The VFILES Mission and History 

 

“The world is not a level playing field. Young diverse voices need a champion. The VFILES Foundation aspires to be that champion.” - Julie Anne Quay, VFILES Founder & CEO 

Young Creatives play a critical role in creating culture, driving innovation, and building wealth – particularly in marginalized communities. Yet, we know that Creatives who are women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ communities face distinct challenges that stem from systems, structures, and practices designed to exclude and preclude them from being successful. Without the ability to invest their own wealth, the result is that businesses owned by entrepreneurs from these communities are overleveraged or are unable to access capital to invest in growth. 

Exclusion from and lack of connection to markets and business expertise have also historically inhibited the creativity and growth of businesses owned by people within these communities. As a result, these young talented creative entrepreneurs struggle to reach the same levels of performance as their white counterparts. A quick snapshot, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and PitchBook, reveals an unsurprisingly dismal outlook of disparity: 

  • 2.1% (124,004) of all U.S employer businesses were Black-owned, the majority of which are in low-margin, low-revenue businesses (Census Bureau) 

  • 5.6% (322,076) of all U.S. businesses were Hispanic-owned (Census Bureau) 

  • 19% of all U.S employer firms were Women-owned (Census Bureau), and 2.7% of all VC funding went to women-led companies in 2019 (PitchBook) 

  • Black women founders received 0.6% of total investments since 2009 

  • Only 909 businesses certified as LGBT business enterprises by the NGLCC (National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce) 

 

At VFILES, our thesis is this: to own the culture you create, you must own the economics. We invest in underrepresented communities to enable socioeconomic mobility and empower sustainable wealth creation. We know that the most innovative future leaders will come from communities that have experienced this inequity and underrepresentation. Our goal is to propel them forward. 

In an effort to move the integrity and efficacy of our work forward, we have fully launched The VFILES Foundation 501(c)(3). The Foundation provides the next generation of cultural innovators with the resources they need to reimagine and redefine the world. Through innovative and inclusive community programming, our offerings span across incubation, education, grants, R&D, and policy. The Foundation’s programs: DISCOVERY PLATFORM, COMMUNITY, and LAB are the pillars to tangibly productize opportunity and propel culture forward. Our mission is to increase business ownership for Creators in underrepresented communities (BIPOC, Women, LGBTQ+) through seed grants, mentorship, training and exposure. 

 

Since our inception in 2012, VFILES has been a mission-driven company. Our original mission was to bridge the opportunity gap within the creative landscape. We later learned that such a mission was too broad, and that it was important to hone in on a more singular, more tangible goal.

After many discussions internally and externally, we determined that empowering young creators to achieve “Ownership” was our true mission. Thus, in 2020, we launched the VFILES Foundation. 

 

The Need: Investing in Young Creators from Marginalized Communities. 

 

Now more than ever, we must create a culture of inclusion that fosters diversity and equity. This is particularly pertinent in times of crises, with the Covid-19 pandemic having challenged the normative structures of almost every community around the world, highlighting a dire need for economic independence and welcoming new avenues in the creative economy. 

Gender inequality and discrimination, if left unchanged, will undermine global economic stability. When we invest in the empowerment of historically marginalized communities, it has a ripple effect on families, communities and countries whilst reshaping societies and unlocking their full potential. 

If cultivated, the promotion of creativity can contribute to greater gender and racial equality ultimately enhancing inclusion and diversity within business, while giving way to a host of positive reverberations. 

 

The Problem: Opportunity disparity in the creative industry, disproportionately affecting BIPOC, LGBTQ+ communities and Women.

  • Lack of opportunity and access to resources needed to break into and grow a career in the creative industries. 

  • Shortage of funding, skills, and innovation in the emerging brand & talent market. 

 

The VFILES Solution: Address this disparity and close the opportunity gap. 

  • Provide access to capital, expertise, and networks to empower underserved youths to create impact on their careers, communities, and local economies. o Grants programs 

  • Robust ecosystem of networking and partnership opportunities 

  • Industry mentorship programs - 1:1 coaching, mentoring, talent “agent” model 

  • Digital masterclasses & education offerings 

  • Pitch competitions, to reallocate non-dilutive capital and matched support dollars in POC-owned businesses 

  • Change the sector narrative on top-down investment in arts & culture. Reallocate capital with a bottom-up, community-driven, talent-driven approach 

 

Areas of Investment 

 

VFILES INCUBATOR/Lab: The non-profit “Y-Combinator” for Original Thinkers. Discovery, Incubation, & Education across cohorts that must apply to the Program. Each cohort culminates in the newly pivoted VFILES Runway -- a presentation of innovative, original ideas to a carefully vetted, invite-only audience of investors, industry leaders, and media. We are proven experts in incubating aspiring talents in the creator economy, helping  creators become entrepreneurs - turning their passion into a living.

 

  • Non-dilutive capital & grants provided to underserved talents & small businesses 

  • Mentorship Committee access, field expert pairings, educational workshops 

  • Networking events  

  • Weekly “Dinners” ft. keynote speakers 

  • Office Hours with Board, Leadership Council, and Advisors  

 

VFILES COMMUNITY: Accessible programming for the broader community beyond the 

INCUBATOR /Lab. Offerings include: 

  • Free, accessible online education programs 

  • Advocacy and awareness efforts to amplify talents across fashion, music, arts and culture (e.g. TED Talk-style programming for narrative change & novel leaders) 

  • Providing a bridge for other youth-focused foundations to leverage our active youth community for ongoing narrative change campaigns 

  • Networking events and opportunities to connect with like minded thinkers and creators.

  • Ability to participate and be a part of the VFILES DAO as we move forward into web3.

 

VFILES ARTIST DISCOVERY SHOWCASE AND PRESENTATIONS: VFILES has always been about giving voice and a stage to artists and leaders who have been silenced by race, economy, and geography. The VFILES Foundation curates artist showcases, providing a platform for fashion and music artistry to be heard, seen and experienced by peers, industry leaders, and a generation of admirers in search of inspiration.

  • Pass the Aux - open mic sessions and music releases

  • 12Mercer Radio sessions

  • VMart - pop ups at 12Mercer

  • VFILES RUNWAY  - show cases and presentations for young designers

  • VFILES HEADSHEET -  seasonally distributed open model casting for new faces.

Let’s create tomorrow’s culture, today. Together.