Oshane Mcrae joined Fourth Economy + Steer in October 2023. He holds a Masters in Environmental Health Science and Policy from George Washington University and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, where he concentrated his studies on social impact and entrepreneurship.
We asked Oshane a few questions about his role, his commitment to social impact, and what he’s excited to accomplish at Fourth Economy in 2024. Finally, we also asked Oshane to tell us the story of how he got into making natural skincare as a hobby!
You are a Consultant for Fourth Economy. What does that entail? What does your work look like on any given day?
Any two days can look different from one another. On one day my schedule can include helping to facilitate a community focus group to hear what members of the community think & feel, and on another I can be putting the finishing touches on a collection of best practices in the manufacturing industry in a given state. The essential role of a consultant for Fourth Economy is to support the economic visioning, planning and execution for communities across the country – and doing the full suite of little and big things necessary to turn their dreams into reality.
Before coming to Fourth Economy, you worked on two different initiatives aimed at building the capacity and capital of black businesses. What is the biggest policy barrier that you see to this work, and/or the policy/strategy that has the greatest impact to achieve this goal?
The biggest challenge I’ve seen is access to capital. Throughout much of U.S. history, a majority of Black communities have been systematically denied wealth building tools, whether through housing discrimination, high barriers to employment, constricted educational access, or sheer violence that has wiped away entire communities' worth of assets. As capital has struggled to get into and stay in black communities, this has resulted in gross wealth inequality by race. In fact, for every 100 dollars a white family has on average, a black family has 10. So in the present day, when a black entrepreneur approaches a traditional bank to request a loan or turns to their network of family and friends to pool resources together, typically the capital they need to start their businesses or secure a property and start generating wealth is limited or never materializes altogether. Some entities, such as community development financial institutions and philanthropic organizations, step in to fill the gaps and provide capital to communities with little or no wealth, but they can only do so much given the scale of the need. This is where local, state, and federal governments can use their resources and credit trustworthiness to offer direct financial support through grants, loans, and wrap-around-support to black communities, enact policies to bolster legal and financial protections for black communities, or serve as a financial backstop and insurer to allow black communities to gain access to the capital to generate wealth for generations to come.
One of your interests is ESG investing. Can you explain what this is, and why you would encourage people to consider this form of investment?
The e-s-g in ESG investing stands for environmental, social and governance investing, and it’s an investing approach that accounts for the environmental, social and governance risks of a company alongside its financial performance. Essentially, the theory posits that how a company treats its environmental responsibilities, how it treats its community stakeholders, and how it organizes its leadership structure matters and should factor into a company’s market viability, short and long term sustainability, and strength. We as a country have seen environmental catastrophes and social and leadership ethical scandals that have negatively impacted the brand reputation, customer and community relationships, and ultimately the financial performance of many companies, some of whom haven’t recovered. In those cases, financial investors may have been blindsided and lost financial savings in the process. ESG investing offers an avenue for investors who want to account for the full suite of financially adjacent risks a company may be exposed to along with financial investors who believe companies have a role to play as responsible community actors. ESG investing incentivizes responsible company stewardship and shifts capital to companies that treat the environment, their community partners, and their internal management structures with greater care and attention. For all that ESG is, or is not, it is at the very least a risk management and mitigation tool – and that has value for investors, and communities alike.
What do you hope to accomplish with Fourth Economy this year?
As a new employee, I’m focused on learning as much as I can as quickly as I can, and getting to know my team and the broader ecosystem we work in a lot better. Specifically, one of the things that attracted me to Fourth Economy was its emphasis on innovation, and exploring alternative forms of community economic development. This year, as a community builder interested in innovation, I hope to infuse that emphasis into my work by challenging my assumptions, engaging new community partners, and building and championing new models of economic development in an equitable, resilient and sustainable way.
One of your hobbies is crafting natural skincare products! What inspired you to explore this hobby, and what is your favorite ingredient to work with and why?
My interest in skin care actually started on a basketball court. While playing one evening, as I was dribbling towards the hoop and trying to score, a nearby defender reached in to swat the ball away and accidentally cut my face. With blood rushing down my cheek, I ran to the bathroom and, lo and behold, I had a long vertical gash down the middle of my face. I left the gym panicked, sad, and in pain. The next day I saw a good friend of mine, who, after initially being taken aback by the blaring red scar on my face, suggested that I should put some vitamin E oil on it everyday to help the healing process along. Desperate for any relief or hope, I went to Trader Joe’s, bought some Vitamin E oil and started applying it on the gnarly scar first thing in the morning, during my lunch break, and after dinner every day. I kept the habit up for about a week, and then two, and then after about the third week, the scab started to fade, blending into the rest of my skin. In about a month, it was completely gone. Wowed, I said to myself, if just a $3.99 bottle of Vitamin-E oil could do that, I wonder how healing and transformative other natural skin care ingredients could be. So I started researching, and buying, and mixing, and making, and so far I’ve created over 15 different skin care products – including face washes, body butters, deodorants, and scar gels – all in my kitchen. It has been rewarding to share the craft blends I’ve made with my partner, family, and friends and to see them use and appreciate them as well.
My favorite ingredients so far have been shea butter and aloe vera, both of which are versatile, healing powerhouses that serve as the foundations for so many of my favorite products. Right now, creating natural skincare products is just a hobby, but what keeps me hopeful is the possible future where most skin care products are natural and free of the harmful chemical preservatives and fillers that dominate the ingredients list of many widely available skin care products. Not only that, but a future where natural skin care products are also accessible, affordable, and broadly used. Because who doesn’t love their skin to feel fresh, nourished and loved.