Ujima Fund Investor Report Interview: Sheena Collier
July 1st, 2021 -- Black. Women. Entrepreneurs. Investors. This quarter for our Summer 2021 Investor Update, we sat down with a group of Black women entrepreneurs invested in the Ujima Fund, spotlighting how they connect to Ujima’s work. Investment for these women is not just material, but about broader support for small businesses and entrepreneurs of color in their communities.
Sheena Collier is a Boston-based entrepreneur, and founder of Boston While Black, a member based community for Black professionals, entrepreneurs, and students seeking connection and community. Sheena has always loved being in community with Black people, and after a long career working with local nonprofits and the Boston Chamber of Commerce, she opened the first round of Boston While Black membership in 2020.
Who are you? What’s your b-side?
My name is Sheena Collier, and “Sheena” actually means “God is gracious” or “God’s gift.” I am the Founder & CEO of Boston While Black and The Collier Connection. I love music and usually have a running soundtrack in my head all day.
My love for Black people, culture, and community continues to grow as I learn more about our history and contributions. I’ve always been a connector, but I didn’t realize until much later that it was because I grew up in a family that loved to throw parties. Our home was a gathering spot; hosting and convening was always a part of my life, but I still find it interesting that it became my career.
Can you tell us more about why you invested in the Ujima Fund?
I had a hard time connecting with traditional forms of investing because I like to put my money into things that I believe in. The Ujima Fund allows me to invest in people, businesses, and communities that I want to see thrive.
Initially, it took me a while to wrap my head around Ujima’s model because it seemed so radical. I was taught about traditional investing, and believed I didn’t have enough money to invest. I first learned about Ujima while working at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. The community assemblies really drew me in, and I started investing at the Kujichagulia level — that’s when I realized I could really do this. My decision to invest was less about giving a specific amount, but more about supporting other small businesses.
Why was it important for you to invest as a business owner yourself?
I believe in abundance. I put out into the world what I want to get back because there is enough for all of us. I also see it as a privilege to be able to invest in others.
How has interacting with or investing in Ujima helped shape your practices as a business owner?
It makes me think a lot about our values as a business and mine as a business owner. Ujima’s Good Business Standards are aspirational for me, and they inspire me as an entrepreneur. There is this assumption that because I’m a Black woman, my business practices are automatically equitable, but not necessarily. I was groomed in the same system as other business owners, so I strongly believe that we have to invest in ourselves.
What’s the story you want to tell about being a Black woman investor?
Black women are natural investors. We do it constantly with our time, our love, our ideas, and our money. Our investments have and will continue to help everyone grow.
At the height of the pandemic, myself and a friend of mine who’s also an entrepreneur were talking about not knowing how to move forward. We started thinking about what kinds of businesses will be needed after the pandemic, and began convening other Black entrepreneurs around this question. We met every Saturday until two months ago, bringing in guest speakers. We saw the power in pooling our resources and investing in each other. I’ve always gladly invested my time but never thought I could also invest money.
My ability to now invest resources as well, through Ujima, is a natural extension of what we, as Black women, already do. It’s a privilege and a blessing to be able to do that ■
As the year progresses Sheena is most looking forward to being in person with the people she loves.
Boston While Black is continuing to grow. The organization will be reopening their membership in July. They are also looking to grow their corporate and university partnerships, and are starting to think about what they would need to run an in-person gathering and coworking space that centers the experiences of Black people.