Over the past week, I had the honor and absolute pleasure of joining the Camelback Ventures family for the final summit of the 2016 fellowship. I want to be clear upfront – I am not officially one of the 2016 fellows. My co-founder, CEO, best friend, and new mom Blair Pircon deserves all the credit. She was accepted into the program and has spent the past 6 months using the coaching, connections, resources, and support of the Camelback team to drive our business forward by leaps and bounds. But 9 months pregnant with motherhood fast-approaching, Blair had to tag out and I was chosen to fly to Oakland, CA, for Summit III and the Camelback Showcase.
As an unfamiliar face and late addition, I was nervous about how I would fit into the team. My worries could not have been more misplaced. From the moment I arrived at the house, I was greeted with hugs, smiles, laughter and warmth. Everyone was genuinely excited to meet and learn more about me, to inquire after Blair, and to welcome me with open arms into the Camelback family. I was – and still am – deeply grateful for their acceptance and embrace. Having been through a handful of similar programs, I can confidently say that the Camelback team is on to something special. Never before have I witnessed a cohort with such genuine fellowship.
The 2016 Camelback Fellows are an exceptional group of individuals. Formidable business leaders and inspired innovators, I was impressed by their strength, tenacity, and drive. But perhaps even more than that, I was moved by their passion and commitment to impact. Every single individual, in his and her own way, is deeply committed to social justice and equality and is tirelessly working to make a tangible, measurable impact. I can’t imagine more inspired work. This is work worth doing.
Aaron Walker is the guiding force behind Camelback Ventures. His vision was to create a fellowship program and seed fund that supported local entrepreneurs who are creating social impact, specifically entrepreneurs of color and women. Diversity is a criterion. In the venture capital world, just 2% of funding goes to black and Hispanic entrepreneurs and 8% to female entrepreneurs. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done to close this gap, and Camelback is leading the charge. Of the past two cohorts, 92% identified as people of color and 71% as women. These fellows have gone on to build teams and grow businesses, achieving significant traction and driving impact.
Aaron’s vision was enlightened, and the realization of his work – the Camelback Ventures Fellowship – is exceptionally important and deeply impactful. I am grateful to have been a part of the final summit. For three days, I was surrounded by new friends and true founders. Whatever happens with each individual’s venture (my money is on great things), these fellows are tomorrow’s leaders. They will be shaping and creating the future, and the future will be brighter for it.
You can learn more about each of the 10 fellows in the 2016 cohort here. They are wonderful people and I highly encourage you to reach to them if you resonate with any of their work or missions!
From far left, clockwise: Liz Nell (me!), Andrew Hill, Eric Allen, Charla Austin Harris, William Jackson, Amina Yamusah, Larry Irvin, Bryan Lattimore, and Nicole Cardoza.
Not pictured: Sunny Williams, Blair Pircon.