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Blindness to the value of diversity costs consumers, investors and the US economy. More and more black women entrepreneurs are succeeding. The ability to start a business and grow it into a success embodies the American Dream. Increasingly, it is Black women who are grasping the brass ring. They are embracing entrepreneurship at an unprecedented rate. Between 2014 and 2019, their numbers increased by 50% — higher than any other racial or ethnic group, according to the American Express 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses.*
Davielle Jackson started Femi Secrets in 2013. Walmart was the first big-box retailer to understand the market potential for a fashionable all-in-one pad and panty for women's periods. The panty is disposable, biodegradable, safe, and its design patented. Chemicals used in tampons belong on a growing list of potentially hazardous personal care products, according to Markham Heid in an article for Time. Even brands that claim to be safe may not be: Scientist alleges one feminine hygiene brand is not safe.
You have your plan all laid out and then, wham! The road ahead is closed. Savvy entrepreneurs take detours to get them where they want to go. Despite personal and business roadblocks, Tiffany Jana is still on the road to success as a black woman in tech. Roadblocks have caused her to detour but not to give up.
Jana was born into the diversity and inclusion field. Her mother, Deborah Threadgill Egerton, was a civil rights activist who went on to pioneer the diversity and inclusion field. Egerton became one of the first people to help organizations grapple with the reality of a diverse workforce. The field started as social justice. It was about doing the right thing. With evidence that a diverse workforce improves the bottom line, the field has grown in importance. Now it’s a business imperative.
When I interviewed Jeannie Ringo, founder and CEO at Funding U, I remember what Larry Keeley, president and co-founder at Dublin Group, and managing director at Deloitte Consulting told me — men and women innovate differently. I interviewed him several years ago when he published Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs. Women approach problem-solving holistically and systematically, he commented. They are not looking for a simple answer and, as a result, create comprehensive solutions.
You never know when you’ll get that big break, in Hollywood or in business. Do your homework, lay the groundwork and you may be as lucky as this woman. Four and half years ago, the big pharma company for which Li Hayes worked, called her into the office for a 3 p.m. meeting on a Sunday. "This is not going to be good news," she thought to herself. Sure enough, the company was closing the local Connecticut division for which she worked. Over the next 24 months, as the director of HR, her job was to fire 250 people. A thankless task if ever there was one!
The experience shaped Hayes' decision not to seek another corporate job. As luck would have it, her brother's career as a keynote speaker was taking off and he needed assistance. Now she manages the careers of several keynote speakers. But this was just the first stop on her entrepreneurial journey.
Lisa Renshaw of Penn Parking was born an entrepreneur. She was inspired by her hardworking father who owned a construction business. As an entrepreneurial teen, she tried house painting and making candlesticks among other crafts.
In 1983, Renshaw spotted what she thought was a diamond in the rough. She was only 21 and filled with youthful optimism and naivety. The diamond was a run-down parking garage in a risky part of town. No surprise, it had a high operator turn over — four in five years. The restaurant across the street, which had been the garage’s lifeline, closed. The 160-space garage had a lot of empty spaces that she thought she could fill with commuters from the nearby Amtrak station in Baltimore, even though garages were available closer to the station.
Some entrepreneurs are lucky and some entrepreneurs are smart. Catherine Tabor is both. Luck for her was being in the right place at the right time. Smart was spotting gaps in the market and developing services to fill those gaps. She also is prepared and persistent, which may be why she seems both lucky and smart.
In her early 20s, she ran a concierge company walking dogs and running errands in Athens, GA, which is not far from Atlanta. It was lucky that Tabor's husband had built a $600 website to promote the business. It was the best $600 investment she could have made.
The Coca Cola Company did an internet search to develop a preliminary list of companies to include in an RFP process to build a platform for managing their employee discount program. The contract would be worth multiple millions of dollars per year. Employee discount programs are an inexpensive way for employers to help employees find goods and services at an affordable price. These programs help employers attract and retain employees.