Q&A with B. Pagels-Minor, founder of DVRGNT Ventures, the first Black trans-led VC Fund

By Daniela Capistrano for TransLash Media

B. Pagels-Minor and their child with Alissa Pagels-Minor

Being the first to do something isn’t always easy, especially in a transphobic world where the odds of success are stacked against you: a  2018 report by the Human Rights Campaign found that almost 50 percent of LGBTQ+ workers are closeted at work.

Despite systemic  oppression and anti-trans gatekeeping, transgender and gender nonconforming people continue to find ways to thrive in all industries. According to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), LGBT+ business owners generate over $1.7 trillion in economic impact, create jobs, and innovate business solutions nationwide.

In this in-depth interview, DCAP MEDIA founder Daniela “Dani” Capistrano (they/them) & DVRGNT Ventures founder B. Pagels-Minor (they/them) discuss trans and non-binary entrepreneurship, podcasting, and work/life balance as founders with young children. 

Capistrano is the founder & host of Non-Binary Entrepreneurship with Daniela Capistrano, the first podcast & community platform in the USA created by and for diverse transgender and gender nonconforming entrepreneurs/activists through an intersectional, anti-capitalist lens (trailer drops on December 25). Pagels-Minor is the first Black transgender person to create & lead a venture capital (VC) fund: DVRGNT Ventures, launching in 2023, is focused on supporting underestimated founders outside of the typical tech ecosystem across all regions of the USA.

This Q&A was edited for content.

My consulting business was a way to disengage from everything I kind of hated about corporate America.

– B. Pagels-Minor

Daniela Capistrano: Thank you for your time today. Since this is our first conversation together, here’s a little about me: I’ve been working with TransLash Media founder & CEO Imara Jones since 2019 on TransLash branding, digital strategy, and all facets of product management and audience engagement. The TransLash brand means a lot to me and they’re my favorite client-partner; I have been running DCAP MEDIA, my digital agency, full-time since 2015. And so where my heart—where my passion is—is at the intersection of trans rights, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and entrepreneurship, as well as activism through the arts and materiality. So that’s a little bit about me.

Imara has been a fan of yours for some time, obviously, she’s had you on the [TransLash] podcast, and we’ve been following your updates ever since. We’re speaking today because something that has a lot of traction with the TransLash community is our guide to shopping trans for the holidays; we uplift trans and gender nonconforming entrepreneurs in our guide & we also repurpose that information throughout the year in different ways. We’re featuring you in our 2022 guide, but we also wanted to deep dive with you into all of your exciting projects that are coming to fruition in 2023. Let’s get into it, I’m excited!

B. Pagels-Minor: Thank you. You know, I’m a huge fan of TransLash, too. So I’ve always appreciated the way your content shows up [in my feeds]. And honestly, Imara’s Facebook updates about what’s happening at Twitter these days have been giving me life.

Daniela Capistrano: Same! It’s really awesome to work with such an amazing woman as Imara because she’s so spot on in her analysis of…a lot of things, really. On a personal note, your kiddo is so cute. I’m also a parent—I have a 20-month-old with my life partner. It’s just really cool to see other trans folks in visible roles who are doing amazing things while figuring out what their parenting & work/life balance means for them. So yeah, thank you for all the ways that you move as a possibility model for others.

B. Pagels-Minor: That’s awesome, thank you. And you’re further along than I am [re: age of children]. He [B’s toddler] got his first goose egg yesterday, because he decided to get into something. I was like, how do parents deal with this? I was like this is too stressful. [to toddler] You need to stop trying to kill yourself, bruh, right? 

Daniela Capistrano: Yes! Our kiddo is also a handful. My partner, she is Mama, the birth parent. And I’m over here sort of carving out my own space as the trans non-binary parent, and it’s wonderful to have her full support about that. Our kiddo decided to name me Nana, and I’m cool with it. If he ever changes his mind, then you know, we’ll roll with it. But yeah, anyway, let’s dive in.

A lot has happened since you were very unjustly fired from Netflix in 2021; you were still pregnant then! How are you doing, what have you been up to, and how can our community support and uplift you? Please give us a rundown of what’s going on. 

B. Pagels-Minor: So yeah, I’ll give you a little bit of a context as to how that kind of came about: after everything went down, I actually went into early delivery. And so I had an emergency c-section delivery in November 2021. And you know, it actually caused quite a few health issues. And so it became very apparent to me that I did not want to do a 40-60 hour per week job for a while, so I can both physically recover from the labor, but also, obviously, be present for my family. And so initially, at the beginning of this year, I started doing more consulting. I’ve had my B.Pagels-Minor Consulting brand for quite a bit. And it’s something where I’ve just like lowkey helped companies if they’ve come to me, and nonprofits. But you know, [until now] I never put any effort into making it into a “real” real consulting business. And so I picked that back up at the beginning of the year. And what became very apparent is that my consulting business was a way to disengage from everything I kind of hated about corporate America, you know. A great idea in corporate America might take six months to get the idea approved, to get resources to actually start working on it just to figure it out, if that makes sense.And what I liked about this whole consulting thing is that I could work with a lot of organizations, identify what the issues were, create great plans for those people, and then they could execute on it––and I just got to hear about it later. Right. You know, like, I didn’t have to wait there and deal with the politics, and actually, oftentimes, I was more respected as a consultant than I had ever been respected as an internal employee.

And so because of that, I decided to really focus in and do some due diligence to understand exactly what my offering is. And so at the beginning of 2023, I’m relaunching and rebranding as B.PM Consulting. What I figured out is that I’m really great at product strategy. Like if you put me in a space with anyone, for any period of time, and I learn a little bit about their business, I usually am really good at helping them to really distill exactly what they’re trying to do, why they’re trying to do it, and how they might be able to do it better. 

But I realized that there’s a culture problem within organizations. And so more than anything else, I found that people weren’t able to achieve product market fit, because they had a terrible culture.

You have a culture where people don’t want to work with you, or people are just doing the bare minimum to get by, because they’re not really engaged in their work. This was very evident at Netflix, for instance. And so basically, you know, I took what I learned in corporate America about how to incentivize people, and I started to apply that in my consulting business. 

B.PM Consulting is primarily focused on both product and culture strategy, because you can’t have one without the other. And it’s been really great to work with a lot of different clients. That’s the first offering: B.PM Consulting, which is essentially an extension of what I’ve been doing before, but at a much higher level, and much more focused.

Also through B.PM Consulting came the opportunity to be an advisor for companies. So let’s say a company has a great idea, but maybe they can’t afford me. What ends up happening is that a lot of companies are like, can you come be our very first advisor, or our first board member. As part of that, I receive equity in those companies. People who are advisors and  are equity stakeholders in a company are typically more engaged, and trying to make sure that the company is successful. 

But as I started to investigate more of that, I realized it was very difficult for me—even with my very wide array of associations and networks—to convince large VCs to invest in smaller companies. Because for the most part, a lot of VCs, they’re really trying to de-risk their investments by primarily, investing in companies that already have really big names investing in them.

As I was talking to some of the partners of Gaingels, where I’m an investor,  they were like, just open up your own fund. And I was like, that’s terrifying, I don’t know if I can do that. But the more I researched, the more I realized it’s actually pretty straightforward to open up a fund that also has a convenient syndicate. So what a syndicate is, is that basically individuals who are accredited investors might join the syndicate so that they can get access to make special investments into pre IPO companies. So in 2023, I’m planning on launching my new venture firm called DVRGNT Ventures

Daniela Capistrano: This is amazing and sounds similar to the origin story of Arlan Hamilton (Black queer entrepreneur and co-founder of Backstage Capital); creating a space that didn’t exist before because it was something you needed that you’re now providing for others. 

B. Pagels-Minor: Right! And I’m originally from Mississippi and the Tennessee area. And so what I found is that people aren’t looking at Mississippi and Tennessee for investments. They’re primarily thinking, all those people don’t know what the heck they’re doing, even though what you’re actually starting to see is lots of people like myself from those areas are starting to move back to establish our own families. And, you know, we’re looking for cheaper places to live, to actually ensure that we can create generational wealth for our family. And so as a result of that, my big focus for the fund and for my venture firm is looking for these out of the way places: I’m looking to help in Lincoln, Nebraska, Memphis, Tennessee, Mobile, Alabama, Jackson, Mississippi, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.… I’m just completely astounded at how great the work is in those places and I’m really excited about that. 

Because, you know, for the first time for some of those people, people like me are actually interested in them. And so they’re super excited. And it’s been great having a conversation with them.

We started doing some light research to figure out what it actually takes to do a podcast. And we’re like, wait, like, this is really easy.

– B. Pagels-Minor

Daniela Capistrano: Incredible. Can you share how this overlaps with your goals for your podcast The Drops

B. Pagels-Minor: Well the very first thing I did, when I started to come back to myself—you know, as I started to recover my health after the pregnancy scare and everything else—was to start talking to people. And so my podcast co-host, Tam Danier and I met in 2019. I posted something on LinkedIn and she liked it and connected with me. And ever since we’ve just had these random conversations. We would always just put something on the calendar and then we would just, you know, shoot the shit. 

We would  talk about our thoughts on product and design and business and what we thought was going right or going wrong. As a result of that,  one day we were just sitting there, and were just like, why are we only saying this stuff to each other, like we need to get this out there somewhere. And obviously, you know, we could have written a blog or done all these other types of things, but we decided it should be a podcast and we would call it The Drops, because we would just be dropping knowledge on these people. They can then also get the drop, which is getting the money that they should be getting from making really good business decisions.

I think we mentioned it in March, and we started doing some light research to figure out what it actually takes to do a podcast. And we’re like, wait, like, this is really easy. The biggest thing is going to be editing the content. Because our conversations are  actually sometimes two or three hours, then we distill it down into bite sized chunks for people because we’re very much people who think that information should be given efficiently to people. 

Most of our episodes are under 45 minutes, except for maybe an interview that’s just so good that we decided not to break it up, but otherwise we would like to make it very digestible so it really can be a drop for people. And then the podcast just started doing crazy numbers.

Daniela Capistrano: What steps did you take that you think helped your podcast take off right away?

B. Pagels-Minor: So first, we  actually started getting these messages from people saying, like, I listened to your podcast, it’s great. And then we made a few VC lists. And that’s kinda funny, because it’s  kind of anti VC, generally. And we actually made a bunch of podcasts lists from these VC partners. And so we really started to pick up steam from there, where they were just like, you know, “your podcast is great; you’re talking about businesses in ways that we want our founders to be talking about business, which is very practical and pragmatic, and thinking more strategically about people and product market fit.” Not only were we getting more listens, but we were also getting more people who were asking really good questions. One of the great things about our podcast is that it is really generated by what we see and what we do every day. So, you know, we never know what we’re going to talk about, and so usually like the Friday before a recording we exchange messages back and forth and say something like ”did you hear about this thing”, or like “one of my clients mentioned this thing, and I did some research, I think it’s gonna be interesting, here’s a couple of links, let’s talk about it on Monday”.

And so it’s very much just a conversation between two people who really respect each other, talking about the things that we kind of hope to help other people avoid. And so all of those things combined really helped me realize the vision for the consulting business, and the thesis about my venture firm.

And so, you know, I’ve been very fortunate that almost everything that I’ve done, has kind of just taken off.

Daniela Capistrano: [singing] Everything you touch turns to gold!

B. Pagels-Minor: Haha! What’s also interesting about how everything has gone down since Netflix is that I randomly get calls from like, nonprofit communities, or startups, or for profit companies, where it’s usually an employee who says, “Hey, B., I remember what happened at Netflix and how you handled it. My company is also having this problem. I was wondering if you would come in and talk to us.”

And so that’s been the other really delightful thing that I’ve rolled into my consulting business: a little lowkey crisis management that happens just because,, a lot of people still haven’t figured out how to talk to employees. I don’t think any employee wants people to make decisions that mean that the business ceases to exist, because we need jobs. But there are situations that come up. And I’m very proud to be able to really help facilitate a lot of those critical conversations through my consulting business as well. 

So that’s how everything converged into these three distinct businesses that I have now.

I’m a Black trans lesbian, so I can speak to a range of experiences.

– B. Pagels-Minor

Daniela Capistrano: When you mentioned how one of the silver linings of the trauma you experienced at Netflix is that it’s turned into part of your consulting business—crisis management consulting gigs—with these other companies, can you please clarify? Is it specifically tied to transgender issues in the workplace, or does it run the gamut of issues? What exactly are your consulting clients bringing you in to help fix tied to employee performance and organizational resilience?

B. Pagels-Minor: Initially, it was primarily trans and generally LGBTQ+ issues. But then, of course, you know, I’m a Black trans lesbian, so I can speak to a range of experiences. I started getting into my various identities and more. And then from there on, the feedback I’ve been getting is that I’m really good at helping people in the workplace navigate tough conversations. In fact, someone suggested that I need to trademark that: Captain of Difficult Conversations. 

It’s rarely that one party is completely right and one party is completely wrong; it’s rarely that. It’s more like the company has some kind of initiative, and then employees are just like “hey, we disagree with how you’re approaching this,” and it’s just me coming in and helping each side understand and engage with each other. The issues [that I’m asked to help resolve] can really run the gamut and it’s definitely evolved over time.

Daniela Capistrano: Thank you for that. As a The Drops stan, I now have a question about that podcast—and congratulations on how it’s already gaining so much traction. I am curious, though; when I look at the description of the podcast, and the titles you use for each episode, you don’t explicitly state anywhere that you are trans. Was that by design? How did that sort of organically come about?

B. Pagels-Minor: Yeah, so first and foremost, one of the things that is a challenge for me personally, is that when, you know, everything was going down with Netflix, I started to be identified as like this “diversity” person. But I’ve done public speaking since 2012/2013, long before I was with Netflix. I have always been a business speaker, talking about product and business strategy. And then after Netflix, I became this person who people would approach to say “do you want to speak for the trans community” or whatever, and the [event topic] was about trans issues. So yes, you’re right, a little bit of it [not explicitly identifying as trans in the show notes] is on purpose, but I want to be clear…. 

As far as I can tell, and what the research shows, is that I am the first Black trans person, or at least the first openly Black trans person, in venture. It’s good to have those things out there. So people know that. But my trans identity and my Black identity do not supersede the fact that I have been a great business person for over a decade. So I want to be clear on that.

Now, on the podcast, I do mention my pronouns and things like that—I don’t run away from it. I am a Black trans lesbian from Mississippi. I like to make sure people know that I’m Southerner too. But it’s also important for people to understand that I am a very accomplished person outside of these identities. So I try to find that balance.

Daniela Capistrano: That makes sense, thank you for explaining. We are prismatic beings. With my podcast Non-Binary Entrepreneurship with Daniela Capistrano, I’m kind of going the exact opposite route that you are, intentionally so. My podcast is entirely made by and for trans and gender nonconforming entrepreneurs. The guests will only ever be TGNC entrepreneurs and some cis allies who have a documented history of supporting and collaborating with trans entrepreneurs. I’m intentionally being very niche, but also thinking about how I can fully show up as myself as well outside of being that non-binary entrepreneur. So I was very encouraged by the fact that your podcast is a trans-affirming podcast by the nature of the identities you hold, but your approach isn’t to overtly brand the podcast as a “trans” business podcast but it’s still very much a business podcast that is trans-inclusive. 

B. Pagels-Minor: Yeah, I think it’s so necessary. And I also by the way, I really love the fact that you make that point, because I do think it’s so important for people to see that we can be just as successful as everybody else. Right? Because that’s a huge part of this conversation: we need to make sure that we are elevating trans wisdom, so people know like, “hey, check out this person, they can help give you advice in this industry, and like how you might tackle it.” 

If you go into anything and your main goal is “I’m going to become famous and make a million dollars” or something like that, it’s going to be very difficult to get and stay motivated because of the fear of failure. 

– B. Pagels-Minor

Daniela Capistrano: Exactly! Now, from one trans podcaster to another—before we wrap up this excellent conversation—can you share with our audience your top three tips for launching a successful podcast?

B. Pagels-Minor: Well, first of all, there are a million tools that make it very easy to produce a podcast, so do your research. Because when we started off, we made it much more difficult than we had to. So do your research on tools and resources to start off with, because it will help you avoid a lot of problems.

Some of our tech stack is Anchor to deliver the podcast to various platforms, Riverside.fm to record the episodes, Descript to export the podcast for editing because it features a native transcription service, and Headliner to automatically upload episodes to YouTube and promo content for social media. 

Second, do the work to figure out what a good episode is for you. A lot of people do this thing where they just record and then they just release the whole episode. And they don’t think about the topic flow or sound quality. For our podcast, we will re-record certain parts of an episode if we don’t think it sounds good. It’s partially about honoring the people who are sitting there listening. People should be focused on the episode, not the sound quality. 

The last thing is that one of the barriers for people preventing them from starting a podcast is that they think that no one is going to listen. First and foremost, I think that people need to understand that  there are millions of podcasts. So there’s very few podcasts that are gonna have thousands of listeners per episode. So you know, if you have 20 to like 100 listeners per episode, you’re already one of the top tier podcasts in the world. Thinking about it this way can help take a lot of the fear and intimidation out of it. 

If you go into anything and your main goal is “I’m going to become famous and make a million dollars” or something like that, it’s going to be very difficult to get and stay motivated because of the fear of failure. 

But if you go into something  and your motivation is “I want to do this, I think I can enjoy doing this,” it’s more likely to be a success. 

Daniela Capistrano: This has been amazing, thank you. Last question: how can people support you right now? 

B. Pagels-Minor: Thanks for asking! Folks can refer businesses and individuals for my consulting services, invite me to speak at your organization, and subscribe to the podcast. DVRGNT Ventures has its own YouTube channel, LinkedIn, Twitter, all that stuff, so follow there to find out about opportunities to engage in 2023 and beyond. And lastly, if you know of any cool founders that are out there, just in general, feel free to start connecting me with them. I would love to talk to them about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, and what they might be looking for from a funding perspective. 

B. PAGELS-MINOR

B. is an award-winning product strategist, podcast host, startup advisor and investor, and executive coach, as well as a respected thought leader in agile technologies who approaches every problem with strategy, curiosity, and genuine authenticity. As a dedicated enthusiast of sustainable processes, great products, and culture development, B.’s fierce drive to promote diversity in tech and impact real authentic change continues to define both their work and life outside of their work. 

B. is a proud graduate of Northwestern University with a deep background in history, in addition to an MBA and master of information systems from Robert Morris University. B. gives back to various organizations by being the Vice Chair & Secretary on the Board of Directors at Howard Brown Health, one of the top 3 largest LGBTQ community health centers in the country, Vice President & Secretary on the Board of Directors at the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago, and Board of Directors of the Northwestern Alumni Association.

In 2022, B. Was honored as one of the Queer 50 from Fast Company, 35 Hero Advocate Executives by Involve People and Yahoo Finance UK, and a finalist for 2022 LGBTQNation heroes of the year.

DANIELA CAPISTRANO

Daniela “Dani” Capistrano (they/them) is the founder & CEO of DCAP MEDIA LLC, an NGLCC Certified LGBTBE® business, and head of digital strategy and audience development for client-partner TransLash Media since 2019. Capistrano is a Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses & digitalundivided BREAKTHROUGH alum and a recent graduate of the first-ever Nike Academy for diverse suppliers. Dani identifies as queer, trans non-binary, latinx, & has lived in the New Orleans area since 2013 with their life partner, their 2021 pandemic baby, a dog named Gumbo, and a cat named Yoda.

Non-Binary Entrepreneurship with Daniela Capistrano, an intersectional business podcast & community platform intentionaly centering the voices of transgender and gender nonconforming entrepreneurs, officially launches in Spring 2023. Catch the trailer on TransLash Podcast with Imara Jones as a feed drop on December 25, 2022, and subscribe to the Non-Binary Entrepreneurship newsletter to be among the first to access the premiere episode: www.nonbinaryentrepreneur.com. Capistrano is proud to be a Fund 17 board member and member of the National Small Business Association (NSBA) Leadership Council. Follow Dani’s 10+ year experiment in art, activism, and community through materiality: POC Zine Project 

SOME PODCAST EPISODES FEATURING TRANS ENTREPRENEURS 

There currently aren’t many podcasts hosted by a TGNC person that specifically focus on trans & non-binary entrepreneurship in every episode, but here are some must-list podcast episodes featuring TGNC entrepreneurs!

  • Business Curious, a podcast by GoDaddy and hosted by Scott Shigeoka, features stories of LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs across the country who defy traditions, get creative and thrive — no matter what. Check out the episode Empowering the Trans Community in the World of Tech featuring Angelica Ross.
  • The Hypno Fairy Godmother: check out this conversation with transgender entrepreneur Jordan Pollack, who decided to record his transformation on YouTube for others to gain knowledge and understanding. Then with the help of his father and brother, Jordan started the CBD Company Ziggy’s Naturals.
  • TRANSFORMING SELF: in this episode, get to know Jay Pryor, a keynote speaker, executive coach, author of Lean Inside, and an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. As a transgender coach, Jay is able to help people educate themselves on the proper way to use pronouns and address other issues within their language and beliefs.  In this conversation, Dr. Jeremy and Dr. Amelia discuss with Jay what it means to be an entrepreneur and how we find our own happiness.
  • The Out Entrepreneur: in this episode, get to know Nadia McCullough, the co-founder of HiR Transcender, a $1M Accelerator program that connects transgender and nonbinary entrepreneurs with investors. The business gives entrepreneurs the mentorship, training, and tools they need to make a great pitch to the investors to get their businesses the funding they deserve to thrive. Nadia and her team see the business as a “Shark Tank” that meets “Ru-Paul’s Drag Race.” As a trans woman Nadia believes this business is greatly needed to help expand economic opportunities to TNB communities at this crucial time in our movement’s history.
  • The Inclusive Business Lab: in this episode, get to know The Noun Lounge founder Aiden Howery, a trans man. The Noun Lounge is a trans-owned all inclusive LGBTQ+ streetwear brand based out of the Midwest. 
  • PODCAST KING: in this episode, Black trans entrepreneur Jayla Roxx is the special guest. Don’t miss this beautiful exchange between two powerful Black trans women in media.
  • K. Kenneth Davis, a Black trans financial educator known as The Trans Capitalist, has made it his mission to help the LGBTQ+ community understand money. He doesn’t have a podcast but check out his Instagram.
  • Mars Wright on TikTok: while Mars’ content isn’t always specifically about entrepreneurship and financial literacy, Mars is a successful entrepreneur who drops gems that are useful for anyone interested in learning how to start a business and build their own brand! Check out the Life on Mars Winter 2022 Collection.
  • Explore our trans-affirming guide to financial literacy
  • TransWork fills a critical gap for addressing un- and under-employment by connecting transgender and gender non-binary job seekers and entrepreneurs to a network of supportive employers and business partners.
  • Support TGNC businesses: check out our directory!

Did you find this resource helpful? Consider supporting TransLash today with a tax-deductible donation.

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