Meet Nine Black Business Starters Who are Paving the Way for Dreams

This month in the U.S. we marked Juneteenth, a day where we celebrate freedom and fight for progress. We still have a lot of work ahead of us as we fight for racial equity and economic justice, and we believe our role is to use entrepreneurship as a powerful tool to build a more equitable society.

The pandemic has taken a magnifying glass to the cracks in our society and highlighted the magnitude of inequities faced by so many. 

The effects of the global pandemic on small business have been hard and suffered unevenly. We’re seeing grim reports that in the U.S., 41% of Black-owned businesses have shuttered, as have 32% of Latino-owned businesses, and 25% of Asian-owned businesses. Immigrant-owned businesses fell by 36%. Only 12% of Black business owners got PPP or EIDL loans. The pandemic has taken a magnifying glass to the cracks in our society and highlighted the magnitude of inequities faced by so many. 

Within the entrepreneurship community, it has solidified one thing: we need each other. We cannot keep going within a society that doesn’t work for everyone. It is on all of us to build good things into our businesses, our communities, our lives. It is on all of us to look out for those in our communities who need our support, and to give it. A better world is possible when we build it together.

CO.STARTERS was founded with the vision to build “a path for every starter.” We intentionally use the word “starter” to expand our view of entrepreneurship and include anyone with the passion to turn their idea into reality. Our programs and tools are deeply rooted in the concept of community, and the belief that everyone needs support to succeed. More than a third of CO.STARTERS program graduates are people of color. 

The heroes in this story are the tenacious founders who are unearthing opportunity for themselves, overcoming unfair obstacles, and paving the way for others as they go.

The individuals and organizations who make up the CO.STARTERS network are working hard every day to create a more equitable world from the ground up. To not just promote, but to truly create, opportunities for everyone. 

Making entrepreneurial dreams real is a hard journey, made that much harder by the barriers of inequity. As community leaders and supporters work to make that path easier for starters, we recognize we are not the trailblazers. The heroes in this story are the tenacious founders who are unearthing opportunity for themselves, overcoming unfair obstacles, and paving the way for others as they go.

Meet Nine Inspiring Black Business Starters

Here are just a few stories from the thousands of people of color who have turned their dreams into reality with the help of CO.STARTERS.

“My LAUNCH class started out as several strangers talking about their dreams and goals as future business owners. In the end, we became each other’s’ cheerleaders, friends and family.”

–Felicia Jackson, CPR Wrap

Felicia Jackson, CPR Wrap

Supported by LAUNCH Chattanooga and CO.LAB in Chattanooga, TN

Felicia took a near-tragic event in her life and turned it in to a simple, life-saving invention that is now sold nationwide and has received growing attention amid the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I had to start thinking about customers and clients, and how to best communicate with them about my business. It made me think about how to continually grow the business.”

–Will Lovelady, Stix N Smoke

Will Lovelady, Stix N Smoke

Supported by theCO in Jackson, TN

Will’s interests in a cultural pastime inspired him to start the first mobile cigar lounge in Western Tennessee, providing businesses and events in his hometown a unique atmosphere for people to connect.

“You find value in what you already know, what you can share with everyone, and what others can share with you.”

–Javela Singleton, Gifted Hands Artisan Soap

Javela Singleton, Gifted Hands Artisan Soap

Supported by VILLAGE LAUNCH in Greenville, SC

After being diagnosed with a devastating disease, Javela’s efforts to live a healthier lifestyle and eliminate harmful products in her own home turned into launching a business that helps women with similar health issues.

“When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade, because you only help yourself. When life gives you lemons, make a lemonade stand, because when you make a lemonade stand you help people you never would have known.”

–Kazim Abbot, The Academic Consulting Agency

Kazim Abbot, The Academic Consulting Agency

Supported by INNOVATE SPRINGFIELD in Springfield, IL

Kazim overcame the roadblocks he experienced while getting his own college education to start a business that helps prepare and tutor students to make the most of their college experience.

“Do something like CO.STARTERS or try to be around someone who can show you the proper steps to starting a business. All you can do is try and the worst case scenario is that it doesn’t work.”

–Tanesha Sims-Summers, Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co.

Tanesha Sims-Summers, Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co.

Supported by Create Birmingham in Birmingham, AL

Tanesha took a leap from running a popsicle stand as a kid into starting a kettle corn company—a venture that has positioned her as a pioneer in the culinary world of Birmingham. 

“I am able to donate all profits from print sales this month to, a non-profit organization designed to combat mass incarceration … due to proper planning that started with my Corner to Corner class.”

–Micheala Angelena, DrawnLovely

Micheala Angelena, DrawnLovely

Supported by CORNER TO CORNER in Nashville, TN

Micheala used her skills and passion for illustration to start on online art shop, selling her original prints to fill the lack of representation she saw in art and home decor.

“Having the opportunity to sit with like-minded individuals who were also looking to start a business really helped me to confidently explore the more logistical side of the business.”

–Tara Taylor, She Got The Nerve

Tara Taylor, She Got The Nerve

Supported by INNOVATE SPRINGFIELD in Springfield, IL

Impacted by negative events she experienced as a teenager, Tara now coaches and encourages women and teenagers who struggle with self-esteem and self-confidence.

“CO.STARTERS was that push I needed to launch… Because everything is laid out, you have no choice but to move forward. You just have to have the will to do it.”

<–Ashley Gladney, Mobile Mommy

Ashley Gladney, Mobile Mommy

Supported by ADVANCE MEMPHIS in Memphis, TN

Ashley came up with her idea in high school, but it took another decade of experience in the babysitting industry before she finally launched Mobile Mommy, now four years in business.

“There’s no glitz and glam when it comes to this course—it’s the actual and factual. The best part about CO.STARTERS is that you learn in a personal, realistic setting and you are surrounded by people who have succeeded and failed in business. It’s eye-opening.”

–Jaylin “Jiggy M” Randolph, H.i.L.i.F.

Jaylin “Jiggy M” Randolph, H.i.L.i.F.

Supported by OPPORTUNITY LYNCHBURG in Lynchburg, VA

Known for his innovative leadership in his community, Jaylin (aka rapper and entertainer “Jiggy M”) started a production company to help brands reach kids through creativity and fun while promoting unity and positivity.

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