February is a time to celebrate the contributions and achievements of Black history makers. The StartOut community is enriched because of the work Black founders have put in to ensure their seat at the table is longstanding and meaningful.
Over the years, we’ve told the stories of the inspiring Black entrepreneurs that define StartOut, and this year is no different. Brianna Flemings (she/her) is a founder from South Florida who launched Jem last year. Throughout her career, Brianna found that the pathway of a Black female founder enriched her, her company, and the people around her.
Brianna, tell us a little bit about your professional journey.
Professionally, where do I start? I am originally from the Philadelphia and Delaware area. When I moved to Miami, I was a freelance Web Designer and a DJ while supporting myself through college while studying Computer Science at St. Thomas University. I received my Masters in Application Development from Nova Southeastern University and currently work as a Scrum Master for a North Carolina company and the founder of Jem.
When and why did you start Jem? What issue were/are you looking to address? What gap did you notice in the current market?
I officially started Jem in July 2022 and launched in November 2022. We’ve designed a mobile app allowing creators to network directly with others. I noticed early in my career that we have all sorts of platforms for professionals to connect, but not necessarily any way to bridge the gap for creators to network.
Did you ever think you’d become an entrepreneur?
Yes, I knew I would because it eats me up to sit on an idea and not at least TRY to move forward on it – some, if not most, of these ideas have been monetized. I have always embodied an entrepreneurial mindset since I was a kid.
What are some of the biggest challenges in your startup journey?
My biggest challenge is finding proper funding to move this forward, whether it be grants or angel investments. I’d say because we are not super profitable with a lot of users currently, it is tough to attract investors, however I do enjoy the bootstrapping journey.
What has it been like navigating your journey as a Black, LGBTQ+ founder?
I use being Black and LGBTQ+ as a superpower because it is. My uniqueness comes from the fact that I am a Black, queer woman founder. I use that to my advantage every day to remind myself that I am the reason other Black and LGBTQ+ folks can continue to build confidence within themselves to become founders.
At times, I felt like nobody is paying attention to what I am building. Has that been a reason I take my time to find my way to push the needle forward? One thousand times, yes.
Why did you join StartOut?
I joined StartOut because I wanted to get to know more LGBTQ+ founders while exploring the resources available to us to push our businesses. I have met a few folks, but this month (February) will be my first time attending a StartOut event. When I was accepted to the program, I, unfortunately, received bad news regarding my father and had to go back to Philadelphia for over a month and just worked from up there.
What advice would you give to founders looking to start their startup this year?
Many people tell founders to rush their ideas to see if they will fail. Take your time, write out your ideas, and figure out what you need to get started. Network, gather opinions, but most importantly, take your time with yourself before you grow to dislike your idea.