It could be America’s slogan: This is hard for black women.
In this case, of course, we’re talking about being an entrepreneur. And while any female entrepreneur of color faces many obstacles that men don’t, the road is just as difficult for black women—especially getting the money to get started and scale.
Many studies confirm that: from receiving alarmingly small amounts of capital to employing white women, to intergenerational wealth and access to personal savings – money is hard to come by. That’s pretty impressive when you consider that most startup business owners rely on bootstrapping or friends-and-family contributions to get them up and running.
And the problems don’t end there. “When I first started, I spent some time trying to hide my ethnicity,” says Judy Henderson of Oakland, Calif., mannequin seller Mannequin Madness. “It’s what I felt I had to do.”
[Related: Yes, Women Won the Right to Vote 100 Years Ago. But Equality Remains Elusive]
We spoke with several black women about their personal experiences of starting and running a business. From the beginning, they each spoke candidly about how their race and gender played a role in their startup stories. And to be sure, their identity coordinates are absolutely quoted. The above statistics show in their stories, among other challenges, how they marketed their businesses to non-black customers and effectively networked in their respective industries, many of which were dominated by white people.
But black women are not singular, and while there are commonalities in their experiences, the richness and diversity of their origins and stories shines through as well. These business owners sell everything from PR strategies to educational technology toys. They are from all parts of the country. Some have been in business for decades, while others — like Katrina Tompkins’ CBD products seller K’dara — just launched earlier this year. (And, Tompkins got his start working as a nurse in New York during the city’s Covid-19 crisis.) This is a tape job.
However, there is another common thread between the shared problems and the individual characteristics, each of which noticed that this wave of awareness of systemic racism and international protests felt different in some way – as the beginning of something big, not neutral. moment in time. And the time for that revolution is over, says Drena Whitfield of Union, New Jersey-based communications firm WhitPR. Because now, she’s still asking: “What does it take for black lives to really matter?”
Hopefully this will happen when the community understands.
More in the “Her Perspective” series
As a black business owner, she hid her race. ‘It’s what I feel I have to do.’
Judy Henderson, owner of Mannequin Madness, is now hoping for a sea change for blacks in the business world.
Her PR firm has succeeded in amplifying the ‘ignored, marginalized and silenced’ voices.
Drena Whitfield founded WhitPR with a strong focus on black-owned businesses, individuals and organizations.
Despite the epidemic and being a ‘super-minority’, a nurse started a CBD initiative.
Katrina Tompkins opened her e-commerce store Kedara CBD just as the coronavirus crisis began to take hold in the US.
This is EdTech’s founding mission: Let others know and show that they are ‘not alone’
Lisa Love’s firm Tanoshi aims to bridge the racial, educational and digital divides for low-income children.
The founder of this math club wants to ‘find a way to give some equity’ in education
Angela McIver, owner of Trapezium Math, says the epidemic has widened the gap between low-income families and essential math skills.
As a black dentist, she says, ‘You can’t help but notice that no one looks like you.’
Dr. April Patterson, founder of Dr. Patty’s Dental Spa, remembers being one of only two black women in dental school. Now, she has raised her own profile to be a role model for others.