At Asana, our customers inspire us every day as they work towards their missions. Over the years, we’ve been especially inspired by the Black-founded businesses that rely on Asana. Whether combating climate change, increasing access to education, or changing the world in other ways, they are making big strides to better our society. Six of the leaders behind these game-changing businesses recently shared their stories, as well as advice, with us on how to build successful businesses that enact positive change.
Felix Lloyd, Founder and CEO of Zoobean
Former Washington, DC Teacher of the Year, Felix Lloyd, was inspired to create Zoobean after he and his wife, Jordan—Google’s first-ever head of K-12 education—discovered a picture book featuring an interracial family that helped their son understand what it would mean to be a big brother in an interracial family. Pitching their initial idea to enable more effective book discovery on Shark Tank, Felix and Jordan secured investment from Mark Cuban to pursue their vision. Since that pivotal moment, Zoobean has evolved to help libraries, schools, corporations, and families read more, read together, and engage their communities with reading challenges.
Now serving over 1,900 library systems and 1,200 school buildings, Zoobean has helped more than three million kids become lifelong readers. Asana has been an important part of ensuring that Zoobean meets its critical milestones. Zoobean’s marketing and design teams use Asana to plan and track tasks, manage their content roadmap and campaign calendar, and funnel requests from various teams to ensure that everyone is aligned on key objectives.
Felix’s advice for aspiring Black founders—advice that he often shares with his team—is “do what’s next.” As Felix explained to us, “Being a dad and an entrepreneur, I often feel like there’s more to do than I ever seem to get done. So, I always come back to this simple statement while not losing focus on the bigger picture along with our vision to build a business that has a meaningful and enduring impact. Just do what’s next.”
Tiffany Dufu, Founder and CEO of The Cru
Inspired to help women take the work out of networking, Tiffany Dufu founded The Cru. People who join the Cru are matched to a group of seven other women who network, establish goals, create actions, and hold each other accountable through a digital platform. In building The Cru, Tiffany drew from her own experiences, including serving as Chief Leadership Officer at a technology company for millennial women, consulting for Fortune 500 companies on their strategies for retaining female employees, and authoring a bestselling book for women. Throughout these experiences, Tiffany surrounded herself with her own crew—a group of women who knew her ambition, helped her create a plan, and, most importantly, held her accountable to that plan.
Tiffany and her team have relied on Asana ever since their second round of venture funding when they realized they needed a central source of truth and accountability to “avoid stepping on everyone’s toes,” in Tiffany’s words. Tiffany and her team use Asana to track their goals and align as an organization. Tiffany estimates that using Asana saves her one and a half hours each day, giving her time back to focus on her most important work.
Tiffany vividly recalls sage advice from her parents—“If you want something you’ve never had before, you need to do something that you’ve never done before.” Tiffany is keen to share this advice with Black entrepreneurs. She is passionate about teaching entrepreneurs—especially Black founders—that there’s immense power in harnessing a responsibility to be something greater than themselves. She explained,
“You are standing on the shoulders of people whose blood, sweat, and flesh are baked into our democracy. They were never compensated for their labor. Believe that you now have a responsibility to do as much as you can to honor their legacy.”Tiffany Dufu, Founder and CEO of The Cru
Tinia Pina, Founder and CEO of Re-Nuble
While volunteering as an SAT-prep teacher in 2012, Tinia Pina saw firsthand how limited healthy food options impacted her students’ productivity, which, in turn, had a negative impact on their future. Intent on reducing food insecurity and improving local food production, Tinia decided to create Re-Nuble, an innovative agtech company that uses organic cycling science to convert vegetative food waste into water-soluble, organic hydroponic nutrients for soilless farms. Re-Nuble’s mission is to help communities and farms around the world reimagine food waste by transforming it into an important nutrient for closed-loop agriculture. As Tinia explained to us, “We believe that yesterday’s leftovers equal tomorrow’s abundance and we live this motto as an agriculture technology company.”
Tinia and her team rely on Asana every day to harness food waste to fight food justice. Asana has been especially impactful in helping Tinia and her team plan and discuss their respective deliverables, keeping team members up to date on the status of projects, and allowing easy and effective idea-sharing. Especially this year, Asana has also served as a hub for positivity. As Tinia explained to us, “With all that has been happening around the world, having a space to share positive, funny, and meaningful information and news has been great. This, I feel, has been one of the most powerful impacts Asana has had on our team. Since we aren’t able to be physically present with one another, developing and maintaining that colleague relationship has been incredibly easy thanks to Asana.”
Tinia’s advice for Black entrepreneurs is to share what you’re doing with as many people as possible early on. This not only helps build brand equity, identify potential advisors and team members, but, more importantly, makes it easier to develop a community of advocates for your mission. She explained, “Even if it may take years for you to truly launch your business idea, you will have at least organically developed brand awareness without having to spend a dime.”
Will Morris, Founder and CEO of EdConnective
Through his experiences working at a low-income high school in Chicago and pursuing his own education, Will Morris recognized a pernicious opportunity-gap for low-income students. Inspired by insights that he had gleaned through his Master’s thesis research, Will founded EdConnective, which aims to ensure student success through transformative teacher training.
Will’s mission has become even more important during the pandemic when teachers are facing a once-in-a-generation learning curve. School districts have described this time as the “largest adaptive challenge for education systems in a generation,” requiring the “wholesale retraining” of the teacher workforce. EdConnective is addressing this inflection point by coaching teachers online and harnessing expertise in in-person, hybrid, and fully remote learning, all with the aim to reach its vision of every student gaining access to a great teacher and every teacher gaining access to a great coach, so that students can have the quality educational experience needed to prepare them for a rewarding and fulfilling future.
Asana has been an important part of EdConnective’s journey to date. As Will explained to us, “Asana has been an invaluable tool for our organization when it comes to internal operations. It has helped us bring structure and scaffolding to our growth as we’ve scaled from a handful of people to a multi-departmental organization that impacts tens of thousands of students across the country.”
Will advises aspiring Black founders and entrepreneurs to focus on traction over fundraising, when possible. He explained to us,
“Build a great team, it’s 10x faster than going alone and the probability of success is much higher also. Get lots of feedback but be careful to get it from people who actually have the expertise in the subject you need to learn about. Make friends with other founders who are both ahead and behind you, in terms of progress—those communities are invaluable. It’s a numbers game when it comes to traction. You might have to get somewhere between 40 to 500 ‘no’s before you get your first ‘yes’, but the ‘yesses’ snowball and get easier, especially if you get some training on business development.”Will Morris, Founder and CEO of EdConnective
Julia Collins, Founder and CEO of Planet FWD
When Julia Collins learned that she was going to become a mom, she had a nagging thought that she just couldn’t shake: “How can I create a better world for my tiny human?” The answer to this question has been the catalyst for her quest to create Planet FWD. Planet FWD is on a mission to help tackle climate change by making it easier to bring climate-friendly food and beverage products to market. Julia and her team are building software that allows brands to identify suppliers based on a wide array of sustainability criteria, including carbon intensity and overall climate-friendliness. They have also built the world’s first climate-friendly snack brand called Moonshot Snacks, which are carbon-neutral, organic, kosher, plant-based, non-GMO, and have no sugar added.
Julia and her team rely on Asana for many key processes, one of which is managing the complexities of launching Moonshot. Creating a cross-functional launch board in Asana has been a consistent key touchpoint for both internal and external team members to get to launch, which has included building their own regenerative supply chain.
Julia advises Black founders and entrepreneurs to “make connections to people who are committed to your success even before you set out to raise your first dollar.” She says, “Pour attention on those relationships until you have formed a community around you. It is this community that will help you succeed.”
Helen Adeosun, Founder and CEO of CareAcademy
Helen started CareAcademy with a simple vision: to empower direct care workers to learn how to deliver the best care to older adults with the support, guidance, and compassion needed to improve their quality of life in the home. During the pandemic, the importance of the people that power healthcare has come to the forefront. Today, CareAcademy provides nearly 1,000 home care agencies with a best-in-class online education platform that delivers engaging video-based classes and real-world scenarios that walk through aspects of the caregiver experience. CareAcademy has now certified and upskilled more than 100,000 direct care workers to have the most significant impact within healthcare, helping them deliver the best care possible.
Asana has helped Helen and her team track and manage tasks across all departments. Asana fosters great collaboration skills, which has been instrumental in transitioning the team to effective remote working. Using Asana while working remotely has allowed team members to hold each other accountable and manage deadlines, all while scaling rapidly. As Helen also explained to us, “Being such a fast-growing company, it is important that we can scale, and Asana has allowed just that.” The team has used Asana to execute some of its most important work, including its Series A funding round and planning its Future of Work Campaign.
Helen’s thoughts around Black founders and entrepreneurs come from the greatest tenets for any entrepreneur—in her words, “a radical acceptance of the world as it is and a deep conviction that you will build the world as it should be.” Helen explained to us, “There is a lot of data that suggests that at all levels, Black founders have to work harder for all of the milestones inherent to entrepreneurship: fundraising, hiring, etc. That is a radical acceptance for how the world works. Women—women of color specifically—come to the table with few resources at hand, because we have a lot less, and the wonderful thing about that is it builds resilience and the ability to be more resourceful.”
Helen’s goal as an entrepreneur is to build products that are undeniably excellent and shape the future. If she’s successful in doing so alongside thousands of Black founders, it opens the door and makes it even easier for more entrepreneurs to have a shot to bring meaningful solutions to the world. She says, “Build solutions that have real value, and everyone will have no choice but to notice your brilliance. Meanwhile, the gatekeepers have to do a better job of not missing out on those solutions’ power.”
Building a brighter, more equal future
The New Year is always a time to seek out inspiration. At Asana, our customers are the first place we look to. These and so many other Black founders are inspiring positive change in the world, and we’re immensely proud that they leverage Asana to accomplish their missions to build a better and more equitable future.
Are you an aspiring or current entrepreneur looking for ways to manage all of your passions and projects, making sure nothing falls through the cracks? Join us at our free virtual event on January 28, 2021, Level Up: Passion & Project Organization with Asana!