Iris Nevins, 29, is an art collector who is dedicated to helping artists. While her original plans were to create a store online in which artists could sell their work, she changed her focus when she heard about nonfungible tokens, or NFTs. Believing that this technology would be a much better way to help artists, Nevins launched the NFT studio called Umba Daima and its “Black NFT Art” brand in February of 2021. The business brought in $140,000 in 10 months. Nevins views the business as a way to “rebalance power.”
Jamaican American, Nevins and co-founder Omar Desire thought they could have a larger impact and generate greater revenues for artists and for themselves with NFTs than by just selling artworks online. Umba Daima promotes artists and also provides education to people about Web3. The team at Umba Daima manages and consults with artists and receives a percentage of their sales. It also works to build online communities that function as marketplaces. The business introduced a number of sub-brands – Black NFT Art, the NFT Roundtable podcast, and The Unseen Gallery, a virtual exhibit – that it oversees.
Nevins noticed that the really successful artists had very strong communities surrounding them to promote their work, repost to social media, or participate in their drops. Black NFT Art is Nevins’ attempt to create a similar experience for Black artists.
While the revenue total for Umba Daima in 2021 was a milestone, the firm continues its bootstrapping activities. Most team members are essentially volunteers, according to Nevins, and she has not paid herself yet. She adds that Umba Daima is a long way from profitability, but she is hopeful that it will happen soon. Nevins is committed to equity and social justice and views blockchain technology as a way to move toward eliminating the wealth gap that has been boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Inequality Report, the top ten percent of the world’s population owned 76 percent of total household wealth in 2021; the bottom half of the global population owned two percent. Nevins believes that cryptocurrency, blockchain, and NFT utilization are critical because the technology allows for the creation of an entirely new economic system where there can be a rebalance of power.
Nevins admits that the NFT space is not perfect: the industry suffers from a lack of diversity. Most NFT marketplaces require artists to apply or be invited to participate, and some platforms do not invite or accept artists of color. She hopes that the industry will change over time, however, and adds that the markets will benefit from working with people like her. She is happy to see Black-owned NFT platforms grow and include more music, film, and dance NFTs in the market.
Nevins expressed her thanks for those who have helped and supported her initiative, including Professor Tonya Evans of Pennsylvania State Dickinson Law, and Kyle Hill, head of crypto at Troika IO.
Nevins was recently featured on the CNBC website.