Revolve Fund Invests in Baltimore’s Entrepreneurs of Color

Posted September 15, 2023
Young Black woman holds a wood block to move ink; she is screen printing in a studio space

Revolve Fund, a Bal­ti­more-based phil­an­thropic ini­tia­tive, address­es the bar­ri­ers that dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly pre­vent busi­ness­es and non­prof­its led by peo­ple of col­or from access­ing finan­cial cap­i­tal. With sup­port from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, oth­er phil­an­thropic orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­ual donors, Revolve offers seed mon­ey that helps entre­pre­neurs of col­or attract oth­er investors and funders.

As part of this arrange­ment, entre­pre­neurs agree to repay these funds with­out inter­est as they achieve estab­lished finan­cial mile­stones. Revolve then applies these repay­ments to oth­er busi­ness­es and non­prof­its led by peo­ple of color. 

Revolve Fund is pio­neer­ing a very excit­ing approach to entre­pre­neur­ial invest­ment here in Bal­ti­more,” says Sara Coop­er, a senior asso­ciate with the Casey Foundation’s Bal­ti­more Civic Site team. The recov­er­able grant strat­e­gy helps bridge the gap between Baltimore’s entre­pre­neurs of col­or and the cap­i­tal small or medi­um-sized busi­ness­es need to thrive.”

Con­nect­ing Busi­ness­es to Capital

Revolve ini­tial­ly part­nered with Mary­land Phil­an­thropy Net­work, which serves as the fund’s fis­cal spon­sor. It then secured grant sup­port from PNC Bank, the Straus Foun­da­tion and the Casey Foun­da­tion and went on to raise rough­ly $2 mil­lion from local and nation­al funders.

James Wahls, Revolve’s founder and man­ag­ing direc­tor, pre­vi­ous­ly worked at the Casey Foun­da­tion. He notes that the initiative’s fund­ing mod­el was inspired by his time with the philanthropy.

My work at the Casey Foun­da­tion, includ­ing con­cep­tu­al­iz­ing and devel­op­ing the Bal­ti­more Small Busi­ness Sup­port Fund, pro­vid­ed me with crit­i­cal insights on ways to bet­ter sup­port busi­ness­es and non­prof­its that are led by peo­ple of col­or,” says Wahls. Revolve’s recov­er­able grant strat­e­gy and under­writ­ing approach cre­ate a fund­ing cycle where all par­ties tru­ly ben­e­fit. Revolve rep­re­sents an oppor­tu­ni­ty to sup­port emerg­ing, qual­i­fied entre­pre­neurs and orga­ni­za­tions with the cap­i­tal they need.”

Invest­ing in Green­mount West

One Revolve grant recip­i­ent, Green­mount West Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter Foun­da­tion, offers pro­gram­ming in the­ater, sewing, fit­ness, cre­ative writ­ing and more to youth and young adults in Baltimore’s Sta­tion North Arts Dis­trict. Green­mount West is also home to the Green­mount West Pow­er Press, a social enter­prise busi­ness that teach­es young peo­ple how to cre­ate and sell screen print­ed posters and cloth­ing items.

Revolve Fund is cre­at­ing a mas­ter class for what phil­an­thropic giv­ing should be in Bal­ti­more and beyond,” says Kisha L. Web­ster, exec­u­tive direc­tor and co-founder of Green­mount West Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter Foun­da­tion. Not only did James ask impor­tant ques­tions to bet­ter under­stand our mis­sion and vision, but I also found being held account­able by a fun­der — and pushed to do more and be more — incred­i­bly empow­er­ing. Every day, they are demon­strat­ing the impor­tance of pro­duc­tive fund­ing rela­tion­ships and inten­tion­al­ly invest­ing in local entrepreneurs.”

Read how Casey is help­ing fun­ders invest in Baltimore’s entre­pre­neurs of color

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