When Marceau Michel couldn’t find investors to support his thriving business, Marceau decided to take matters into his own hands. In this inaugural profile of Haitians in America, learn about Marceau’s journey to entrepreneurship, his advice for those looking to follow his footsteps and how his Haitian roots carried him through it all.
Marceau Michel can relate to the struggles that’s become commonplace among millenials. He worked in the gig economy for the past 11 years, which eventually inspired him to start his own business, Werkhorse. Despite the success of his business – he won the Techstars Startup Weekend competition — he had trouble securing funding.
His solution? Start his own fund to finance entrepreneurs that look like him.
Tell us about your business. How did you become an entrepreneur – How difficult is it for Blacks to get Venture Capital funding?
Let’s be frank. Getting venture funding is very hard. However, as a Black entrepreneur implicit bias is rampant even in a industry that gives much lip service to inclusion and diversity. The numbers don’t lie.
Less than 4 percent of venture funding goes to minority and female led startups. It’s not impossible to get funding but highly unlikely. It’s club that we are waiting in line to get in to while we watch our often lesser counterparts stroll right in. What’s sad is the club will let you stand in line with no intention of even letting you. That’s why I started Black Founders Matter. I believe that we must create our own opportunities and support each other. The status quo is not catching up fast enough.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
This is a hard one to answer. The biggest challenge for an entrepreneur is always changing. Sometimes it’s your team, many times it’s funding, but most often it’s internal. Doubting myself and my worthiness to be an outlier and truly succeed in this very competitive space. Being an entrepreneur is very scary and lonely at times. You live in a low-emotional state until something really great happens and your spirit peaks; then you return to the lows waiting for the next peak.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs?
Do things that scare you. That’s where the magic is. This world makes us believe we can’t take chances unless we know everything. You don’t need all the answers to get started on building your dreams. Also, surround yourself with people that believe in you even more than your vision. Because your vision may change, evolve or fail but those that really believe in you will ride the highs and lows with you. Lastly, make good use of your peers. It’s not always about networking upward. Sometimes the people in the trenches with you are your biggest catalysts.
Where is the business today and where do you want to take it?
Right now Werkhorse is up and running. We provide last minute fill-ins for the hospitality industry. Think Uber for getting food service gigs. Right now we are developing the technology to make my vision a reality. I want Werkhorse to be the define voice of the gig economy. I believe my company will change the nature of work as we know it. I want Werkhorse to be ubiquitous! The world needs it! And its a Haitian boy is going to be the one to bring to them.
How does being Haitian inform your business decision?
Being Haitian and understanding where I come from and the legacy that has been passed on to me is invaluable to how function as an entrepreneur. I come from self-liberated slaves. I couldn’t have started Black Founders Matter with understanding I have to liberate myself and that power is already in my blood.