By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member.
msayles@afro.com

Milan Ball, 24, doesn’t consider herself your typical software developer. First, she’s a woman. Second, she’s African-American. She also does not have a degree in computer science- that’s strike three. 

Instead, Ball received her degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, then started her professional career in fashion design. 

From interning with Victoria Beckham, to sustainable trend forecasting for Material ConneXion and buying for fashion tech startup Corporate Catwalk, Ball boasted numerous roles in the fashion industry.

When the pandemic hit, she began consulting with companies she had built a rapport with. Many of them were social impact-driven companies, upholding her love for philanthropy. 

However, Ball realized most people have no idea how their spending can create impact if they buy from charitable companies. 

“It was frustrating to keep discovering all of these companies that did so much good, but no one had ever heard of them,” said Ball. “My wish kind of became trying to put a spotlight on those companies and educate people on social impact. Everybody wants to make change, but figuring out how to start is pretty difficult.” 

Ball transitioned into entrepreneurship in March 2021 when she founded Philan. As a consumer impact power grid, Philan helps shoppers measure the impact of their spending to remind the world that every dollar counts. It also helps them discover charitable companies that align with their personal values. 

Several months after Philan’s establishment, Ball had the opportunity to join Bubble’s Immerse program, which helps Black founders launch web apps through a fully-funded pre-accelerator. 

Oftentimes, technology can be a hindrance to founders- especially because of the costs associated with hiring developers.  

Bubble’s Immerse program seeks to support non-technical founders in becoming their own chief technology officers through a no-code platform. Instead of learning programming languages, founders use a drag-and-drop interface in the browser to build their applications.  

Milan Ball began her career in fashion, but her love for philanthropy led her to start her own tech company. (Courtesy Photo by Qway)

During the program, Ball was able to build Philan’s minimum viable product. This spring, Philan will have its beta launch.

“There are a lot of companies that take performative measures to make change. I think Bubble is one of those exceptions where they are really sowing into the future of the founders who join their cohorts,” said Ball. “Every ounce of time that they have required of us in this program is spent towards investing in our futures as founders, and I couldn’t sing the praises of it more.” 

After completing Immerse, Ball’s instructor offered her a software developer position at The Momentum Group (TMG), an Australia-based company that uses no-code tools to build scalable technology products. 

While she never imagined herself becoming a software developer, she’s fortunate to be able to seize the opportunity. As an early founder, Ball has been able to add an additional stream of income and strengthen the skills required to sophisticate Philan’s app. 

Ball said it has been empowering to take on a career path that is dynamic and encouraged others to pursue professional opportunities, even if they are unexpected. 

“For those who have the luxury of a choice to pursue something else, I say do it because not everyone has the luxury of even considering doing what it is that they want,” said Ball. “You don’t want to be the thing that gets in the way of you getting exactly what you want or want for your children.”

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