Irene Mwathi Talks about Minority Startup
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Kenya. I came to the US, Washington DC for college and later moved to Austin in 2007.
What university did you go to?
University of Maryland for undergrad and Georgetown University for my MBA
What brought you to Austin?
I moved to Austin to expand my business in IT Consulting.
What is your group's mission?
Minority Start-Up mission is to develop minority entrepreneurs into successful enterprises by providing programs, advise, counseling and access to capital. Austin continues to be one of the most entrepreneurial cities in the country and M Start-Up seeks to help minority entrepreneurs tap into the various resources and opportunities with a focus on investment funding.
What need does it fulfill?
Minority Start-Up will bring both minority innovators/entrepreneurs and investors together. While minority owned businesses have grown at the a rate that surpasses the growth rate of all businesses combined by a rate of 6 to 1, and with revenues twice as high as the rest of the market place, minority entrepreneurs need to seek out investors and vice versa to sustain this level of growth. Today even with higher numbers of African American, Hispanic and Asian innovators, we don't see the level of investment funding as seen in the mainstream market place. M Start-Up aims to bridge this gap providing minority innovators access to investment capital and the Central Texas investment community new opportunities.
What exactly does it bring to startups?
Most start-ups are usually started with a passion to meet a specific need based on a vision/idea coupled with an ideal to make lots of money. However, innovators and especially minority innovators are not prepared to manage a business, build strategies for growth while avoiding risks and setting the path for investment funding. Most usually start looking for investment capital when all existing resources have been exhausted and with a limited or non-existent leadership team.
Minority Start-Up brings expertise, counseling and advice for every startup right from the start, to prepare them for sustainable success. We know where the resources are in our community, therefore we can create a critical path of success for minority entrepreneurs through coaching, helping them navigate the various service delivery organizations while holding them accountable and then presenting them to the financing mechanisms. The key element we seek to address is "What do entrepreneurs need during development to prepare for funding and what do they need to do post financing to reach milestones?"
What type of startup would benefit from your group?
African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American and Women Owned Businesses. We welcome any startup to reach out to us.
What was the most challenging aspect of starting up the initiative?
While there is a critical need for an organization that works with minority businesses and one that understands the challenges they face right here in Texas, the challenging aspect for us is convincing the startups that they need to start laying long term strategies right from the start consulting with people with the right expertise. The other challenge we face lies in getting funding and sponsorship to build the necessary programs that go beyond the basics of starting a business. Hiring senior management or qualified people is usually expensive for a startup, while consulting on an as needed basis cuts costs dramatically while providing much needed value. As an organization we hope to provide ongoing services at a lower rate and get ongoing support through various funding sources.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
The current financial market makes it harder to get funding, but those who prepare and prove themselves will be better positioned to thrive and receive investment funding.
What Austin-based resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?
While we have worked with alternative funding sources throughout Austin to help entrepreneurs get funding, we find the Austin Entrepreneur Network a great resource for investment funding. They hold continuous funding forums and provide access to the Austin investment community where minority entrepreneurs can pitch ideas.
What about your upcoming conference?
Go Big or Stay Home - GO BOSH conference 2011, is an innovators, entrepreneurs and investors conference brought to you by Minority Start-Up Association of Texas, designed to facilitate knowledge sharing, relationship building and deal making amongst Central Texas Minority Businesses. The conference will be held on October 21st, 2011 at the Longhorn Stadium Event Center, Belmont Hall from 12.00pm - 9.00pm.
The conference is for anyone in need of inspiration, looking for tips for success or anyone who is wondering how to get an idea off the ground, develop it and commercialize it. Come network with other entrepreneurs and innovators and share your journey.