I first came across Dawn while watching The Breakfast Club, a popular radio show that posts interviews with movie stars, musicians, business people, etc. Her episode title was "Dawn Dickson Talks The Black Tech Community, Breaking Barriers In Black Business". Naturally, this interested me because of my obvious inclination towards business and the other being, well... I'm black 😮. Dawn is the owner of PopCom, a tech company that specializes in smart vending machines and software that provide analytic insight into customers. Learning all this, I had to reach out to her and being the fantastic human being she is, she agreed to a quick phone interview about herself and finding funding for your new company.
Before PopCom was Flat Out of Heels, making Dawn a serial entrepreneur. Her target was making throw-away shoes for women available in public places to mitigate the pain standing, walking, dancing around in heels creates. This required 2 things, the shoes and the means to make the shoes available. The first part of the venture was solved by developing her own shoes with an Alibaba manufacturer, the second half is what bred complication. This led Dawn to look into making her shoes available via vending machines. The issue with this is she needed a machine that would work specific to her products, which was not available. Through her network of individuals who believed in her vision, Dawn was able to secure the funds to build her vending machines and launch in venues such as the Atlanta Airport and Fountainbleau nightclub in Miami. Today, Flat Out of Heels has vending machines spanning across several locations in the US. As if this wasn't spectacular enough, Dawn was one of the first women in the US to raise $1 Million to fund her ventures.
Q: Who influenced you to get into business and tech?
A: There was no one that really influenced me to get into tech, I was always into it. I understood that technology and the internet was the future, so I went to school for it and started my first tech company in 2004. So at this time, I didn't really see anyone that really looked like me, it just didn't exist back then. But now, I'm constantly inspired by people who took me under their wing, like Clarence Wooten and Angela Benton, some of the early pioneers of black-tech. But as a young person, I just knew that every business in the future was going to rely on these things and I wanted to understand them. So I've always been in tech, whether my businesses were tech-enabled, like for my e-commerce business to now building software to innovate the vending business.
Q: People starting out businesses always have the problem finding funding, so where did you look for investment and how did you know it was right for you?
A: I looked within my network, so the people around me. What's right for you is people that understand your industry. So you have to take the time to do the research and know how important it is to fit investors that can bring more than just money to the table. So look for people with industry experience. But for the first 1o years of my career, the money that I raised was from my immediate network.
Q: What about Venture Capital?
A: Venture capitalists mainly look for businesses that already have traction. Most people that get VC funding, those VCs are in their network.
In summary, my takeaway from this is not to fall into the allure of VC funding. Do your best to look into your own circle or working to get the funds to at least put your vision into motion. Grow your network of like-minded business people who you can help and vice versa. Lastly, bring people on your team with experience and competence within your field of interest and make sure you get along. It's not always about getting the money. If you have the money and hate your partners, you're creating a terrible recipe. Thanks for reading and be sure so follow us and Dawn on insta!
IG: @mamaecookiesnacks IG: @dawnwdickson