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DONALD HAWKINS

// First Boulevard

In the off chance you haven’t been positively impacted by Donald Hawkins, allow us to introduce you. Donald grew up in a small town in South Georgia and because of that describes himself as a country boy at heart. Growing up in a middle class household in a poverty-stricken city, Donald recognized his fortune and privilege compared to other Black and Brown people he grew up with. Even at an early age, Donald questioned why he had access to opportunities that others in his hometown didn’t — it just didn’t seem right to him. For this reason, every business that he has ever been involved with has had some connectivity to helping others and the community.

He was introduced to entrepreneurship through his father’s boss growing a side hustle to a very successful business. Other than this mentor, there weren’t a ton of people around him starting and growing scalable businesses. In 1994, Donald’s hometown flooded, which resulted in many businesses closing, jobs being lost, and stark increase in poverty and crime rates. While many of his peers turned to the dream of sports stardom as their way out, Donald knew venture was going to be his route.

It didn’t take long for Donald to start his first business. In college, along with his roommate, he started Doctor Phonebook, a platform that promoted doctors online. He quickly sold that business for half a million dollars, which was the most amount of money he thought he’d ever see in his life. He now kicks himself for selling at such a low rate but that’s a story for another day.   

Donald then moved to Atlanta, made some micro-investments in people from his hometown, married his wife, had a baby, bought a house and got involved in a few other ventures. While in Atlanta, Donald was an active member of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and appreciated the inclusivity he felt. He loved that being a successful Black entrepreneur was the norm in Atlanta. Then he moved to Kansas City.

 

After being convinced to join a friends startup as the Chief Sales Officer, Donald and his wife picked up their life in Atlanta and made the move to Leawood, Kansas. From day one, he has been all-in on Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem — he pitched at 1 Million Cups, completed Kauffman Fasttrac (now ElevationLab Tech Ventures, participated in Digital Sandbox and many other programs to support his professional development. Donald appreciated the immense amount of resources that Kansas City had to offer but was disappointed in the lack of representation he saw in the community. He kept hearing stories of the same few entrepreneurs doing well and very seldomly did those entrepreneurs look like him.

"I wasn't going to wait for someone else to hopefully create a solution, when I knew that I had the skillset to make it happen."

Coming from Atlanta, his experience in Kansas City was vastly different. It felt like an anomaly for him to see so few Black entrepreneurs. Given all that he had learned from Atlanta’s ecosystem, he felt responsible for helping to bring more representation into the ecosystem. Specifically, he wanted entrepreneurs of color like himself to have access to resources, organizations, and networks. Too often, Black entrepreneurs don’t know anyone personally that have built ventures from start to exit. Along with some other entrepreneurs in the area, Donald founded KC Collective, a safe space where entrepreneurs could come to learn from each other, share access to resources, and networks and be connected to a support system of people who understand the challenges of starting a business.

Donald created the KC Collective in his “spare time.” Simultaneously, he continued to build businesses and showed up for his community. When George Floyd was killed, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Donald. “Why is it that my community is consistently fighting the same issues? At my age, I’ve seen this process play out multiple times so I knew exactly what would happen — there would be protests. The powers that be would outlast the protests, and the community receives hollow victories (like Aunt Jemima changing her name).” At this point, Donald realized that everything Black America fights against is tied to money. He realized he had a unique skill set and understanding that led him to starting a digital bank focused on Black America’s specific needs. “I wasn’t going to wait for someone else to hopefully create a solution, when I knew that I had the skillset to make it happen.”

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Donald Hawkins and Asya Bradley—First Boulevard co-founders whose mission it is to build generational wealth for Black America.

First Boulevard — an unapologetic digital bank built for Black America was born. Donald and his team at First Boulevard are working to help Black America reclaim its $1.4-trillion in annual economic impact. Right now, many of those funds don’t stay in the Black Community. Through First Boulevard, customers are incentivized to spend money at Black-owned businesses and passively build wealth for themselves. First Boulevard is a fully inclusive online bank — that means we can all join and support Black America in this way.

"We did not all start on an even playing field, many of us started far behind. Even getting to a point where we have developed a concept for a business is an achievement because we did that with little to no representation or direct examples.

Donald Hawkins bleeds community. When asked how others can support him, he is quick to respond with ways Black America and all minorities can succeed. He encourages us all to understand the barriers and systemic challenges that entrepreneurs of color face daily. “We did not all start on an even playing field, many of us started far behind. Even getting to a point where we have developed a concept for a business is an achievement because we did that with little to no representation or direct examples.”

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Please consider joining the early access list for First Boulevard, following them on Instagram and reaching out to Donald with any ways you may be able to support his professional and personal growth. Kansas City is lucky to have Donald Hawkins as part of our community. Donald completed his Pipeline Fellowship year in 2019 and is now an active Member of the organization. You can reach Donald by connecting with him on LinkedIn.