Iris Nevins is a 29-year-old art collector, former teacher and software engineer who has marshaled her skills to launch a non-fungible tokens (NFT) business to support Black artists in a profitable marketplace.
Nevins left her career as a teacher and became a software engineer with the goal of contributing her growing technical knowledge and skills to grassroots movements. She taught eighth-grade history in Broward County schools before working as a software engineer at Vox Media and Mailchimp. When Nevins co-founded a social justice organization, she saw that specialized software could help solve the unique problems facing social justice movements. This eventually led her into the cryptocurrency sphere.
One year after a dive into crypto, Nevins launched NFT studio Umba Daima in February 2021. Umba Daima works with Black artists to promote their NFTs and educate people about Web3, a new independent world wide web that’s being developed on blockchain smart-contract platforms.
Nevins said that while the NFT space has grown in recent years, there was still a lot of inequality and lack of diversity in many of the top NFT marketplaces. In this, she saw an opportunity to build a more equitable space for Black creators and creators of color.
“The marketplaces all benefit from the work that people like me do,” she told CNBC. “It’s disappointing when a lot of these platforms don’t make an effort to collaborate with us. [They] can do more to partner with grassroots organizers.”
Umba Daima consults with artists, earning a percentage of their sales, and helps build online communities for marketplaces, according to CNBC.
NFTs or non-fungible tokens are tokens that can be used to represent ownership of unique items such as art, collectibles and real estate on the blockchain. An NFT can only have one official owner at a time, at least officially, and no one can modify the record of ownership or create an NFT by copy-pasting.
Non-fungible is an economic term describing things like furniture, a song file, or your computer — things that are not interchangeable with other items because they have unique properties. Fungible items, on the other hand, can be exchanged because their value defines them rather than their unique properties. For example, ETH or dollars are fungible because 1 ETH or $1 USD is exchangeable for another 1 ETH / $1 USD, according to an Ethereum definition.
Making the switch from software engineer to entrepreneur was fitting for Nevins, who already planned to create a digital store for artists to gain profit for their work. When she learned about NFTs in 2020, she decided the technology would be a “much more profound way to help artists,” CNBC reported.
Umba Daima also launched a number of sub-brands, which it oversees. The first was Black NFT Art, followed quickly by the NFT Roundtable podcast and virtual exhibit The Unseen Gallery. BlackNFT art describes itself as a media and community brand empowering Black people in the NFT space through content, promotion, and events.
“We noticed that the artists that were having a lot of success had these really strong communities around them that were promoting or reposting on social media or participating in their drops,” Nevins told CNBC.
Umba Daima made $140,000 in revenue from all its brands in 2021 and managed NFT accounts for artists such as 3D animator Adre Oshea.
Image: Jernej Furman, Flickr / CC https://www.flickr.com/photos/91261194@N06/
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