At an early age, Kesha Cash was keenly aware of the economic divide in America. Originally from South Carolina, she grew up in Orange County, California, where she attended high-quality public schools and had friends from upper-middle-class and affluent households. Meanwhile, Cash’s own family was working class: they lived in a one-bedroom apartment subsidized by a Section 8 public housing voucher and relied on public benefits to supplement her mother’s income. These early experiences nurtured a desire to bridge the privileged, affluent world with economically disadvantaged communities—a desire that inspired her to found Impact America, a venture capital firm that invests in entrepreneurs who are building tech-enabled businesses that create a more just and equitable future for low- and moderate income people in America.
While attending UC Berkeley, Cash participated in internship programs at Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch through the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity Career program and then secured a full-time position as an analyst in mergers and acquisitions for Merrill Lynch. After Wall Street, Cash became a consultant to businesses in inner-city Los Angeles, which taught her what it takes to build a business, but she wanted to make a broader impact. While getting her MBA at Columbia Business School, she worked with a family office and created a venture capital vehicle that invested in early-stage entrepreneurs of color, and in 2013 she founded Impact America.
Impact America manages $33 million across two early-stage venture funds. 62 percent of the portfolio companies’ founders are people of color, 46 percent are women, and 100 percent have impact inherent in their business models. For example, Impact America made an initial pre-Series A investment in Mayvenn, a Black hair care marketplace that connects customers with affordable, quality products and salon services — all while providing economic opportunity to 50,000 hair care professionals across the country, the majority of whom are women of color. Mayvenn has raised $50 million of capital, generated over $100 million in total revenue, and paid active hairstylists $20 million in commissions.
For Cash, the fund is the result of “a long journey, combining the world of Wall Street and the world of my working-class parents to create a model that advances opportunity for overlooked communities,” she says. “The worlds of finance and technology are undervaluing amazing talent and potential. We are investing in entrepreneurs who understand and value their communities and are capable of building big businesses that generate financial returns while creating impact at scale.”