Renata Mutis Black, the founder of Seven Bar Foundation and Empowered By You, has created a new blueprint for philanthropy. Her mission is to develop sustainable business models that generate consistent revenue streams to fuel microfinance and drive social impact.
Orphaned as a toddler, Black was raised in Miami by her Aunt. Alone, at age 15, she relocated to her native country, Colombia, where she discovered that a large portion of the population lived in extreme poverty. She realized she was witnessing what could have become her life and that she had been given her first break before she was old enough to know it. Black then made a commitment to give a “first break” to as many women as possible in honor of the chance that she was given as a child.
After completing a degree in Journalism and Psychology from The University of North Carolina, Black traveled to 12 countries throughout the world and discovered the local cultures through volunteer work. However, it was the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami that refined Black's vision about how she could empower women. While in India to help rebuild villages shattered by the catastrophic flooding, she was approached by a woman who inspired her. “She was strong-voiced, with piercing eyes,” recalls Black, “and she said to me - I don’t want your money, I want you to teach me how to make it myself, will you?” This poignant request ignited her to start studying microfinance and its impact on impoverished communities under the teachings of 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh. Renata was further motivated by the fact that 60% of the women in the world live on less than $1 a day.
Black returned to India in 2005 to establish a grassroots microfinance program with 800 local women. During this time she created Seven Bar Foundation, a 501(c) 3, whose mission is to provide women with loans that enable them to start or grow their own small businesses, via microfinance. Through this experience Black witnessed how a loan of $50 could empower a woman to start her own business, cut the cycle of poverty for her children and provide another woman with the same opportunity once the loan was repaid.
Having experienced Indian culture for two years, Black developed a deep understanding of the respect sari-covered women held for something as intimate as their lingerie. With this appreciation, Black returned to the states where she saw the need for a societal paradigm shift - to reposition lingerie as a tool of empowerment as opposed to one of seduction. To raise funds for microfinance loans and spread the message of female empowerment, Black created and trademarked luxury lingerie shows in the top 15 cities featuring designers such as Agent Provocateur, Atsuko Kudo and Carine Gilson. Thus far, Lingerie Miami, Lingerie New York and Lingerie London have garnered over four billion media impressions and the support of celebrities like Eva Longoria and Sofia Vergara.
In 2012, Black launched Empowered By You, a lingerie brand with the ethos ‘What Empowers You, Empowers Women Everywhere.’ The lingerie is produced in Sri Lanka at a facility that has won UN Awards for championing the UN’s Women Empowerment Principals. 20% of all net profits generated from sales of the high-tech panties are donated to the Seven Bar Foundation. Often referred to as the Toms Shoes of lingerie, each Empowered By You package includes an insert with a personal testimonial from a woman who has received a loan from the Seven Bar Foundation to start her own business.
Renata is an expert in female entrepreneurship, women empowerment and paradigm shifts. She has spoken about female empowerment and women in business at numerous institutions, most recently at the United Nations and Harvard Business School. Deepak Chopra has dedicated a chapter to Renata in his book, "The Soul of Leadership." She writes a blog for the Huffington Post called, "Paradigm Shifters" and is featured as a MAKER on AOL.