The entire month of February is a celebration of Black culture, history, and service. There are many different ways to celebrate Black History Month. These festivities include: Reading about the history that’s conveniently withheld from school curricula, feeling extra proud to be Black—because it’s truly a celebration—and of course, supporting Black owned businesses. Black entrepreneurship and owning LLCs is rare; there’s 5.7 million businesses and only 2% are Black-owned (2020 Census Bureau). Throughout history there’s been plenty of examples of how society is systematically designed to hinder the progression of Black people. The reason? Simply for being Black and existing.
So this month, and every month after, we want to feel empowered for being Black and existing. Do that thing you’ve been thinking about. Be you, unapologetically, because the following Black lady entrepreneurs will tell you how important it is to bet on yourself and how far it got them—during this never-ending pandemic too! These ladies actually all started their businesses during COVID. Here are four Black entrepreneurs making herstory:
Saria Hawkins-Banda (@_manifestyourpurpose)
Saria Hawkins-Banda owns Manifest Your Purpose (MYP), selling luxury stationery and office accessories. Her company is dedicated to helping women plan their futures and manifest their purpose, of course! Show up to your next meeting in style with gorgeous-colored pens, books, and planners that are graced with Black women of different shades on the front. The idea to build MYP came from the growing frustration of walking into a Target or Walmart and not seeing products that reflected Hawkins-Banda as a Black woman. Consumers need to see themselves in your product or they won’t feel motivated to buy. It may not seem like a big deal but it makes all the difference to see your people on books, as the face of products, and in photo ops where they’re having a good time. “We deserve to see ourselves reflected in the products we use everyday!” says Hawkins-Banda. Navigating the corporate world as a Black woman is harder than it is for others, but her stationary creates a comforting experience to remind you that you belong, sis. Turning two in August, the first year of MYP was hard but without those hard knocks and lessons it wouldn’t be what it is today or what it’ll be in the future. The biggest lesson for Hawkins-Banda is not to compare herself or journey to others because it’s disrespectful to the progress and effort that has already been put in. The goal is to help millions of women worldwide to plan with purpose and show her children that when you’re passionate about something you should absolutely pursue it with everything you’ve got. If you’re thinking about the business industry “do your research, find a way to differentiate yourself, and be a sunflower in a world full of daisies!” -Saria Hawkins-Banda, Manifest Your Purpose.
Judaha Amoroso (@bbkinnection)
Judaha Amoroso founded The Black and Brown Kinnection (BBK or BBKinnection) as hub for Black and Brown students to navigate college and post graduation. After experiencing a rough transition herself, Amoroso heard the lack of conversations being held that surrounded things like the importance of maximizing your time in school or getting through post-grad depression. This inspired her to start the virtual community to get the conversation rolling and to help others avoid what she’s been through. Everyone thinks once you’re done college that’s it, life should be easy but the truth is right after college is where the real hard work begins. It’s where the real rejection happens after getting everything you’ve wanted in school for so long (i.e. Eboard positions, jobs, etc). It’s where you realize you’re no longer confined to a campus and that you have to figure out where you fit on a larger scale that is the “real world.” BBK offers that space for young students to learn from young professionals who share their journey about how they found their space. So far, Amoroso has learned the importance of self improvement and reflection. “It's within you to continue on knowing that there's more work to be done. If you don't know your flaws or self reflection you won't survive in the business” says Amoroso who’s been building BBK for three years. She’s accepted that there’s nothing wrong with taking breaks to strategize new ways to be productive and come back stronger than ever. With hopes to one day open a coworking space for high schoolers, BBK is well on its way to becoming a pillar in the education community. Her advice for you? “Don't be afraid of the ideas that come to you. See the bigger picture and plan it out, don't be afraid to execute or change. Trust and rely on your team!” -Judaha Amoroso, The Black & Brown Kinnection.
Kay Thompson (@iamKayFit)
Kay Thompson started her fitness journey three years ago after feeling lethargic and unmotivated. She became a certified fitness trainer to accompany others on their fitness journey. Working at an LA Fitness allowed her to discover different directions that she can go in within the business and realize that she didn’t want to work for a gym. Fitness isn’t one size fits all which fueled Thompson's overall goal when gaining clients; to get to know them and curate a plan that works for them and aligns with their goals. Keeping people motivated is a challenge, “you’re hired to be someone’s coach” says Thompson, “keep up with them and be there for them.” Her focus is learning more about the business and she’s currently in classes to add dance fitness classes to her services. She’s always seen herself as an entrepreneur because with all of her ideas, one of them was bound to become a business. With hopes to one day start a fitness bootcamp for single mothers, starting is always the hardest part but you’ll never know what will happen until you try. “If you wouldn’t buy it yourself you shouldn’t be selling. Know your stuff and back it up!” - Kay Thompson, Kay Fitness
Moriah “MJ” Johnson (@onlyyouskincare)
Moriah Johnson created her all natural, 100% vegan skincare line, Only You Skincare (OYS), after struggling with her own skin ailments and not wanting to be on steroids for them. MJ is a certified cosmetic chemist after spending a lot of time researching schools that teach natural formulation processes for products (most results only showed schools that used chemicals and tested on animals). After two years, she still takes monthly classes to learn new products as OYS continues to grow offering products from face soap to deodorant and beard pomades. MJ’s brand is built on trust between her, her team, and her clients because her products work. At only two years old, OYS has already been featured in British Vogue after an editor came across her website. Not to mention her most famous client, former NYC Mayor candidate and lawyer, Maya Wiley. How did MJ do it? Through mentoring, getting in that room meeting every single person, and applying to be a vendor at those market pop-ups. The biggest lesson she learned so far is that you can’t do things alone, you have to learn how to delegate and trust your team. “Being an entrepreneur is all mindset” says MJ, who always saw herself as an entrepreneur with prior business management experience. She also taught her own dance classes which she still hopes to develop her own dance studio. As far as OYS, MJ partnered with a Brooklyn spa hoping to partner with more by the end of the year so that her products are easily accessible to those who need them. To see success you must plan. “Get into a field that makes you feel excited to wake up and go to work. Make clear goals and get connected with someone who’s where you want to be and get into that room!”- Moriah “MJ” Johnson, Only You Skincare.