Rebrand Cities Rebrand Cities

The Rebrand Black Accelerator 2021

The Black experience from an historical perspective in America is very painful. Racial injustice in America is a more than 400-year-old problem that didn’t start yesterday, and won’t be solved in a day. 

The unnecessary and untimely death of an unarmed black man named George Floyd on May 25, 2020, at the hands of four Minneapolis Police has amplified the problem of police brutality and racial injustice in America. 

Mr. Floyd’s death is on a long list of unarmed Black men and women who have been killed disproportionately in comparison to other races.  

“Is America fed up with racial injustice or just what was recorded?” —Hajj Flemings

While we have the world’s attention, we have to go beyond social media posts to establish sustainable impact and help drive real change. Racial Injustice is now on a global stage and is the focus of daily conversations in the media. 

Brands have benefited from Black Culture for a long time without equity and equal contribution back to the black community, but now it is time for decisive action and responsibility. Brands are typically missing in action.

The vision is to raise the question of a brand’s role in being ‘Woke’, racial conscious and to understand their higher purpose in authentically contributing to Black Culture. 

Rebrand Black is a portal, a resource to document and aggregate the conversations of the times and challenge brands to reimagine their place in the fight against racial practices.  

We want to leverage the New Power of open, collaborative practices while leveraging technology to communicate the message. 

The mission of Rebrand Black is to establish a meaningful conversation around the Black experience, Black Culture, and authentically engage brands. Brands play a vital role in the fight against institutional racism and shaping the narrative of the public consciousness of Black America. 

Our focus is to bring better alignment between brands and the issues that face Black America to help brands become more race-conscious. Brands who are interested in more than posting a black box online and just making an announcement.  

That was why Hajj Flemings founded Rebrand Black and the Rebrand Black Accelerator

We saw the need in the black community and acted. We provided a safe space for small business owners to learn how to communicate their brands effectively, and how to pitch and explain their business models clearly and concisely. 

Most importantly, the Accelerator provides access to much-needed capital for underfunded Black businesses. 

“56% of Black Entrepreneurs Say Gaining Access to Capital is a Lingering Challenge, Lessening Their Ability To Grow.” 

—Black, March 2021

The idea was simple; 12 businesses for six weeks, competing for $50k in cash for their companies. Businesses would be hand-selected against a set of criteria. As a group, they would complete essentially a Master’s level course in brand strategy and communications in just six weeks. 

The winner would receive a grand prize of $25,000, but every participant who made it through the gauntlet, so to speak, would receive at least $1,250 for their business.

The Process

We worked with three outstanding sponsors that understood the challenge Black business owners face: Cadillac, Thrivent, and New Economy Initiative. They helped us in identifying businesses that met the following criteria:

  1. Must be a registered, black-owned business
  2. Must have a current/active product or service offering
  3. Business must be Detroit-based (within 75 miles of the city center)

From a list of 116 applicants, we were able to narrow it down to a group of 12 participants. Their businesses ranged from a nonprofit traveling art exhibit to a rapidly expanding maid service to all-natural cosmetics designed for darker skin.

From there, we began the coursework. Each night consisted of two solid hours of lectures, mentoring, practical work, and collaborative workshops. We were surprised and delighted at the camaraderie between the business owners who were all too happy to help each other out. 

Every week, participants were treated to mentor sessions by industry thought leaders like Dr. Marcus Collins (Head of Planning for Wieden + Kennedy (New York)), Alexis Kerr (VP of Marketing of the MahoganyBrands at Hallmark Cards), Vincent Hunt (Founder of Better Design Company),  Shelly Bell (CEO/Founder of Black Girl Ventures), Monica Wheat (Managing Director at Techstars, Equitech), Leigh-Ann Buchanan (Founder of Aires Ventures), Ozioma Egwuonwu (Founder of Burnbright)  and Dave Linabury (Managing Partner at Element 5) on a variety of topics from fostering creativity to what is brand to how VC pitches really work. These intimate sessions allowed everyone in the accelerator to ask direct questions.

Tools make the difference. We used state-of-the-art digital workspaces to ensure the participants all had equal access and ability to complete their work on a level playing field. 

Identify the problems in writing. We helped identify the consumer problems they are solving (if they hadn’t already), develop concise, modern business models, write their value propositions, identify and describe their customer segments, their cost structures, and more. Our process was an invaluable tool in helping these SMBs produce the critical business documents they needed.

We used a common communications tool. It was easy to learn, allowing sharing, private and group messaging, file sharing, and became the one-stop-shop for announcements and updates.

Finally, all sessions were live-streamed. This allowed us to have virtual, face-to-face meetings during a pandemic and gave the freedom of allowing everyone to be at work or home.

The Results

We couldn’t be more proud of our first Accelerator program, our sponsors — Cadillac, Thrivent and New Economy Initiative (NEI) — for making our dream a reality, and the participants who were all winners. 

They showed courage, determination, tenacity, creativity, and passion for their work. And as we stated earlier, we were so amazed and thrilled by the love and support they gave each other, cheering each other on all the way. It was as if each one wanted the others to win. 

They stepped up to the plate in more ways than class participation, too. Without being prompted, they posted about their experiences. They made Facebook and Instagram stories shared and gave likes to each other’s posts. Some of the participants created as many as 30 social content pieces, providing some much appreciated, earned media for the accelerator.

2021 Rebrand Black Inaugural Cohort (Detroit Edition)

  • Athlytic: Ashton Keys⁣ (Grand Prize Winner: $25K)
  • ForHerCosmetics: Alyssa Space (1st Place Winter – $10K)
  • Narrowway Cafe: Jonathan Merritt⁣ (2nd Place Winner – $5K)
  • Detroit Maid⁣: Danielle Smith Parker⁣
  • Detroit Parent Collective: Krista McClure⁣
  • Estellas Cuisine: Chantele Jones
  • EUMELANIN⁣: Deirdre Roberson
  • Studio M Detroit:  Melinda Meme Anderson⁣
  • Forerunner Consulting: Dexter Sullivan
  • Mainstreet Mob: Margarita Barry⁣
  • ⁣K. Walker Collective: Ken Walker
  • Vegan Black Guy⁣: Cartiear Madlock


Lessons Learned

As we plan for our upcoming accelerators, we have learned some valuable lessons from this one.

  1. Access to capital is critical for Black Entrepreneurs. Black-owned businesses are often grossly underfunded, and more likely to be denied access to the same capital as white businesses. Accelerators like Rebrand Black fund every business that fully participates and ensures they have the tools they need to succeed.

  2. Celebrate brands and organizations that are committed to supporting black-owned businesses. While more and more businesses are becoming aware of the issues, it’s not enough. Many white business owners admit to understanding the problems Black Entrepreneurs face and declare them unfair. But when pressed to answer what they have done to address the situation, they are suddenly silent or make excuses about being “in talks, but nothing concrete, so far.”

    We need to loudly and proudly recognize the brands and organizations that walk the talk. We need to let them know we see them, appreciate everything they are doing and will show our loyalty to them.

  3. Black Brands and Businesses need to be elevated.  Product placement, getting these small businesses on shelves is critical.  There are celebrities like Pharrell who created Black Ambition to connect Black entrepreneurs with opportunities and Beyoncé who created a black small business directory called Black Parade Route to name a few.  These individuals are using their platform to create opportunities for others.

  4. Product owners have different needs than service providers. Going forward, we will separate product owners into one accelerator and service providers into another. This will allow for even greater tailoring of our instruction and mentors.

  5. The Open Office sessions were invaluable. The participants that took advantage of the instructors’ expertise on our weekly “Friday Open Office” sessions benefited greatly. They had stronger pitches, were more confident, and showed the greatest improvement. Going forward, we will strongly encourage every participant to schedule office time with the instructors.

For more information, visit the Rebrand Black website: