By Brianna McAdoo, Special to the AFRO

In the spirit of empowering women, a collective of women business owners have launched the Forward Fund, which is an investment fund specifically for women entrepreneurs. 

Business owners Melodie Narain-Blackwell, Leslie Jackson, Keisha Gilchrist, and Karen Edwards know the adversity of being a minority business owner and are determined to alleviate the financial obstacles that often arise. The Forward Fund offers applicants $10,000 dollars for an opportunity to make their business dreams a reality or to grow their already budding business. 

A collective of women of color launched the Forward Fund, an investment fund for women entrepreneurs. (Screengrab/

“I know what it’s like to be a female entrepreneur. I know the struggles, I know the rejection, I know the pitfalls,” said lead funder Melodie Narain-Blackwell, “But, I also know the joy and the unrivaled fulfillment it brings when you succeed. I developed Forward Fund to create an avenue to provide a hand-up without the stress of being “perfect.”

Businesses and their owners, particularly women, with throughout the D.C, Maryland, and Virginia areas are encouraged to apply. Applications for the Forward Fund open on Sept. 5, and the minimum requirement is for your business to have been open for one year.

“Through entrepreneurship, we are signing up for the responsibility of running a business while breaking down barriers everyday,” said Gilchrist, “When you learn how to navigate in this space, the rewards are endless! I love to encourage women forging their way down this path. It can be done by you.” 

Native Washingtonian Melodie Narain-Blackwell is set on providing a seat at the table for women and minorities who have a vision and the capability to execute their business venture but lack funding. Narain-Blackwell is no stranger to the struggles of being a business owner as she is the CEO of Sole Savers Inc, a shoe company that provides a stylish but comfortable alternative to heels. She also is the CEO of S.M.I.L.E. Capital Recovery, a professional fund collection company and partner of The Pitch Tavern. 

Together, Narain-Blackwell, Jackson, Gilchrist, and Edwards are committed to empowering the next generation of women business owners and paying it forward. “Someone believed in me and helped me,” Jackson said. “I am where I am today because of the support of fellow entrepreneurs. It is my divine responsibility to do the same.” To find out more information about the Forward Fund you can visit