Digital Sisters at the Minority Media & Telecom Conference in DC

Conference Program

The Minority Media & Telecom Council (MMTC) hosted its 10th Annual Access to Capital and Telecommunications Policy Conference on July 18 and 19, 2012, at the Westin Georgetown Hotel in Washington, D.C. “Financing the Transition to the Digital Economy” was the conference theme. Many thanks to Maurita Coley, Esq., Chief Operating Officer of MMTC, for inviting Digital Sisterhood Network founder Ananda Leeke to the conference.

MMTC Conference Audience

Digital Sisters Ananda and Maurita Coley

About MMTC:

MMTC was established 26 years ago as a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving equal opportunity and civil rights in the mass media, telecommunications, and broadband industries. Today, MMTC is the leading advocate for minority participation in the communications industries.  The organization’s programs seek to preserve and expand minority ownership and equal employment opportunity in these industries and to close the digital divide. Visit Follow MMTC on Twitter: Use the hashtag #MMTC2012 to learn more about the 10th annual conference.

Conference Highlights:

Ananda with the MMTC Program Book

Women Entrepreneurs Panel

Kristal High and Issa Rae

Digital Sisters Kristal and Ananda

One of the perks of living in Washington, D.C. is having access to amazing events such as MMTC’s conference session on Five Decades of Entrepreneurial Women moderated by Kristal High, Editor-In-Chief and Founder of Politics365 –  The panel discussion focused on five women entrepreneurs’ experiences, successes, challenges, and coping strategies used to overcome barriers in the media and communications industries. Click here to see event photos.

Members of the panel included:

1) Issa Rae

Producer/Director/Writer of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, a webisode series launched in 2011

2) Lauren deLisa Coleman

Founder of Punch Media Group and Independent Mobile and Emerging Tech Specialist

3) Brigitte Daniel

Executive Vice President, Wilco Electronics Systems, Inc.

4) Debra Berlyn

President, Consumer Policy Solutions

5) Clara McLaughlin Leath

Owner/Publisher/Editor of The Florida Star and The Georgia Star (she also advocated to bring journalism to Howard University’s School of Communications during her Howard undergraduate years)

Women Entrepreneurs Panel

Women Entrepreneurs Panel

The panelists shared their perspectives on access to human and financial capital. The human capital discussion addressed the advantages of being a woman in the media and communications industries, and the impact of having or not having mentors and sponsors to support career and business goals.

The financial capital discussion provided case studies on how the women entrepreneurs financed their businesses. Issa Rae shared her Kickstarter fundraising experience. The first episode of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl (ABG) cost $25 to make. Issa used the money to buy her crew lunch. When she created the fourth episode, she hired a crew that offered their services at a reduced rate. She and her team decided to use Kickstarter, a crowd funding website for creative projects, to raise additional money to complete the filming of ABG’s first season. The initial goal was to raise $30,000 in 30 days. At the end of the 30 day process, the team raised $56,259:

Several key lessons Issa learned during the Kickstarter fundraising process included:

  • People treated the Kickstarter campaign as an ABG movement.  As they made donations, they recommended and promoted the show to their network.
  • Her team was successful because they were very specific on what they needed the money for and shared their goals in a compelling video that was posted on the Kickstarter campaign web site.
  • People invest in your talent and craft when they are donating to Kickstarter campaigns.
  • Kickstarter is great for people who have tech products and projects.

Women Entrepreneurs Panel

Lauren deLisa Coleman discussed how she is funding her efforts as a socio-economic ditigalist through fellowships and grants that offer funding for projects with a digital perspective. Lauren learned about women of color in the tech industry who are using fellowships and grants to finance their efforts such as Tara Roberts, co-founder of GirlTank, a female-focused social start-up that supports young women entrepreneurs all over the world, by writing a series of profiles for

Debra Berlyn shared how she has used corporate support to finance Consumer Policy Solutions’ projects that educate consumers about wireless, broadband, and online safety and security issues.  She discovered that companies have embraced the consumer education projects as good business practices.

Clara McLaughlin Leath spoke about how she expanded the distribution of her newspapers  to include Walmart stores as a way of increasing her business’ capacity to sell more newspapers to a wider audience.  She also used her newspaper’s audience to confirm whether they still have an interest in purchasing it on a regular basis.

Digital Sisters Ananda and Issa Rae

Wisdom Takeaways from Panelists:

1) Lauren deLisa Coleman: Use what is innate. Bring it out and express it organically so that it represents who you are.

2) Clara McLaughlin Leath: You have to look at things, decide what’s missing, and ask for help to get what you need.

3) Brigett Daniel: Have patience while building your business.

4) Lauren deLisa Coleman: Always check in with yourself to see if you are thinking in a larger way.

5) Issa Rae: Define what you need. Be clear about the positions you need people to play in your business or project. You can learn a lot from your mistakes and by simple doing what you are called to do.  Trial and error are key.

If you missed the powerful session, don’t fret. Click here to watch a video (64 min.) on (technology is beautiful!).

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