We had the good fortune of connecting with Casey Richardson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Casey, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
BLAZE GROUP LLC provides Black female entrepreneurs with access to knowledge, capital and mentorship. During the decade that I spent as a banker, structuring multi-billion dollar loans for tech corporation, there was never anyone that looked like me on the deal teams that I worked on. There certainly wasn’t anyone who looked like me on the receiving end of those deals. The same was true when I spoke on stages to global leaders and when I went to golf courses to deepen my relationships with clients.
I knew that I was in a unique position to give Black women direct access to world-class knowledge and resources – so I left corporate America to do just that. It has always been a lie that the disparities I witnessed would be wiped away if only the underrepresented would try harder, lean in more, or be more patient. I decided to build a world-class system of support for Black female entrepreneurs, rather than giving all of my energies to retrofitting systems that are exclusive by design.
Black women have far too often been expected to carry the world on their backs, with little to no attention being given to their unique needs and lack of support. Blaze Group LLC provides services created to edify Black female entrepreneurs who are blazing trails in their lanes.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
BLAZE GROUP LLC provides 1,500+ Black female entrepreneurs with an ecosystem of knowledge, capital and mentorship – all of which are critical resources that are lacking for this demographic (relative to their counterparts), stagnating their business maturation and scale.
SBA resources are presented in ways that are overwhelming, are not optimized for client experience, and the offerings lack relationship building. There are also SCORE mentors who offer coaching services, but their conversations are typically transactional in nature and they often lack the cultural competence that our clients are seeking.
Along the way, I’ve learned the importance of letting the customers tell me what it is that they want, rather than wasting time building what I think that they need. This involves releasing “skinny” versions of a concept and watching what organically has the most traction, network referrals and general interest. Once the client reveals to me what they want, I know that it’s worthwhile to deepen the types of offerings that are available around that particular area.
Another critical lesson I’ve learned along the way is the importance of moving at a healthy pace. There is so much self-guilt around maximizing productivity rates, growth rates and benchmarking – and there shouldn’t be. A large reason that individuals go into entrepreneurship is to attain freedom, flexibility and fulfillment. As entrepreneurs, we must protect ourselves from becoming a slave to our own businesses – being mindful to allow room for evolution, learning, outgrowing stages, building intuition, etc. My move to Africa has helped me a ton on this front, as I’m not surrounded by pressures to be on-the-go constantly. The countries I’ve visited have taught me the irreplaceable value of relationship building, appreciating what I have and grounding myself.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I absolutely love this question! I’m an Atlanta resident, but decided to take an extended trip to Africa for all of 2021! I flew out on February 22, 2021, and I’ve been touring the incredible continent since! I’m based in Cape Town, South Africa – a place that should truly be in everyone’s top 10! Ha!
I’d say we’d start the trip by visiting the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. It’s the most beautiful botanical garden I’ve ever visited. Words won’t justify the enormity of the beauty!
We’d then make our way to the wine lands for some wine tasting! Hello! In Stellenbosch, we’d hit up Spier, one of South Africa’s oldest wine farms) and then Waterford Estate to take in all of its beauty.
Next – we’d be ready for some safari action! I’d take my friend to Aquila Private Game Reserve so that we could see the big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo) up close and personal! It’s an experience of a lifetime. I feel like I’m in the movie Jumanji when I’m there.
The adventures have to get better and better, you know? So it’s only right that I twist my friend’s arm enough to go white shark cage diving! The experience is exhilarating and one that I’d do again for my bestie! A person doesn’t even need to know how to swim to do this. We’d put on a wetsuit, climb into a cage and get dropped in the water enough for us to put our heads down enough to see the sharks chomping at the meat that’s thrown right in front of the cage. Easy-peasy, you know?
After scaring the daylights out of my friend, I’d want to scale it back a bit so that she can compose herself. To do so, I’d take her to Boulders Beach where we’d be able to relax, enjoy the sun, take in a gorgeous scene of huge boulders with waves splashing at their base…. and be surrounded by African penguins! Who wouldn’t want that?!
After spending a day relaxing, I’m sure my friend will be ready for some semi-adventure. I’d take her to Table Mountain, where we can take the cableway all the way to the top and enjoy the breathtaking views. The weather is always perfectly cool at the top and there’s a calm that is undescribable.
By this point, we would have made it to our final day. I would hope my bestie has had the time of her life, and I’d be sure to keep her feet on the ground so that she catches her plane on time. 🙂
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to give a huge shout out to my parents, who have selflessly supported me in my entrepreneurial passions! When I decided to quit my high-paying job in corporate to pursue my dreams – my dad said, “Do it, baby.” When I decided to leave America to live in Africa for the entirety of 2021 while continuing to grow my work-anywhere-business, my mom said: “Do it now. Live your best life and be safe.” My parents continue to grow and evolve with me, something that I don’t ever take for granted – as I know that it involves facing fears and the risk of failure on both sides. I so very grateful for their love and support.
Other: BLAZE GROUP LLC: blazegroupllc.com iFundWomen Crowdfunding Campaign: https://ifundwomen.com/projects/blaze-ignite-black-female-entrepreneurial-growth Published Book: https://www.amazon.com/PAIN-UNSEEN-Truths-Beneath-Strength/dp/1675342989