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Trailblazing Black Women Entrepreneurs Share How They’re Breaking Barriers


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For every Black woman who starts a business, a barrier is broken. An impressive 50,000-plus Black women are innovating in the United States — but not without the uphill battle of fighting bank funding denials, limited access to capital and systemic racism and sexism. Despite the challenges, Black women are bringing their products and services to the market.

I’ve discovered several Black-owned brands and know they’re setting the stage for Black women everywhere to feel well, look good, and stay rooted in the culture. Here are four Black woman-owned businesses breaking barriers and some of their insights on business.

Related: The Burden of Breaking Barriers is Pushing Black Leaders to Breaking Point. This DEI Expert Reveals Where We Are Going Wrong

Fitness snob

Fitness Snob is a Black and women-owned crew sock brand helping to cultivate and empower every woman’s fitness lifestyle. They’ve created perfectly tailored crew socks with styles that make it easier than ever to embrace one’s fitness journey in style.

While crew socks don’t seem like a barrier-breaking product, they really are. With the apparel industry being largely dominated by white male-owned businesses, Black woman-owned fashion — especially crew socks, which are prized by athletes in every corner of our country — are hard to come by.

When Fitness Snob founder Kim Turner was pressed about the challenges she’s faced growing her business, she said, “Being a Black-owned business entails overcoming stereotypes and obstacles, from the perception of catering exclusively to Black consumers to the struggle to secure startup capital and combat doubts about quality and legitimacy.”

Despite these challenges, Turner has found the journey immensely rewarding as breaking barriers in the apparel industry has allowed her to witness her products transcend racial boundaries and empower all women to prioritize their health and fitness in style.

Related: 6 Ways to Offer Allyship to Black Entrepreneurs

DESERI

With tons of fashion brands emerging from Europe, DESERI is a Black woman-owned fashion brand crafting signature handbags and jewelry that are timeless, elegant, and undeniably of the moment. Each product is handmade and a true work of art that reflects the skill of the artisan and the eye of the designer.

With a deep appreciation for and commitment to quality, Deseri Kelley created a brand that is the embodiment of luxury made accessible. Representation matters. There are a million handbag brands out there, but very few are Black woman-owned and able to meet the mass market where they are.

When asked about what qualities it takes to make a barrier-breaking Black-owned business, Kelley said, “Authenticity is the cornerstone of entrepreneurial success. By staying true to our values, celebrating diversity, and fostering a positive impact within the industry, we have not only built a brand but also a community.”

Deseri emphasizes that embracing authenticity resonates with customers and, as a consequence, creates a loyal following that’s drawn to the business’s passion and purpose.

Related: 5 Qualities of Black Excellence Overlooked in the Workplace

Vontélle

Vontélle is a luxury bespoke eyewear brand with an ethnic flair using unique African, Caribbean, and Latin print designs and textiles created by women of color. The luxury eyewear market is dominated by European brands, so it’s been refreshing to don a pair of Vontélle eyewear that are handcrafted and made for diverse faces.

In addition, Vontélle is the first Black women-owned and operated eyewear company to obtain a licensing agreement from Nickelodeon. This brand is changing the narrative of who stylish eyewear is made for and putting Black and brown people’s unique physical characteristics and culture front and center in their designs.

When Vontélle co-founders Tracy Vontélle Green and Nancey Flowers-Harris were asked about lessons they learned since starting their eyewear brand, they said, “soft launch with few products. We launched 37 designs with a large MOQ (minimum order quantity), in hindsight, we should have done a soft launch with 5 to 10 eyewear styles.” According to these founders, when launching a direct-to-consumer brand, starting small is key.

Kee’ss Moi

With the beauty and make-up industry dominated by white male-owned businesses, Kee’ss Moi is breaking barriers with their cruelty-free and vegan lip glosses inspired by iconic landmarks and neighborhoods. Founded by Mouna Deme, a French visionary with Senegalese roots, they’re celebrating diversity and inclusivity in beauty with products that match darker skin tones and make Black women look chic.

When asked how creating a make-up line for women of color in a male-dominated space has impacted her vision and purpose, Deme said, “I’ve realized the importance of embracing imperfections and letting go of the need for perfection, which allows for more genuine moments and creative outcomes.”

Deme has also learned that delegating tasks is essential for the optimal performance of the business. She knows that doing everything alone is not sustainable, and finding a work-life balance that aligns with her needs is key to increasing productivity in her business.

Final thoughts

For years, Black women entrepreneurs didn’t have options. From the clothing we wore to business meetings to the makeup we put on for photoshoots, many of us longed for more inclusive and flattering options, culturally competent designs, and to see someone who looks like us running companies with purpose.

We’ve made significant progress in the past few decades and many of us finally have access to Black woman-owned brands that truly “get” us and our aesthetic and values. These are just four of the many Black woman-owned businesses breaking barriers and giving us options. I encourage you to support these businesses and hope you’ll keep your eye out for other Black women-owned brands near you.

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