Black entrepreneurs face specific obstacles in America that have contributed to the racial wealth gap.
I had the pleasure of interviewing four extraordinary black-owned business owners—three of whom are women—to learn about their successes, struggles, and how they tirelessly prevail. The women are the recipients of a US Chamber of Commerce grant awarded to outstanding black business owners to help them continue with their entrepreneurial efforts and the man is an established spiritual and business leader.
Virginia Sharp, a nurse of over 30 years, is the owner of Daemarii’s Unique Boutique in Macon, Georgia. Her space features an array of eclectic clothing and accessories that one won’t come across in department stores. Sharp dabbled with fresh marketing methods during the pandemic, including live-streamed fashion shows she hosted from her home. The streams were such a hit, and Sharp sold out of her jewelry during her shows. Since launching her boutique, Sharp has since been on The Kelly Clarkson show and is in the midst of opening a second location. But the road to success was not smoothly paved.
Sharp opened up about attempting to get a loan for her business from a local bank. “We get so many excuses for why we need to come back again and again,” she said. Yet, even after researching and gathering all the necessary documents, she still found it remarkably difficult to attain her loan.
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Kim Roxie, the owner of LAMIK Beauty in Houston, Texas, has been an entrepreneur since twenty-one years old. Her motto, and one I absolutely adore, is “qualify yourself!” After getting kicked out of high school at sixteen, Roxie followed a nonlinear trajectory into adulthood. Immediately following her college graduation, she thrust herself into self-entrepreneurship, learning how to “qualify” herself and run her own makeup business.
LAMIK stands for Love And Makeup In Kindness and is a clean, non-toxic makeup line for all women, specially designed for those people of color who have been often overlooked in mainstream beauty. Roxie recalls going to pick up the keys for her new space after only having her white male realtor handle all the affairs leading up to that point. The seller was shocked she was a black woman and made it overtly apparent.
Roxie is in pursuit of success and success for all black female entrepreneurs. “All the things stacked up against her, and she still prevails,” she says in regards to black women in business. “LAMIK is all about breaking all the rules,” says Roxie.
LaVerne Bowen has a particularly fascinating story. While working as a letter carrier for the US Postal Service in the south Bronx, Bowen sprouted an idea that would change her life and the lives of many others. On her typical routes, Bowen noticed swaths of kids loitering on street corners. She quickly identified that they simply didn’t enjoy any of the after-school activities available.
Using her love of film, media, and the arts, she launched an after-school program in which kids could write and act out their own plays and movies at Julia Lynn Productions. Today she is winning grants, working with the New York Department of Education, and is producing television programs led by local kids. But LaVerne still recalls her efforts to start the program was slowed because she was not taken seriously as a black woman within some circles. Despite this, she has succeeded in engaging youth and providing excellent and life-changing services to her community.
The last of the four entrepreneurs I interviewed, Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, is recognized as a spiritual leader and community advocate in Detroit. He has spent over 30 years working with folks across the globe. From taking in local people into his home to working alongside people in Africa, Bishop Jackson has demonstrated selfless efforts to do good in all his communities, spiritual and entrepreneurial.
In 2010, Bishop Jackson founded the Impact Network, the largest African American faith-based television network. The Impact Network now broadcasts across 95 million homes and can be found on every major cable and satellite provider. The network’s mission is to inspire urban audiences and provide gospel lifestyle entertainment.
Small businesses and big businesses help make up this country’s cultural fabric, and black-owned business owners deserve the same recognition and respect as any other. From clean makeup to national networks to after-school programs to local shops, the next black-owned business might be the one that makes all the difference in your community and if we can better support them, it helps build a more leveled playing field for black entrepreneurs.