Casey Ariel Richardson is a published author, tech founder and business coach to Black female entrepreneurs. Casey spent a decade in finance with Bank of America, where she was Vice President managing a $20Bn portfolio of term and intraday credit exposures for pre-IPO, middle market and large corporate technology clients.
In the wake of the global cry for racial equity and systemic justice during 2020, Casey founded BLAZE GROUP LLC. To date, BLAZE has provided more than 5,500 Black female entrepreneurs with access to knowledge, capital and mentorship – resources that this cohort has limited access to, even while they are starting more businesses each day than women of any other race in the United States.
BLAZE GROUP hosts a global, semi-annual Blaze Virtual Summit, offering entrepreneurs powerful access, affirmation, and community. In 2022, The summit was honored for Best in Business & Finance (Virtual & Remote) for the 26th Annual Webby Awards. BLAZE GROUP also offers a Blaze Fellowship program, which gives college seniors the opportunity to aid in conducting and publishing research studies on Black female entrepreneurs in the United States.
Casey does fintech consulting on the continent of Africa as well, having structured the first-of-its-kind inclusive asset financing product for Hello Tractor Inc., called PAYG. This financial solution unlocks mechanization services for smallholder farmers who are traditionally unbanked. PAYG has launched in Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda and will continue to scale across the continent.
Casey is the author of Pain Unseen: The Truths That Lie Beneath My Strength, a beautifully raw memoir that aims to break the cycle of silent suffering. Her book is available in paperback, ebook and audiobook on Amazon, iTunes and Audible.
Casey graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of South Carolina Honors College with a major in Corporate Finance. A native of Gadsden, SC, she now splits her time between Oakland, California and Nairobi, Kenya.
Outside of entrepreneurship, who is Casey Ariel Richardson in five words?
- Incredibly free, gifted, and Black.
You spent over a decade in the finance industry, can you share how that position prepared you for BLAZE GROUP LLC?
- Working in the financial industry for over a decade prepared me tremendously for the work that I now do through BLAZE GROUP. On the one hand, I have a strong knack for assessing the viability of a business venture. When structuring financial solutions for companies – I would need to understand whether they’d even be around long enough to pay back a 5-7 year debt instrument. I developed strong abilities to assess scale, operational efficiency, gauge the strength of management teams, assess pricing strategy, gauge whether demand for products were inelastic (incredibly sticky through economic changes) or elastic (susceptible to detrimental drops in demand with changes in price, income, etc.). I’ve applied this knowledge to the operation of my own business (of course), but I also apply that same lens to the companies that I consult, leaders that I coach, and partnerships that I choose.
- On the other hand, I have a keen understanding of the hurdles that exist for Black women and men accessing capital. There is redlining, elevated perceptions of risk, lack of intentionality around relationship building with minorities, lack of cultural competence and relevance in models used, etc. I take my understanding of these challenges and work to create better opportunities for the Black women that I serve and the global underserved population that I impact through my consulting work. Change is happening too slowly in traditional financial institutions. Rather than wait and hope, I’ve created a firm that can create new solutions at scale for entrepreneurs around the globe.
What is your mission with Blaze, what do you hope female entrepreneurs take away from their experience?
- BLAZE means Building Leaders & Accepting Zero Excuses! It is the standard that I hold myself everyday as I show up for the women that I serve. It is the spirit that I encourage Black women to show up for themselves with – understanding the commitment to the process of growth is life-changing – even when we do it scared! Lastly, it is the heart that must be embodied in the partners that come on our turf to edify Black women. It has to be about true edification of leaders who will impact the globe – not merely about quick earnings or positive public relations. My mission is to help more and more Black women transcend the role of “working” – building the product, selling the product, branding the product – and help them to step into the position of leader. Leaders push out stated visions for their industries that change the world. Leaders are 2 and 3 years ahead of where their companies stand today, closing strategic partnerships that usher them into the future. Leaders understand the importance of positioning incredibly smart people within their businesses – allowing them to operate in their zones of genius so that the owner of the company can operate in hers. This is the impact of the coaching, community, and capital that Blaze Group provides for Black women entrepreneurs.
Tell us about your annual summit, what can entrepreneurs expect?
- Our global virtual summit occurs semi-annually and they are power-packed!! Entrepreneurs are showered with safety and guidance that feels like home – many times more love than women have experienced in their lifetimes. We have female DJs from coast to coast, coaches who pour into entrepreneurs via keynotes, technical experts who teach Black women how to work smarter (not harder) via workshops, health clinicians who give vocabulary to many of the ailments that we feel in our entrepreneurial journey – but never put words to, and so much more! Our summit was actually named as a Webby Awards Honoree for Best in Business & Finance (Virtual and Remote) this year! Our next summit is occurring December 5-9, 2022 and we are encouraging everyone to attend! Head to our company website and sign up for our email list so that you don’t miss the registration opening!
Pain Unseen: The Truths That Lie Beneath My Strength, What message are you hoping readers take away from this project?
- Pain Unseen is a really raw and honest depiction of my experiences with domestic violence, church hurt, chronic depression, and coming to terms with childhood trauma. While saying all of that in one sentence sounds like a ton of bricks – my story is very common among Black women. I was honest on purpose. I understand that a huge part of our culture has been protecting our family name and keeping things that go on in our houses inside of our houses. Given the freedom that I found when I finally walked away from everything that was destroying, I wanted to be unequivocally transparent about what it took to step into such freedom. I watched my Big Mama pour her entire life into supporting everyone else – she was abused, she was denied opportunities, she was incredibly loyal in marriage and family ties. Though, as much as she endured – I never remember her saying what she needed. She was doing what she knew to do – what her mama taught her, what she’d taught her daughters. I intentionally wanted to write a different story – one that most women may have never heard until they read that book. I had never heard such a story until I carved a different path in my own life. The message that I want readers to take away from my book is that freedom is their birthright – and they can hold it with both hands.
What is next for you, what can readers expect from The Blaze Group in 2023?
- Blaze Group is doing so many incredible things, and our top priority is making our world-class solutions accessible to the globe. We rolled out our Apple and iOS app, called TablexTribe, in the first half of 2022 – offering it in 176 countries and on more than 14,000 devices. We want to continue to increase the accessibility of solutions – offering it to more and more individuals who deserve direct tools. A woman in any village will have access to pitch decks and email templates, a founder going through a devastating life transition will have access to wellness tools at her fingertips.
- It’s not only our apps that we apply the importance of accessibility to. Our Blaze Knowledge Academy, which offers on-demand business courses to Black female entrepreneurs, needs to be accessible to everyone. We are working on strategic partnerships to tack on our capacity building solutions to other practical tools for entrepreneurs – understanding that cultural competence in education is still missing from the largest, blue chip providers of business tools.
- Lastly, we’re working on some exciting new fintech solutions that bring critical access to underbanked businesses through the power of Web3! Our offerings are going to be revolutionary!
What is your definition of a Pretty Woman Who Hustles?
- A Pretty Woman Who Hustles is one who is deeply centered in purpose and aligned to her passion, unapologetically. That alignment is what causes beauty to radiate from her effortlessly. She did not leave one hamster wheel of cyclical work just to be a slave to another endless cycle of doing – thus, hustling for her has nothing to do with tirelessly grinding. She, instead, develops workflows and scalable schemes that allow her to deliver impact while she maintains a balance that keeps her healthy and whole. She is me. She is the many other women who have radically chosen a life of their dreams, as well.
Social Media Handles:
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/blazegroupllc/
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/blazegroupllc
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0OdE4XzfuObDvU4W3qUaBQ
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/BlazeGroupllc
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BlazeGroupLLC