The Black Unicorn Factory, a Black-owned equity venture capital company that builds pre-IPO status for companies on a clear path to the stock market, recently hosted a “sharity” event to recognize and gift community heroes for their tireless efforts to promote, establish, and maintain social and economic justice and equality in the Watts community.
Attendees included Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37); awardee Lydia Friend; awardee Brandon “Stix” Salaam-Bailey; several LA City Councilmembers; and awardee “Sweet” Alice Harris and her guests.
Community hero Salaam-Bailey received awards for his work with the Think-Watts Foundation. Brandon spoke about his journey with his organization and how Sweet Alice played a role in inspiring him.
“In 2008 was the first time I started doing community service,” Salaam-Bailey said. “A young lady during this time named Ruby Wallace told me I should talk to Sweet Alice in Watts. I had no prior knowledge of Sweet Alice or her work, but when I came to her and asked for help, she invited me to join her in selling bikes at a local school.
“I watched as she handed out bikes to the youth and asked how she did it. Alice told me it was God’s will and just doing the work.”
Salaam-Bailey then opened a credit line and used that to purchase and distribute turkeys and toys to Watts residents at Ted Watkins Park.
“In 2018, that’s when I made it into a 501C company. Now every week, we address food and insecurity on weekly food drives,” Salaam-Bailey said. “We address financial insecurity by offering financial literacy programs. We do entrepreneurship workshops that show people how to balance sheets, make P&L statements, give point of sale terminals, teach cybersecurity. We also install water boxes in our neighborhood of Watts. We understand that if you live in Watts, you lose 12 years of your life due to the poor water system. That’s a LA county report.”
Another community hero honoree, Friend, is the founder of the non-profit organization Women of Watts.
“I was in prayer for about 10 years, and it wasn’t until a child from Texas came to see his family and died. That’s when I knew I needed to help,” Awardee said. “I already knew Sweet Alice, so I went to her for advice, but one thing about Sweet Alice is if you come for advice, you have to have a Bible study with her. After Bible study, I received Alice’s blessing, and she started introducing me to people, and that’s how Women of Watts began.
“We started with a march about stopping the violence 20 years ago, kids were dying every day, and I just wanted the mothers to come out with the hope of the kids following,” Friend said
She explained that she started small, but now she has plans to put kids in extracurricular activities.
“We are opening up our community center, with a computer lab, sewing class… we are just moving forward with God and giving our kids something to do,” Friend said. “They took so much stuff out of our community, I am just trying to bring things back.”
The sharity event concluded with the honoring of Harris. She sat down to speak about the origin of the Parents of Watts foundation and why the community is so important to her.
“I started as a hairstylist and moved to Watts to gain more clients,” Harris said. “I never thought the Watts riots were that bad. I quickly realized there were no medical facilities around after a child was ran over, and it took paramedics two to three hours to come.”
This led to Harris playing an instrumental role in getting the Martin Luther King Medical Center built in Watts.
“Now that we have a hospital, we need a school to teach our kids to work in the hospital,” Harris said. “Instead of hiring people from other hospitals, we needed them to hire people in the area. So we went to the Board of Education, and they told us we wouldn’t have enough students qualified to attend the school. I said that’s not true because we got kids that want to learn, but they only focused on the kids acting a fool. I went to the Board of Education to get applications for the students to fill out, and then I set up a barbecue.”
Harris was known early on for her famous barbecues that she used to bring the community together and inform them of the help she required.
She gathered 400 applications and proceeded to have another barbecue with the Board of Education as a guest to show them their kids were ready for a new school.
“I called the superintendent and told him to come to my barbecue so the kids can thank him for being the superintendent, and I asked him to bring some of the board members,” Harris said. “They came, and I told them I had something for them, I had all the students, parents, and preachers stand up, and I handed them the applications and told him you have the support.”
Harris’ event led to the creation of King/Drew Medical Magnet High School.
Stewart ended the honoring of Harris by presenting her an IPO stock check for $300,000 on behalf of Black Unicorn Factory.
“She is my dear sister and a community hero, letting her know how much love and appreciation we have for her,” founder Johnny Stewart said.
“In 2012, the Black Unicorn Factory started as a sole proprietorship in Los Angeles and originally started just teaching classes at a small scale in a church, then it moved to an office in 2019 and became incorporated in California,” said Stewart. “We at the Black Unicorn factory are trying to help small businesses who have a great disadvantage when it comes to gaining loans through banks. Banks don’t lend to minorities. They only lend one percent of all the capital they have to people of color. That is bad.”
Stewart explained that there are many advantages small businesses gain once they go public.
“So what we’ve done is respond by using a law passed by former President Obama, the ‘jobs act,’ in 2012, gave us access to the stock market instead of going to banks and loaners to get a loan,” Stuart said. “We at the Black Unicorn Factory want to teach people how to qualify to take their company public, once that happens, it becomes easier for companies to gain capital. This is what creates generational wealth.
“We at the Black Unicorn Factory are trying to bring to the Black Community the knowledge that even when the banks say no, don’t worry, you can get an IPO,” Stuart added. “There is a disparity, and we need to help disadvantaged businesses, underserved businesses in the minority community. They have alternatives than going to a bank, their pockets, or big investors. We are an accelerated program that will prepare you to do that.”