Conscious Venture Lab and others backers invested $400,000 in Fearless Sports, a local apparel company built around the idea that Baltimore social impact leaders like Brittany Young of dirt bike STEM program B360 or Johnathan Moore of digital equity org Rowdy Orbit can inspire the same following as an athlete or celebrity.
“Like Nike will leverage LeBron [James] for his talent, what will happen is other people will want to buy Nike so that they will be associated with Lebron’s greatness. What if we could amplify and uplift these everyday heroes to that same level?” said Dionne Joyner-Weems, director of social impact for Fearless Sports.
Joyner-Weems is the creative leader behind the company’s new BecomeFearless site, which highlights these changemakers. Along with Young and Moore, the site highlights Tsanonda Edwards, cofounder and director of community engagement for mental health advocacy org Above It All; Erricka Bridgeford, founder of nonviolence organizer Baltimore CeaseFire 365; and Baltimore City Public Schools Youth Engagement Specialist Rashad Staton.
The dream is that shining a spotlight on these unsung community leaders will create another generation of people that will want to be social impact leaders in their community.
“The big deal, the so what, is to be able to reposition the role of the role model,” said Joyner-Weems. “For too long, we have been putting all of these accolades and celebrations on something that we felt was beyond us. If you look at the people we are highlighting, if you look at the people who are in your circle, these are folks that deserve to be recognized and it would be great if we had more people like them.”
Fearless Sports was launched earlier this year by Delali Dzirasa, CEO of downtown Baltimore tech digital services firm Fearless. The brand sells hoodies, joggers and T-shirts. With the investment from Conscious Venture Lab, the Fells Point-based firm focused on social impact companies, Fearless Sports can grow operations. It can build out a full time staff, and pursue the artistic direction of Joyner-Weems to tell the stories of hometown heroes that make a significant social impact.
“Most people think that Fearless Sports is the…Fearless Tech swag store,” said Dzirasa. “What [the investment] does is it highlights, we’re for real, we’re not here playing, we’re really taking a big swing here. This is part of a larger brand but a company nonetheless on its own that is making waves.”
This raise of $400K is technically the friends and family round, which speaks to Dzirasa’s network and the goodwill he’s built through his other Fearless ventures. It also helped that Conscious Venture Lab founder Jeff Cherry had been kicking around a similar idea of how to highlight social impact leaders. It was to the point that, during the pitch, Cherry was finishing Dzirasa’s sentences, and grasping the business model before it was fully explained. They both recognized the gap in the apparel industry.
“We’re looking at, how do you ensure you have revenue coming through the door, we’re treating people well and we’re doing something impactful for society,” said Dzirasa. “That’s so much of how Conscious Venture Lab thinks about the business world.”
The plan is that there’s a partnership between the ambassadors where a percentage of the sales goes back into their causes and organizations. Dzirasa expects to raise more funds in another investment round in a year. For now, the site has soft launched, which wouldn’t have been possible without the seed investment.
To mark the site going live, a virtual event is scheduled to be livestreamed on YouTube at 7 p.m. on September 16, where the five community leaders will speak on their work in the city.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.