Pharrell Williams’ Black Ambition, the nonprofit initiative dedicated to supporting Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs, just awarded more than $3 million in funding to entrepreneurs, including those in fashion and beauty, at its third annual Demo Day. 

The biggest prize — $1 million — was given to Antoinette Banks, chief executive officer and founder of Expert IEP, a parent-facing app that optimizes existing Individualized Education Plans with predictive AI for children diagnosed with a disability. 

Founded in 2020, Black Ambition is dedicated to closing the opportunity and wealth gap by empowering Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs. Through its initiatives, the organization has awarded about $10 million in funding and resources to 101 prize winners. 

“Equality’s awesome, but equity is a whole other page. Seeing so many founders stand up last night and talk about what they’re doing, how long they’ve been in business, why it’s working was a super proud moment because this was a dream for three years,” said Williams, who was named Louis Vuitton’s men’s creative director in February, during a question-and-answer session in Spring Studios in New York City.

“We’re not asking anymore to participate. It’s not begging for a seat at the table. We’re building our own tables. And sometimes our tables are big enough where we can say ‘would you like a seat?’ That’s the Black ambition,” he said.

In addition to mentorship, prize winners will receive resources and connections to additional investors and funding. Awardees will also receive biweekly office hours with leaders in marketing, PR, and brand-building with global brands such as Heineken, Snapchat, Netflix and other participating companies. 

Other top prize winners included Ecomspaces, a one-stop-shop for e-commerce solutions ranging from product photography to order fulfillment, and HBCU Grand Prize Winner, Monocle, a social e-reader that creates a community-focused reading experience, who were awarded with $250,000 and $200,000, respectively, toward their ventures.

Among the winning beauty entrepreneurs were Butter’d Bodycare ($50,000), The Renatural ($100,000), Moodeaux ($100,000), Gently Soap ($75,000), Singular Care ($50,000) and Bea’s Bayou Skincare ($20,000). In fashion, Kin Apparel ($75,000), Redress ($50,000), Hamilton Perkins Collection ($20,000) were all awarded cash prizes.

Judges included Marilyn Webber, senior vice president, omni client strategy for Louis Vuitton Americas; Erik Moore, managing director at Base Ventures, and Jay Lundy, senior vice president, head of Investments and New Ventures at Combs Global.

Felicia Hatcher, CEO of Black Ambition, said: “Our impact, illustrated by the 36 top finalists, is a testament to the tangible change we’re creating for underserved communities. We’re proud to announce this year’s winners and to celebrate the remarkable journey of Black Ambition.” 

Last year’s $1 million prize winner was inclusive beauty brand Pound Cake. In October, it was rolled out at 800 Ulta Beauty stores.

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