By Guest Author: Rosie Justine
These days, more and more Black people are using their creativity and resources to launch their own brands. Encouragingly, research from the University of California Santa Cruz found that Black business ownership is up by almost 30% from pre-pandemic levels. This comes after having had the largest drop among any racial or ethnic group at 40% at the start of the pandemic.
But while it’s an opportune time for Black-owned businesses, Black women still face unique challenges as a historically disenfranchised group. Maryville University states that women in leadership face paradoxes when social expectations for their behaviors clash with qualities that are valued in leadership positions. For Black women, this is compounded with their racial identity.
Despite these barriers, Black women continue to excel and inspire a new generation of leaders. From beauty to advocacy to philanthropy, here are five Black women leaders who are shattering the glass ceiling to uplift their causes.
SaVonne Anderson founded the Aya Paper Co. with a passion for helping Black people feel seen. Launching in mid-2019, the company has grown its revenue from $5,000 to $125,000 in 2020. The eco-friendly brand sells cards, stationery, and gifts created sustainably, with 100% recycled and ethically produced materials sourced from local vendors. Growing up, Anderson recounts how she felt like nature was inaccessible to her as a Black person, and that with her company, she wanted to encourage others to see how a concern for the environment can influence their choices in life.
Williamson is a remarkable philanthropist, filmmaker, producer, success coach, and transformational speaker whose work largely involves using her influence and resources to uplift others to do the same. She is the CEO and founder of Williamson Media Group, LLC; Cheryl Williamson Polote, LLC; and Soul Reborn, a nonprofit charitable organization that has empowered over 10,000 disenfranchised women in entrepreneurship and philanthropy. She is also a nationally acclaimed bestselling author and the Editor-in-Chief of Cheryl Magazine, which focuses on highlighting the work carried out by powerful women.
Lisa Price established the Black-led and Black-founded multimillion-dollar hair and skincare brand Carol’s Daughter in 1993. The brand’s roots were founded in dialogue with the community, with Price creating her products in her downtime when she wasn’t working in TV and film, and seeking feedback from her neighbors. From being encouraged by her mother, Carol, to sell her homemade products at the local flea market, to eventually partnering with L’Oréal, Price has always remained vocal and cognizant of what it means to be a Black woman running a business in a world that will keep throwing challenges your way.
Sharon Chuter’s beauty brand, Uoma Beauty, subverts the industry’s norms. After becoming disillusioned working for a corporate beauty company that she felt didn’t cater to a diverse enough demography, the Nigerian-born entrepreneur launched her own brand in 2019, drawing inspiration from her heritage and prioritizing quality and aesthetics. In the advent of the Black Lives Matter movement, she launched the #PullUpOrShutUp movement, as well as the Make it BLACK campaign which subverts stigma around Blackness to celebrate its beauty and strength.
Bersan Shaw is a business coach, motivational speaker, author, and TV personality and host who embodies strength and empowerment in her work. She established Warrior Training International, a leadership and business development organization focused on providing business management solutions, with a focus on diversity and inclusion. Having fought two cancer diagnoses, she has served as an example of how black women can help uplift one another, launching the mental wellness coach app URAWARRIOR, which embraces open and support.
IFEL's article Becoming Consciously Unbiased highlighted how unconscious biases still compound to create invisible barriers for Women of Color entrepreneurs so that despite immense progress there is still a long way to go. In looking back at the success stories of these Black women, we recognize the power of breaking the glass ceiling and giving back to the community.
Article written by Rosie Justine, exclusively for IFEL