Black women are three times more likely than white to die during and immediately after childbirth, and most of these deaths are preventable with better maternal health.
Jade Kearney is working to change that. She is the co-founder and CEO of She Matters, a digital health platform designed to improve postpartum comorbidities for Black women through community, culturally competent health care providers, and culturally relevant resources.
Some people are entrepreneurs, some are changemakers. Kearney is a powerful combination of both.
She wrote the book “Lean While Black: A Guide to Black Entrepreneurship,” due out today, Aug. 2. She is also the creator of Black Girl’s Tech Day, a vibrant convening of Black females leading in the tech space. Armed with a background in diversity and inclusion and a master’s degree in digital media design from New York University, Kearney is a driving force inspiring other women of color to experience their power through entrepreneurship.
The Moguldom Nation caught up with New York City-based Jade Kearney recently to find out more about this innovator and her efforts to improve Black maternal health through technology.
Lauren deLisa Coleman: What led to your interest in tech?
Jade Kearney: My love for technology and entrepreneurship comes from working for others and not experiencing the things that are most important to me, due to hurdles and obstacles such as inflexible schedules, and personal and financial limitations. It was really a culmination of all of my experiences, both personal and professional. I pursued many degrees and always had a passion for mental health, technology, and entrepreneurship, but I didn’t know how to leverage my skills.
Over time, as I became more confident as a person, I started to say “no” to things that didn’t resonate with me and “yes” to passion projects and here I am!
LdC: How did you get the idea for the app and why is the postpartum experience different for Black women?
Jade Kearney: The idea came from my own personal experience as a Black mother. It is widely known that Black women have the highest instance of maternal mortality in the U.S. Black women are four times more likely to die during childbirth, 80 percent more likely to return to the emergency room during their postpartum period, and 40 percent more likely to suffer from undiagnosed postpartum mental illness than white women. Addressing this issue was my motivation behind She Matters
She Matters is a digital health platform designed to improve postpartum comorbidities for Black women through community, culturally competent health care providers, and culturally relevant resources.
In addition, She Matters recently released “The Pink Book” which offers Black mothers an interactive map listing the safest hospitals and maternity services across 14 states with the largest African American populations in the U.S.
LdC: What are some of the key features of the platform and app for Black maternal health?
Jade Kearney: Our priority is to make Black mamas comfortable discussing their mental and emotional state in spite of the cultural stigma and medical neglect associated with mental illness in the Black community. We train therapists and healthcare professionals to be better resources for Black mamas, by ensuring they are culturally competent and aware of the challenges to healing for Black mamas prior to providing them with therapy.
LdC: Tell us how Black Girl’s Tech Day came to be?
Jade Kearney: Some of the challenges Black female entrepreneurs face are finding mentorship. Female entrepreneurs in the tech space are few and far between, and getting white or Asian men to mentor Black women can be difficult — people typically mentor others who look like them.
Resources can also be a challenge in terms of knowing which accelerator to apply to and available grants. The biggest challenge is funding, finding VCs and angels who back great companies and not just women or minority-led companies.
Teaching and sharing this information through a conference like Black Girl’s Tech Day helps combat the challenges Black female entrepreneurs face by creating a space where resources are provided and shared. Black Girl’s Tech Day was created for Black women looking for mentorship, resources, and capital.
LdC: What were the results of the 2021 conference and how did you decide to expand to cities in South Africa? Who are some of your sponsors, and what does the conference offer? What cities are next?
Jade Kearney: The initial conference in NYC was a great success and I always planned to expand the series from there. I made a relationship with the University of Pretoria in South Africa and it just made sense to take the conference to the homeland and partner with such a prestigious university.
The next cities will be Atlanta in October and possibly Los Angeles later this year or early 2023.
Ldc: How does one become a “lean startup” expert?
Jade Kearney: Like anything else, it takes time and experience. I’ve learned that nothing happens when it’s supposed to happen, you have to have a thick skin, and can not get big-headed off the wins, because just as fast as they come they go. Every day is up and down so you must have an even mindset with a win or a loss because both are temporary.
Founders can apply the lean model methodology explained in my book to their business and see results, but I do think it is important to take scaling into consideration when thinking about the next phase of your business. Black entrepreneurs can scale by leveraging mentorship, resources and capital which we provide opportunities to secure at our conference; without scaling success is next to impossible.
LdC: What are your top tips for founders in this category?
Jade Kearney: You can’t do everything! I am a mom of two beautiful girls. I started a company and finished a master’s degree from NYU in two years. I was burned out! I was competing with some imaginary clock. Don’t do it to yourself. Mental health is first.
You will struggle financially when you are pursuing your dreams. That’s pretty self-explanatory, entrepreneurs spend so much time on their business and you don’t see that return right away, so you have to have a financial plan, so you aren’t sweating when you check your bank account every day.
Time management is the key to success. You need a calendar, I thought I could have a schedule in my head and just deliver. You have to write it down and put it on your calendar and set a reminder. Plan out your week!
Your personal team is just as important as your professional team. This path is hard and you need people around you who support you, check you when you are being outrageous and love you, because you are constantly being told “no” as an entrepreneur.
You make the decisions and that is it. You have a team that gives their input, but the decisions for your business are made by you. I used to ask three different mentors before I made a decision because I was scared to fail. Now I know that failure is a part of the process and that is how you learn.
LdC: Tell us about “Lean While Black”? What can readers expect and when does it drop?
Jade Kearney: “Lean While Black: A Guide to Black Entrepreneurship” drops August 2, 2022, and it has all the tools, advice and personal experience I’ve learned for entrepreneurs to study and execute.
LdC: What was the experience like writing this book?
Jade Kearney: It was a labor of love. It’s not easy writing a book while being a mother, running a business and getting my master’s degree, but it was well worth it. It is so important to my bigger mission of sharing back with my community. It was also really nice to reflect on how far I’ve come as an entrepreneur.
LdC: What do you think are the biggest opportunities in the next five years for Black women and tech?
Jade Kearney: To elevate Black women in the startup space. We are here and we are proven to be successful so invest in our ideas, mentor us and provide access so we can continue to help change the world for the better.
Lauren DeLisa Coleman is a Digi-Cultural Trend Analyst and Producer. She’s the founder of http://lnkagency.com/ and Vapor Media, and a commentator on public sentiment and tech on MSNBC.
Agency representation: Leading Authorities. Author: “America’s Most Wanted: The Millennial” an Amazon, “Best: New Media Studies” pick: http://amzn.to/KmsuJ8