The Evolution of Black Women in Business: The Rise to the Top
Black women have long since been the backbone of the family. Providing a nurturing home, Black women of the past held traditional responsibilities in the household such a cooking, cleaning and child rearing. Over the years, the role of Black businesswomen, in regards to entrepreneurialism, has continued to grow and evolve from the blueprint laid … Continued The post The Evolution of Black Women in Business: The Rise to the Top appeared first on The Michigan Chronicle.
Black women have long since been the backbone of the family. Providing a nurturing home, Black women of the past held traditional responsibilities in the household such a cooking, cleaning and child rearing. Over the years, the role of Black businesswomen, in regards to entrepreneurialism, has continued to grow and evolve from the blueprint laid by historic female hustlers. Black women are kicking in doors and crushing glass ceilings while creating opportunities for other Black women to do the same.
The versatility of Black women in various arenas is undeniable. Not only are they showing they can cook the bacon, but Black women are also bringing it home as well. Women of color began to make an imprint in the working world through tenacity, perseverance and excellence. As a result, corporate America continues to get a dosage of Black Girl Magic.
Historically serving in domestic fields, Black women are no strangers to the workforce. Through domestic labor, African American women typically took roles such as maid or seamstresses to help make ends meet. Whether lost from racial violence, the penal system or various historical wars, Black men were forcibly removed from family homes and the traditional family construct leaving the women to fend for the family and thus find means of generating revenue.
According to a 2020 report from Forbes, Black women are the largest growing entrepreneurial group with a staggering 42 percent of new women-led businesses and 36 percent of all Black-owned businesses. Though access to financial resources is a barrier, Black women are finding a way to push through and make their dreams come true.
Launched in early March, Relle’s Deli and Sweets in Southfield serves up decadent desserts and features deli-style dishes. While no stranger to entrepreneurism, Cherelle Mason, pastry chef and owner, with more than ten years in the business is pushing her brand forward and dispelling myths that Black women belong in the house.
“People have to stop living like it’s back in the day when the woman stayed home and was the housewife and the man goes to work and brings in the money because right now, there’s a lot of women making more than their partner because they have businesses or are in the higher roles within companies,” Mason says.
Education and opportunity both factor into the advancement of Black women in business. From 2007 through 2012, Black women-owned businesses more than doubled their growth in comparison to other female demographics, 67 percent to just 27 percent. Black women are hurdling barriers and being sure to bring another sister along for the ride.
“It’s extremely important that as we move up in the ranks we lift as we climb,” says Alexis Dishman, Chief Lending Officer for Michigan Women Forward, an organization that helps support the growth of women-led businesses. “We need to make sure we are mentoring, that we’re reaching out to other women who are at the same level as us, but we are lifting each other up as we’re making moves because we have to prepare that next generation.”
The pandemic, an unexpected barrier for all small business owners, gravely impacted Black-owned small businesses. Coronavirus aside, Black businesses were thriving nationally with a continuous flow of entrepreneurs joining the ranks. Jennyfer Crawford, a Detroiter born and raised, launched All Things Detroit to highlight small businesses across the city. Servicing over 14,000 customers with the help of more than 250 small businesses, the event is a one-stop shop to find gifts and artistry specific to the city.
Displaying the same tenacity and perseverance of early Black female entrepreneurs like Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, a famous seamstress for Black and white women including then-First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, and Annie Turnbo Malone, the woman credited for giving the country’s first African American female millionaire Madame C.J. Walker her start in the hair industry, Black women in business gained momentum and have now become an indisputable force.
“Women have been starting businesses for years. Now with social media we’ve become the highlight of everything, but I feel like over the years it has grown because Black Girl Magic is the bomb anyway and we’re built to handle anything,” Crawford says. “So, over the years, people who have had businesses before us have made it easier for us today to do it.”
Taking up space in an industry not intended for Black people, let alone Black women, the track to becoming an entrepreneur is laced with obstacles for people of color. Be it financial access or redlining neighborhoods limiting prime real estate, Black business self-starters face a litany of other trials meant to deter them.
“Business, in a sense is a male-dominated industry,” Crawford says. “There are so many things besides being Black is a barrier; how we wear our hair, being a plus size woman, how you carry yourself and preconceived stereotypes are all things that act as barriers.”
No matter the barriers, just like with anything, hard work and dedication will breed success. Staying true to the brand, pushing boundaries and overcoming adversities are key to launching and succeeding in business.
“It’s all about you as a person. If you have the drive for this, passion and you really have a good product that you’re getting ready to push out, there’s no way that you’re not going to succeed,” Mason says.
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