Welcome to our Spark! Meet the Founder series, where we introduce you to the amazing entrepreneurs who are participating in our Spark! 2021 program with a quick Q&A!
Spark! is a small business pre-accelerator that puts the right people, opportunities, and access in place for local entrepreneurs in Arkansas to grow their venture to the next level.
Please meet Ayana Baraka, founder of Edamame Films. Edamame Films produces films by and about disenfranchised communities.
The Venture Center: Why did you become an entrepreneur?
Ayana Baraka: I became an entrepreneur out of necessity. In order to pursue filmmaking as a career I needed to be well versed in the business of filmmaking.
TVC: What problem does your business solve?
Baraka: Those from disenfranchised communities are underrepresented behind the camera. Only 1/10 films between 2011 and 2017 were directed by a person of color and less than 20% were written by women.
My company is a unique business that addresses the systemic issues of the film industry in two ways:
(1) We produce content by and about women, BIPOC and disenfranchised communities.
(2) We provide training and rental services by skilled women and women of color working in the film industry.
TVC: What are you most proud of and/or what is your biggest challenge in your entrepreneurial journey?
My first virtual reality project, “Greenwood Avenue,” had a woman of color in every major position and has been viewed over 60,000 times on YouTube. It is now used as an educational tool in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Tulsa through partnerships with the Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, TechRow, and RedFlight Innovation sponsored by Russell Westbrook.
A moment I’m most proud of is when I met a young girl at my screening a few weeks ago. She asked her father for a poster that featured the three stars of our film. She saw herself in the characters. When she met me, she very shyly asked for my autograph. It was profound because she saw herself in me, too.
Huge thanks to Ayana Baraka for participating in Spark 2021! We can’t wait to see your business grow! Sign up for our newsletter and follow The Venture Center on social media to keep up with our Spark! 2021 cohort!