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Meet Donte Miller of Village Micro Fund

Today we’d like to introduce you to Donte Miller.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Donte. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I didn’t know anything about being a college student when I arrived at Morehouse College in 2011. I adjusted to the transition a bit easier because my mom and I were literally in college together. Being a student at the same time as my mom gave me an automatic study partner. I didn’t really know too much about a lot of things, but as a kid, I remembered watching the Wall Street movie and thinking that I have no idea what they were talking about, but I love the way it sounds. The movie sparked an interest in me so I would ask a few upperclassmen about their Wall Street experiences, and that is when I bought into the dream of the financial world. I was convinced my future was on Wall Street and set my sights on Goldman Sachs. Late 2012, I applied for the coveted Goldman Internship my school offers. After several rounds of successful interviews, I was offered an internship the firm… This was a huge accomplishment because less than 1% of interns get accepted and I was one of them. Me and a fellow student from Morehouse, Nathan Jones, quickly grew a close friendship, being that we were the only two interns to make it to Goldman Sachs trading floor that year. After work, we’d vent about the day, and that’s when we thought, what would these services look like if we took this system back to the demographic that would benefit the most. It was from these vent sessions that the Village Micro Fund was born.

Has it been a smooth road?
In the early days of the village, it was completely a labor of love. We went from the idea of making six figures a year at Goldman but working 20 hour days sometimes to Nate having to work a full-time job and me doing freelance consulting to make ends meet. For the first three years, we gave out services to our entrepreneurs for free. We have made several mistakes over the last five years. Initially, we basically winging it and learning as we go. The challenges we faced building the Village to the brand it is today forced us to ensure that we have a cohesive plan in place. We are dealing with investments and funds for business owners who don’t always have the financial means to grow their business the way they would like. Just learning what works and what doesn’t has been merely tuition for us a company. It has been an experiment in a lot of ways and we have learned what will works and what won’t based off the experiences of the mistakes we’ve made. We faced numerous hardships building the village, struggle to pay the rent and utilities. Struggle to convince investors to buy into a new business whose entire company premise is to invest in new small business.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Village Micro Fund story. Tell us more about the business.
The Village Micro fund is a social impact fund that invests in small black business in and around Atlanta’s westside and metropolitan areas. We specialize in small business investments, we developed an original curriculum that is unique to our company. We also do co-operative investments to allow individuals to pool their money to invest in small business. We also teach our curriculum to entrepreneurs and small business in a 15-week course allowing them to pitch their business ideas and investment needs during graduation commencement at the end of the Course. To date, I am most proud of the growth that the Village has seen. We went from being struggling entrepreneurs to being able to invest into several of our entrepreneur students. We’ve been able to bring on full-time staff members with salaries. I am also proud of the fact that when you invest into small businesses you are helping a mother or father feed and care for their families well being. The thing that sets us apart from other business is our community involvement. We use the Village as a platform to provide opportunities no matter how big or small to a demographic of people who don’t have as many doors open for them to seek traditional funding.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I believe that the industry will grow bigger. More small investment firms will spring up as more and more people look to start the next big tech company, the next community owned farm, etc. I would like for the Village to be on the front lines of that growth. I see us being the inspiration behind other MicroFunds to give back to the community by providing jobs and community sustainability. I believe that opportunity zones will be the next trend over the next ten years. I see the Village taking more of a proactive roll in gentrifying communities because of the Opportunity Zones structure. In the years to come, there will be more of a push for social impact as the forefront of this industry. Racial wealth gaps are increasing and job security is declining due to automation so people are having to explore new creative ways for labor and how they make a profit. Finding a solution to this will be more of a need over the next ten years.


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Khalifa Sultan

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