Breaking Through the Inc. 5000 Glass Ceiling, Part 2.

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Two minority, female entrepreneurs – and Founders First Fast Path grads – have joined the ranks of the historically white, male Inc. 5000.

Here at Founders First, we’re proud to support diverse leaders with funding, growth advisory services, and recognition as they drive toward a more inclusive economy. We expect in the future, the inclusion of our members will more than double the number of diverse-led companies currently represented in the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America. And we plan to celebrate each and every one of them – one at a time.

In Part 1[1] , we showcased Paulette Pantoja, founder of Blu Digital Group of Burbank: #1839 on the Inc. 5000 for 2021.

Today, we’ll hear from LaShondra Mercurius of LM Strategic Talent Partners, based in Long Beach, in her own words.

LaShondra Mercurius, President of JLM Strategic Talent Partners: #4750 on the Inc. 5000 for 2021

“The unfortunate thing is that when you are a diverse employee, there is a glass ceiling. I’m African-American, my husband is Guyanese-American, and you just don’t see people of color in executive management level positions. We were ready to start our own business because we both felt stifled. So, I said, ‘if we can just get one order, that’s all we need.’ We got a maybe, and that was enough. We turned that maybe into a multimillion dollar contract with one of the top general contractors building the 405 freeway here in LA. From there, we built very strong relationships and we were very tenacious.

“We are a tech-enabled staffing and recruiting firm that provides professional talent for the construction, infrastructure, and transportation industry. My industry is mainly white men. So you don’t see a lot of African-American women, or women just in general, in a position of leadership or in a position of power. Sometimes it’s hard to trust that it’s possible, but I will say that most people are happy to see someone that was able to hang in there and keep pushing through. Seeing diverse entrepreneurs succeed is also an inspiration for disadvantaged individuals or individuals that are living in areas that don’t get exposed to these opportunities. My goal has always been to expose communities to opportunities with these types of career paths for professional careers, not just the boots-on-the-ground, not just the laborers, but actual professional white-collar opportunities in the AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) industry.

“Education is so important, and not just for those starting out in their careers. Personally, I’ve gone through the Founders First Bootcamp and I’ve also gone through their FastPath accelerator program. From the time that I started in Bootcamp to now, our revenues have grown at least 40%.

When I think about my journey as an entrepreneur, the only thing that has ever stood in the way of me and my goals is fear. And that fear – I literally just made it up. I made it up in my head. I made up reasons why I can’t do this to why I can’t do that. What I’ve learned now in my tenth year of being in business is that fear is for suckers. As an entrepreneur, you have to get in touch with your fears, make them your friend, make them your partner, make them your allies. Once fear is out of the way, the sky’s the limit.”

We’re so proud of all of the graduates of the Founders First FastPath Program. It’s fantastic to see these two great leaders and great companies push their way into Inc. 500. We look forward to seeing many more smash through that glass ceiling! 

Founders First Capital Partners is building a comprehensive ecosystem through its proprietary platform to empower underrepresented founders to become leading premium wage job creators within their communities. We provide revenue-based funding and business acceleration support to service-based small businesses located outside of major capital markets such as Silicon Valley and New York City. We focus on supporting businesses led by women, people of color, and military veterans, inclusive teams, and businesses located in low to moderate-income areas. Learn more at Founders First CDC.


Link to Part 1


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