How The Vision Of This Female Founder Has Created Unrivaled Access For Black Voices In Media
Morgan DeBaun has changed the world for Black millennials. In 2014 as a 24-year-old visionary, she saw the need for a platform and a media brand that would share authentic stories and news about underrepresented voices in America, and their achievements. She wanted this generation of young people of color to stay informed about the issues they care about, to be able to see and share examples of amazing people doing important things in the Black community and provide more opportunities to showcase humanity. DeBaun’s recognition of this need turned into Blavity Inc., the leading digital media company for Black culture and millennials.
At first, Blavity was a small venture as DeBaun was still working another full-time job in the tech industry. “I kept my full-time job at Intuit but was spending all my nights and weekends working on Blavity. We started with a curated video newsletter and eventually built a website, which was only the beginning. What ultimately spurred me to leave Intuit and commit to Blavity full time was the lack of coverage from Black media companies after Michael Brown’s death.” explained DeBaun. “There was a huge gap of information between what I saw happening on the ground in St. Louis and what I saw in the mainstream media. I wanted to make a positive impact on our community and build a brand that could help the voices of our generation push progress forward and tell our stories. Our momentum began in 2014 with a single Black news site that has now grown into a digital media ecosystem with a monthly reach of over 100 million people, and 100 corporate partners a year.”
DeBaun’s mission was to provide resources to Black millennials and since Blavity’s launch, the media platform has not only established itself as a leader in news and digital products but also as a valuable resource for Black entrepreneurs and small business owners. The unique business model combines an unapologetically Black media and tech company with branded digital content distribution and a social impact organization all focused on engaging Black Millennial and Gen-Z audiences. Additionally, Blavity has created space for Black thought leaders, innovators, and the Black community at large to see themselves reflected in the media and feel empowered to make change.
“We host a series of conferences and summits aimed at equipping Black founders with resources and a network of advisors, which have served over 15,000 individuals in the past year. We have championed Black small business owners through our Blavity Inc. news coverage and our creation of events for entrepreneurs to learn new skills, including AfroTech and Summit21. With every story, every activation, and every event, we have always made it our first priority to create something that supports our community in leveraging new opportunities for a better future,” DeBaun shared. “Our corporate mission is to advance Black happiness. We think about happiness in a variety of ways. One of which is economic freedom and self-empowerment, and being able to own your own destiny, own your own voice, own your own narrative. So for me, the stories that I’m the proudest of are when we are the first to cover a small business owner, a local hero, or anyone making important change. When we stand up as a community of their peers and say ‘We are with you, we’re rocking with you, you don’t need anyone else to tell you you’re incredible, you don’t need mainstream validation that you made it. We see you, we’ve got you, and we are going to sell out your business/services.’ We often make stories go viral, because people are using Blavity as the first source of information, which is how we were designed. That is why we built this company.”
Under the Blavity umbrella, DeBaun created AfroTech, the largest Black tech conference connecting a global community of 20,000+ Black tech innovators through a series of digital and in-person events filled with dynamic programming on emerging trends, networking opportunities with industry leaders and conversations with top tech recruiters. “This year our AfroTech conference is a multi-day experience bringing together leaders in entertainment and tech including the virtual AfroTech World and a series of in-person events in various locations. The digital experience includes multiprogramming stages, an Expo Hall with 100+ corporate sponsors and recruiters, networking events and activations. We will also have AfroTech Music and AfroTech Executive. AT Music brings together leaders in the entertainment and tech industries for a music and networking experience that focuses on growing our black tech community. AT Executive brings together corporate executives, venture capitalists, angel investors, startup founders and tech moguls for two days of programming and networking. We have seen entrepreneurs meet through AfroTech and later launch a business together, people meet recruiters and get hired for a job that changed the trajectory of their life, mentees meet their mentors, small business owners meet future investors, and products find their distributors. The connections that are made at this conference and the community that is created is truly one of a kind,” she explained.
She also created Summit21, the tentpole annual event for Blavity’s premier women’s lifestyle brand, 21Ninety. According to DeBaun, 21Ninety was born from the belief that it takes 21 days to form a habit and 90 days to create a lifestyle, so the brand focuses on advising and inspiring their audience and followers to live their best lives. The two-day virtual experience will be offered free of charge this year, focusing on empowering entrepreneurs, creatives, and small business owners to work smarter, not harder, to master the elusive work/life balance for which we’re all striving while achieving their personal and professional goals. Speakers this year include Tyra Banks, Sarah Jakes Roberts, celebrity publicist Erica Tucker, entrepreneur Olori Swank and personal development coach Alena Conley, Danielle Cadet from Netflix, Ronne Brown, and Blake Gifford.
DeBaun also acts as an advisor to influential global brands and companies including Disney, American Airlines, CES, Pantora Bridal and Rosen Skincare, and often partners Blavity with big brands to help them authentically reach Black audiences. Recently Blavity collaborated with Sephora on a campaign to celebrate Black beauty & radiance, with Mastercard to co-host virtual activations to explore how to confront a financial system that has systematically disadvantaged and excluded Black communities and has proliferated the racial wealth and opportunity gap, with Hulu to share stories to continue the fight against racial inequality and with Amazon on a partnership to highlight careers in tech.
With no plans of slowing down Blavity’s growth, DeBaun has exciting plans for the future. “We are excited to continue to do what we do best: create community, tell stories, and drive Black economic empowerment. In 2020, we launched our own streaming site, Lunchtable, which features hours of live-streamed content per day, and hired a Head of Content Distribution and Partnerships to expand our production and storytelling capabilities,” she shared. “Our nonprofit, Blavity.org launched in May with the mission to drive Black economic advancement forward through entrepreneurial fellowship programs featuring grants, education & mentorship and I am so excited to continue to grow those programs and that organization. We are just getting started!”
This article was written by Yola Robert for Forbes.