Sevetri Wilson is a tech entrepreneur who has achieved major success despite significant obstacles.
The founder and CEO of SaaS platform Resilia faced several rejections when trying to raise funding for her company. Indeed, the obstacles faced by black female founders are well documented.
But, despite the challenges, her New Orleans-based startup raised $8 million in its Series A round of funding. It is the highest value venture capital raise by a female-founded tech firm in Louisiana. To date, the company has raised $11 million in total.
Resilia’s platform provides nonprofits with tools for compliance, management, training, and funding. It also serves organizations that want to donate billions of dollars to scale the work of nonprofits. The platform has been hailed as revolutionizing the ways that nonprofits are able to operate.
Its 2,800 plus customers range from small to mid-sized nonprofits, government offices, private foundations, and corporations. They include Oxfam America, Stem Library Lab, Kellogg, and The United Way.
Moreover, Wilson has been showered with several accolades, including being named on Inc. Magazine’s 2019 list of 100 Female Founders Building World Changing Companies.
Her current focus is on expanding Resilia. Last month the company officially launched its Nonprofit Platform that gives even more hands-on support for nonprofits. It was developed with the input of practitioners who have several decades of experience in the sector.
The online platform offers a combination of educational training and other resources. These include on-demand training, videos, and courses on topics like fundraising, board management, and governance. There are also customizable templates for things like grant budgets, acknowledgment letters, and tax receipts.
Organizations who use the platform can further benefit from performance tracking resources and ongoing access to nonprofit coaches. Wilson remains passionate about the fact that, as she says, many nonprofits have operating budgets of under $1 million “and struggle to access resources and technology”.
“I want our technology to be accessible to more nonprofit organizations,” she says. “In order to do that we have to scale so that we can reach more people and capture a larger market share. Scaling will also allow us to expand globally at some point.”
“We have gone from being a small team to now having over 30 employees,” she continues. “We’ll probably have 43 employees before the end of the year. We’re focused on establishing ourselves as a thought leader in this space.
“We also want to deliver a product to our customers that is not only equipped to do the things that they need. It must provide an enhanced and engaging user experience.”
The work involved in scaling Resilia is not without its challenges, however, despite Wilson’s high profile and the several awards she has won. But, as her company name suggests, resilience is a quality that is highly important to her.
“It’s great to give me awards but I’m going to need the money too,” she laughs. “To be honest, keep your awards, give me a contract. I’m for the type of award that is about economic mobility. Every day we’re closing five, six, seven-figure deals and we still have to work hard to get people to say yes.
“It’s a never-ending journey in which you often meet with a lot of people saying no. Every day, every week, every month, every year I’m met with something that requires me to show acts of resiliency. I definitely have to keep pushing forward.
“There are going to be obstacles in your way” Wilson continues. “But it goes back to having the fortitude to find another way and breakthrough.”
The entrepreneur’s ability to be resilient in the face of challenges began early in life. Wilson grew up in Hammond, La. A bright student, she attended Louisiana State University and studied mass communications and history.
Sadly, tragedy struck. Her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and passed away soon after Wilson graduated from college.
Not long after her mother’s passing Wilson started her first company, Solid Ground Innovations in July 2009. She bootstrapped the strategic communications and management firm. It eventually grew into a seven-figure business.
“My mother created the strong foundation on which I’ve built my life,” she says. “She wasn’t an entrepreneur, she didn’t finish college, but she instilled in me the idea that you can be anything you want to be. My father also passed away when I was really young. But he was also an entrepreneur and that helped me know that this was a pathway for me.
“These two things together gave me the fire to want to be entrepreneurial. I’ve defied a lot of odds. But I feel like I’m beginning to build a legacy not only for myself but for my late mother, my family, and my team members.”
The serial entrepreneur’s decision to start Resilia in 2016, despite Solid Ground Innovations’ success, was another demonstration of Wilson’s determination. Did she ever doubt the decision to undertake the hard work involved in starting a second company?
“People were incredulous” she recalls. “And sometimes even I asked myself ‘why am I doing this?’ There was the possibility that the new company could fail.
“But it was my desire to build something bigger. Solid Ground Innovations is still in operation and I could have continued to grow that. However, I wanted to venture into tech and build something scalable.
“I saw that there was an opportunity to utilize technology in the nonprofit space and I had to be very resilient in moving forward.”
Wilson has won plaudits as someone dedicated to supporting others who also hope to become successful in business. For example, aspiring entrepreneurs who visit her website can download free resources that they can adapt to their own businesses.
These include a pricing sheet template she created when launching Solid Ground Innovations, a capabilities statement, and a pitch deck for the benefit of angel investors.
This dedication is helping people achieve their goal is a key theme that underlies the bestselling books she has written. In 2019 she published “Solid Ground: How I Built A 7-Figure Company With Zero Capital”.
The book is intended as a guide for entrepreneurs facing an uphill task in trying to grow their businesses.
Her new book, “Resilient: How to Overcome Anything and Build a Million Dollar Business With or Without Capital”, has a similar goal. Wilson is keen to remind readers that, no matter how tough the challenge, they have the ability to rise above it.
“People have reached out to me to say they cried after reading the book,” she says. “One recent incident was particularly powerful for me. I was doing a book signing when a woman approached me and said ‘Thank you for sharing your story.’
“She had been diagnosed with cancer over a year ago. She had a 12-year-old daughter. She told me she was going to share my story with her daughter because she knew, after reading my book, that regardless of what happened to her, her daughter was going to be ok.
“That’s what I want” Wilson continues “to give a reminder to people that they’re not alone when facing challenges. They can overcome them and they can keep moving forward.”