new series is likely to inspire thoughts of Shark Tank, but Cezar said rather than looking into the world of private investments, “Bet on Black’s” goal is to go behind the scenes on these entrepreneurs’ journeys and “democratize education” of the disparities faced by Black business owners.
“The coolest part about the show is it does take you on a journey with them,” he said. “It’s not a five minute segment of that business giving it their all and then they get a deal or not. It is much more seeing the evolution of the experience.”
Additionally, while one entrepreneur will win the competition, all 12 walk away with some funding and are not required to give up any ownership in their companies in exchange.
Cezar said the show is a dedicated space for Black entrepreneurs to be represented and relate to others’ experiences and challenges, and allows allies to see how challenges affect entrepreneurs in practice.
“Quite honestly, what it does is help normalize and empathize the context of being a Black entrepreneur, because this is not the norm. Black people and anyone else are really seeing this for the first time,” he said.
Being outside of mainstream networks, the show also gives culturally-relevant solutions a chance to be heard, contextualized and validated by audiences that understand the needs, Cezar said.
For example, a culturally-relevant solution may stem from an issue that disproportionately affects the Black community. One entrepreneur on “Bet on Black” started a company called Smooth n’ Groove, which sells smoothies from food trucks to help address local food deserts.
Other ideas focus on celebrating and supporting Black culture, like Blk Girls Green House, a plant store and community space, or a startup offering sneaker cleaning and restoration.
Cezar said as an entrepreneur himself, working with founders who are starting out reminds him “that this never gets easier.”
“It’s a reminder of how challenging it can be to finally be seen or receive a level of resources that may feel more attainable and accessible to one that is not in the arena. … We have people [who] have been building things they started in their basement for eight-plus years, they’ve grown it, watched it fall, grown it back, watched it fall, [and] grown it back to have an opportunity to be on a show like this,” he said.
Entrepreneurs in Iowa and beyond need “less risk and more resources” from an entrepreneurial ecosystem, and with experience in both the corporate and startup business worlds, Cezar said building the ecosystem is more so a corporate responsibility.
“I think it’s incumbent upon corporations to think about how do they stabilize the entrepreneurial spirit of the communities that they’re based out of by way of being more intentional with how they democratize spending and investing. … If there’s prioritization from businesses to drive that, entrepreneurs will come.”
Episodes of “Bet on Black” are available to stream on revolt.tv/watch/