Kellie Brown

My grandfather was an entrepreneur. My family is from Philadelphia and when my mom, her two sisters and brother were little, my grandfather moved them out of South Philly.

They moved into a better neighborhood in Northeast Philly and he was able to do that because he started his own trucking business.

He did this at a time when it was unheard of for black men to have a tractor trailer company.

All of the men in my family are truck drivers because of my grandfather’s entrepreneurial spirit. I saw their hard work and grit, and that was passed down to me.

My grandmother was a nurse, and I was inspired by her, so I went to nursing school. I am a graduate nurse, but not a registered nurse. I took the NCLEX one time and did not pass it, so I decided to continue working in youth development.

I participated in a youth program called Freedom Schools. Freedom Schools is a nation-wide, six-week literacy program for youth K through 8. Before nursing school, I was working as a student leader for the program.

The program was resurrected from Freedom Summer 1964, and the Mississippi civil rights program in 1964. Freedom Schools was all about teaching our people down in Mississippi how to get through the barriers that prevented black people from voting until the Voting Rights Act of 1964 was passed.

Freedom Schools became a literacy program in the early 2000’s because literacy rates were low among black youth.

The work I did with Freedom Schools sparked my passion for civic engagement.

After I failed the nursing exam, I started making beaded bracelets that I called the karma collection. I'm really big on balancing truth and justice through reciprocity. That sparked my first business as an entrepreneur and inspired the name of my future business, SpreadKarma.

Freedom Schools closed in Philly because of the lack of funding.

This program changed my trajectory as a young person in Philly. It kept me out of trouble in high school. It kept me focused and I learned all about my history. It was a beautiful program and hundreds of people just like me were in it.

When I started SpreadKarma in 2019, I thought about Freedom Schools and that if SpreadKarma existed at that time, we could’ve provided funding to keep the program going.

SpreadKarma is a social impact fundraising platform. Which means, we help changemakers and social entrepreneurs raise money through crowdfunding.

We provide access to funding and increased exposure for their project, business, or campaign.

We also teach changemakers how to fundraise because most people don't know how to get started and how to actually raise money.

I've been leading nonprofits for 15 years and have also worked in the Baltimore and Philadelphia public school systems. I became a fundraising expert while in those roles because we had to get resources for schools and parents.

During this time, I also became a philanthropist. I started traveling to Africa and Haiti to give back by supporting orphanages and disability facilities. While doing this work, I realized there wasn’t a platform where you could give to impactful projects and causes all over the world.

SpreadKarma was birthed out of that idea of meeting a need to fundraise and give. I created SpreadKarma to be a place where other people can find impactul causes to which they can donate.

We decided to base SpreadKarma in Baltimore because it’s a very unique place where you can make things happen. There are so many nonprofits and changemakers here who really want to make a difference.

If you have an idea, I think it's a great place to come and get started. It’s been a great place for me to settle and kickoff SpreadKarma because we are able to impact a lot of people here.

Statistics show that about 2% of grant, foundation and government funding reaches the hands of minority led organizations. There are hundreds of social entrepreneurs in Baltimore, so there's a disconnect on how they are supported.

We set up SpreadKarma in Baltimore with the help of universities and some large corporations that can afford to give.

These partnerships help me connect grassroots and minority organizations with larger institutions that can support their work.

I'm not just talking black and brown people, but minorities in general, whether it's our LGBTQ community, our community with disabilities or women.

You hear all the time that corporations want to support underserved communities, but how? Where is the platform to do that?

SpreadKarma meets that need in Baltimore by being a connector for a lot of the organizations that need funding from larger organizations and everyday people.

You don't always need institutional grant funding from top down, a lot of times you need your community to support you and we provide the platform to do that.

The statistic I mentioned earlier, that about 2% of grant, foundation and government funding reaches the hands of minority led organizations, is an example of why it is extremely important to focus on minority entrepreneurs. 

For years, these founders have figured out how to make it happen. We have the grit and a lot of ideas, but in many cases minority entrepreneurs get stuck because of the lack of funding and support.

That's heartbreaking. It's extremely important that we get behind social entrepreneurs like myself and others, because these ideas can potentially impact hundreds of thousands of people.

My hope is that when the social entrepreneurs in Baltimore feel empowered and supported, they will give back by creating more jobs so the community can thrive.

When we have black owned businesses intertwined with white led businesses, the city will be better.

I've recently seen a few black owned restaurants open in Baltimore, and so many people have come out to support them.

That’s amazing, and my hope for the future is that businesses: restaurants, doctor's offices, stores, or fundraising platforms will thrive, and as a result the economy will thrive.”

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