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Life & Work with Allison Bajracharya

Today we’d like to introduce you to Allison Bajracharya.

Hi Allison, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, went to college on the east coast, and then started my career as a high school teacher in New Orleans. I moved to Los Angeles 18 years ago, reluctantly, and then fell in love with its glamor and painful paradoxes. I’ve been here ever since. In that time, I’ve worn many professional hats, mostly in the public education space–doing policy and advocacy work, running schools, running campaigns, including my own, and launching a consulting business. A throughline for me, initially implicitly and now explicitly, has been a commitment to racial equity.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, a multi-racial group of friends and colleagues connected in our collective outrage. We knew emotion alone would not change what happened to George Floyd or the thousands of others whose lives had been wrongfully taken because of their race. And so, over the course of the last 16+ months, this group of eight has begun to translate our anger and hopelessness into a vision of action and power. Together, we have harnessed our collective expertise, entrepreneurial spirit, and career insights into the Movement of Allies for Black Businesses.

The Movement of Allies for Black Businesses elevates, promotes, and strengthens Black businesses. Our intent is to build long-term power and wealth in the Black community while also growing a community of support in, of, and around Black Businesses. We seek to influence the mindsets of consumers to be more intentional and habitual in supporting Black-owned businesses. Our platform tells the story of promising Black Businesses, increases their access to consumers and capacity-building resources, and creates connections for “allies” to shop, invest, and be a part of a businesses success.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Our biggest challenge, like that of so many others, is matching our ambition with time and resources. We are currently volunteer run. We all have demanding day jobs as well as parenting and personal responsibilities, so finding time to do everything we set out to do in a given week is a challenge. We are in the midst of raising funds to hire staff to take our vision to the next level, but as a business committed to social impact–we are a Public Benefit Corporation– we are operating in a newer lane. Our legal structure precludes us from qualifying for many grants and startup funds, and our commitment to social impact over profits make us less appealing to investors than underwriting a revenue maximizing entity. Like many of the businesses we highlight, we have skills and vision and need access to resources necessary to grow. We are confident we can get past these hurdles and we want to ensure that those launching and sustaining businesses in the Black community can as well.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
During a majority of my working hours, I run a consulting firm, working with social impact organizations to bring big ideas to life. My career has been driven by social justice and systems-level impact in public education, but my experience in recent years has expanded beyond education into public health, economic development, workforce, and startups of all stages. I’m also the mom of two and volunteer my time as a board member of the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center, an organization that has been a grounding force and an embodiment of community for my family.

In the face of challenge, I see opportunity, and I am an entrepreneur with a growth mindset at heart. The combination of these attributes is what helped influence my initial vision for the Movement of Allies for Black Businesses. Our founding team and board, the camaraderie we’ve built, and our ongoing commitment to operationalizing our intentionality to proximity and racial equity make me most proud.

What are your plans for the future?
We have ambitious plans to expand our visibility and impact. In the first few months of the pandemic, 40% of Black-owned small businesses shut their doors compared to 17% of white-owned businesses; this cannot be the trend moving forward. Most immediately, we are building out our website so more businesses can be profiled and matched with “allies,” We are creating a simple tool for “allies” to identify businesses they want to access –either as a consumer or because they want to sign up to invest time or money. Our intent is to continue to build out our platform so that it becomes a marketplace and matchmaking service to pair Black-owned businesses with consumers and “allies” (whether individual or corporate). We know there are many people eager to put their time and money behind their racial equity commitments; our platform will enable them to realize that commitment. Concurrently, we know there are many Black-owned businesses that are on the verge of something big; increased access to consumers, allies, and capacity-building resources could be their difference-maker.

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Image Credits
Kara Coleen

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