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Iris Nevins started Umba Daima to elevate Black NFT artists

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Iris Nevins started Umba Daima to elevate Black NFT artists

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In early 2021, Iris Nevins, a longtime art collector, officially dedicated her career to inspiring artists.

She had initially planned to create an online store allowing artists to sell their work, with her co-founder, Omar Desire. But when she heard about NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, in 2020, she decided the technology would be a “much deeper way to help artists.”

“We thought we could do more, have a bigger impact and generate more income for the artists, for ourselves, [with NFTs] than trying to sell prints and paintings online, “Nevins, 29, told CNBC Make It.

In February 2021, Nevins and his team launched the NFT Umba Daima studio, which promotes artists and educates people about Web3. Among its many offerings, the Umba Daima team manages and consults with artists, earns a percentage of their sales and helps build online communities for markets.

Umba Daima has also launched a number of sub-brands, which she oversees. The first was Black NFT Art, followed quickly by the NFT Roundtable podcast and the virtual exhibition The Unseen Gallery.

“We noticed that the very successful artists had these very strong communities around them that were promoting or reposting on social media or participating in their drops,” Nevins said. The studio launched Black NFT Art “with the aim of creating this kind of experience for black artists.”

An example of Umba Daima’s success is artist André Oshea, which the company ran for about four and a half months. His NFT sales were low when he started working with Umba Daima, but now “Andre Oshea is one of the best black artists in space,” Nevins says.

In 2021, Umba Daima made $ 140,000 in revenue with all of its brands.

Although this is an important step, the team is still in the process of getting started. Nevins did not get paid, although she quit her day job to focus on Umba Daima full time. Most of her team are mostly volunteers, she says, although she pays them when she can. “We are far from profitable, but I hope it can happen soon.”

She is grateful to people like Tonya evans, Professor at the State of Pennsylvania Dickinson Law, and Kyle Hill, head of cryptography for the consulting platform Troika IO, who assisted Umba Daima through the process. “It’s been really nice, especially as a black founder, to have people who support me so much and believe in me so much,” Nevins said.

“The use of crypto, blockchain and NFT is so important”

Work to do

However, the NFT space is still not perfect.

In its early days, Nevins noticed a lack of diversity in the industry and saw an opportunity to create a more equitable space for designers of color. “There weren’t a lot of black artists, or if they were there they were really hard to find,” she says. “You haven’t seen black artists generate a lot of sales.”

Additionally, many of the major NFT marketplaces require creators to apply or be invited to list their work. But Nevins says she noticed some platforms don’t accept or invite artists of color.

The current application process for many NFT markets also enforces a culture where only those with an “in” can be successful, Nevins says. “This is problematic because if you don’t actively build relationships with black people in space, how are you going to bring black artists onto the platform?” she says.

Nevins hopes that one day those same NFT marketplaces will change their practices and work more closely with community builders, like Black NFT Art.

“The markets all benefit from the work people like me do,” she says. “It’s disappointing when a lot of these platforms don’t make an effort to collaborate with us. [They] can do more to partner with local organizers.

What’s next for Umba Daima

Looking ahead, Nevins is excited to see the growth of black-owned NFT platforms, including Well and Disrupt art, This year. She is also excited to see more NFT movies, music and dance on the market.

In fact, Umba Daima’s first one-of-one NFT drop is slated for February and will feature works by popular artists like Shaylin wallace and Dominique weiss, among others.

“We want to be able to help all the artists we collaborate with to get their flowers and grow throughout this process,” she says. “I think most people’s association with NFTs is CryptoPunks. They haven’t actually sat down and watched what regular performers are creating.”

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Iris Nevins started Umba Daima to elevate Black NFT artists

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