Celebrating Diversity in Entrepreneurship: Beyond the Buzzword

People standing around a conference table talking about entrepreneurship ideas
Mentors, entrepreneurs and attendees at Edson E+I’s Downtown PHX Small Business Innovation Summit

June is a month rich with opportunities for reflection and celebration. It is not only Pride Month but also the time when we observe Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating a pivotal moment in American history that underscores the importance of diversity. 

In entrepreneurship, diversity is not just a mere buzzword. It’s a crucial element for discovering unique opportunities, solving complex problems, and ensuring solutions have a meaningful impact. Despite extensive research highlighting the benefits of diversity, many businesses and support organizations still find it challenging to implement best practices around diversity. To help with these challenges,  here are a few innovative ways for founders and support organizations to embrace diversity and create lasting impact.

For Founders: Building a Diverse Team and Network

When starting a business, the team you surround yourself with and the resources you utilize are integral to your success. A diverse team, paired with experienced mentors who bring unique perspectives, can accelerate your path to traction and lessen reliance on external resources—ultimately enhancing the viability of your venture.

Finding Diverse Team Members and Mentors

Finding mentors and team members with diverse backgrounds can be challenging because humans have a natural tendency to gravitate toward those with similar experiences and networks.  The Diversity Matters report from McKinsey & Company highlights how building diverse teams adds value and positively impacts financial performance.

Founders frequently ask, “How do I find a CTO with a different skill set and background than mine?” The answer lies in stepping outside your comfort zone. Try attending various networking events, even those where you might feel like an outsider. While it can be intimidating at first, with time and practice these events can become fertile ground for meeting people with different points of view, experiences and perspectives.  

Building trust in new spaces may take time, but believe in the process—even when it forces you outside of your comfort zone. The diversity of opinions and experiences you experience will be invaluable.

When seeking mentors, it’s essential to reflect on the diversity of your current advisors. Identify any gaps in your team and recognize who may be missing from your network. Reach out to grou ps with backgrounds specifically in the areas where you need new perspectives. Examine who is represented and who makes decisions on content and strategy within these resources. It’s these approaches that can help you find mentors who can offer valuable new insights and fresh ideas, while also fostering inclusion.


Four people collaborating and using sticky notes to brainstorm ideas
Entrepreneurs and innovators collaborate at 1951 @ SkySong

For Entrepreneurial Support Organizations: Embedding Diversity in Strategy

The power of diversity has often been misunderstood. Many organizations simply repurpose prior content for a new, diverse audience—often with mixed levels of success. However, to truly serve diverse entrepreneurs, the fastest-growing segment in the country, it’s important to go beyond repurposing old materials, programs, or policies. Real, authentic revamping of materials, curriculum, procedures, programs, and opportunities should include input from the unique cultural perspectives of the groups they aim to serve.

Diverse Leadership and Decision Making

One effective way to include the voices of the groups we serve is to ensure their representation on our leadership boards. Who has a seat at the table, making strategic decisions? What are their backgrounds and experiences? It’s crucial to have decision-makers who represent a variety of entrepreneurial ventures and demographics. This diversity ensures that strategies are informed by a wide range of experiences.

Program Design and Implementation

Designing impactful programs requires more than just diverse participation. It’s about ensuring that decision-makers and those providing feedback are diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, experience, and geography. For example, in communities like the suburbs surrounding Phoenix, Arizona, experiences can vary significantly for founders located in geographically distinct areas such as Chandler and Peoria. Different lived experiences can arise from seemingly insignificant differences like location. Incorporating these diverse perspectives into your strategy can lead to more effective and inclusive outcomes for people from those communities.

The Continuous Journey of Embracing Diversity

Diversity is a powerful tool that strengthens the entrepreneurial ecosystem. As we evolve and better understand its potential, our challenge is to effectively implement diversity and inclusion in a real, authentic, and informed manner. Founders and organizations alike should strive to expand the diversity of the people they engage with and include them in the feedback they receive. This approach is crucial for inspiring innovation, cultivating sustainable growth and creating a more equitable and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem.

It’s important to ask not just who’s at the table, but also who’s missing, and make sure we actively include them in everything we bring to the community. As we celebrate this June, let’s take this time to reflect and identify small actions that can diversify the thoughts, opinions and people in our lives. These actions can pave the way for a more inclusive and vibrant entrepreneurial community, benefiting us all in the long run.


Coworkers high-fiving and smiling
Milkos from Getty Images

A Worthwhile Commitment 

We have reached a cultural tipping point where few would argue against the strength diversity brings. However, the ongoing challenge lies in reflecting on and implementing this belief. Despite widespread acknowledgment of the benefits of diversity, translating this awareness into tangible actions and meaningful change requires continuous effort and commitment from individuals, organizations, and society as a whole.

As we commemorate Pride Month and Juneteenth, let’s reaffirm our commitment to embracing diversity in all its forms. By fostering an inclusive environment, we can cultivate a more resilient and impactful entrepreneurial ecosystem that benefits everyone. Let’s celebrate the richness of our differences and work together to build a brighter future for all.

Kristin Slice

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