When Joey Womack stepped into Atlanta City Hall on Tuesday, he thought he was speaking on a roundtable about the local startup community. But really, the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Goodie Nation was surprised by Mayor Andre Dickens with an award and a $100,000 donation from a division of Google.
“Actually Joey, we’re not here to talk about any of this. We’re here to celebrate you,” the mayor told a shocked Womack.
Credit: Olivia Bowdoin
Credit: Olivia Bowdoin
Goodie Nation’s roots go back to 2010, as a Facebook group for entrepreneurs of color. It has since evolved into a nonprofit community for diverse founders, investors and experts, work that captured the attention of Google for Startups, a program the tech giant runs to help startups and entrepreneurs around the world.
Womack and his team help bridge what he calls the “relationship gap” between entrepreneurs and influential people in business by hosting weekly meetings for founders, assigning them a dedicated coach, offering group therapy sessions and industry roundtables, and introducing founders to potential customers and funding.
Goodie Nation is also one of the partner organizations for the Google for Startups founders funds, a program the tech giant launched in 2020 to support underrepresented communities with access to grants, mentorship and Google tech support. Georgia has more founders fund recipients than any other state.
Womack is the first person given the Google for Startups Community Icon Award, which was created in part because of his work.
“We really couldn’t run our founders funds without the support of Joey Womack and Goodie Nation,” Karen Fiester, Director of Americas for Google for Startups, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“He works so hard and we just want to acknowledge that and the difference that he’s made, not only for us at Google, but also here in Atlanta and just for the ecosystem at large.”
Jewel Burks Solomon is managing partner of Collab Capital and former head of Google for Startups in the U.S. When she was building out the Black Founders Fund in 2020, she knew she wanted to work with Womack.
“The number one person obviously was Joey, and we wanted to make sure that we were not just putting capital out in the market, but we were also pairing it with support and getting the founders together and making sure that they had each other,” said Burks Solomon.
Womack felt happy, grateful, but overwhelmed by the recognition. He tends to stay far away from the limelight, said founders who have worked with him and Goodie Nation.
“I don’t think he knows all the good that he does, because he just really just does it out of the goodness of his heart,” said Donald Boone, CEO and co-founder of cinema equipment rental company BoxedUp. Boone recounted one of his initial conversations with Womack, which was just 15 minutes, “but he made five connections that ultimately changed the trajectory of my life.”
Womack plans to use the $100,000 donation to help scale his operations and add more people to his team. After a roundtable that turned into praise and celebration of his work, Womack was at a loss for words. But he did close with a call to action.
“Let’s just continue to make the world a better place for all, especially here in Atlanta.”
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