Validate/Build/Launch: The Secrets of Serial Entrepreneur Nichelle McCall

If once is chance, twice is coincidence, and the third time is a pattern, then Nichelle McCall has created a full-on business model for success. The entrepreneur has successfully developed not one, not two, but three incredible companies:

  • BOLD Guidance is an EdTech company that McCall launched to help students navigate the college application process on their mobile devices while communicating their progress to counselors and parents. Within 14 months of starting her software company, McCall raised $500,000 in funding!
  • Minds Matter Cleveland is a nonprofit that McCall initially started as the organization’s first funder. “I joined the executive team as the VP of Student Development to help build out the programming to prepare high school students to be college-ready,” McCall tells HER Magazine. “The organization is celebrating 10 years this year and has helped hundreds of students go to college — receiving over $2 million in scholarships every year.” A full 100% of Minds Matter Cleveland’s students have been accepted into a four-year college, and the average student has a 3.5 GPA. The organization provides mentoring, academic programs, summer programs, and assistance with college applications.
  • Community Strategies Consulting is a practice that McCall started to support nonprofits and organizations in their efforts to develop and launch new education programs.

So how did she decide to pursue entrepreneurship?

The Road to Entrepreneurship

While completing a national fellowship for her master’s degree, McCall was recruited for a job opportunity back in her hometown of Cleveland, OH. However, even though the company spent nine months recruiting McCall – and basically used her resume to create the job description – the organization made the decision to go in another direction. “I made a promise that day to never leave my financial future in the hands of someone else, and I have been working for myself for the last 8 years.”

McCall has always had a knack for helping other people to get started, whether it’s a first job or a first company. In fact, her first post-college job was a college admissions counselor. “I helped students and their families navigate this new step in going to college and how to pay for it,” McCall explains. “I also directed them to resources on how to find scholarships.”

She’s also worked for a company that helped social engineers start, scale, and fund their companies. “In addition, I worked as a liaison to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on a $20 million project to help city leaders create a systemic approach toward helping low-income young adults to complete college,” McCall says. “Two out of the three cities I worked with qualified for additional grant funding from the Gates Foundation.”  

Improving the Statistics

McCall admits that she’s faced challenges as a black woman. “There aren’t a lot of people who will look like us in this space, and there also aren’t a lot of people who can mentor us through that process,” she explains. “Because you are talking about a tech company and you are looking to be a high growth company making a lot of money in a short period of time, you need investors to support you.”

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She notes that only 8% of the companies that have been ventured or have received venture capital have a female founder. “Only 1% have a black founder and only about 0.1% have a black woman founder.”

McCall is in the 0.1%, and says it’s her responsibility to provide education and help to increase that percentage. “Since I have been able to obtain venture capital, I want to help more founders be able to do the same thing.” Growing up in Cleveland, her high school was designated as “failing.” McCall’s mom worked three jobs so her daughter could attend a college prep school, and McCall knows that having the right resources and support prepared her to be successful in college. “Many of my neighbors did not have access to those same resources –  and they have had very different outcomes.”

As an entrepreneur, speaker and coach, McCall has helped hundreds of women. She also has an online program, From Idea to $500,000 in 14 Months, that helps startup entrepreneurs meet three key objectives: build the entrepreneurial mindset, validate and market their business, and raise the funding they need.

Her achievements have not gone unnoticed. McCall was selected as a winner for Glamour’s Startup Project and the magazine flew her to New York City for a photo shoot. Also, Inc. magazine named McCall, “a woman tech founder to watch,” and Crain’s Cleveland Business listed her as one of the 40 most impressive Cleveland professionals under the age of 40. McCall has also presented at SXSW, and she’s been featured in such publications as Fortune, Essence, and Black Enterprise.

But McCall’s accolades have not swayed her from the basics. If anything, she’s more steadfast. When asked if she had any advice for HER Magazine readers, McCall’s response was simple: validate –> build –> launch.

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