From the United States to Nigeria, these entrepreneurs are beating the odds
Updated: Feb 10
Nairobi, Kenya -- February 09, 2022 -- I had the pleasure of interviewing three Black female entrepreneurs who are blazing trails in different industries... from 3 unique regions of the world. I strongly believe that in order for companies to better serve the individuals who have been disenfranchised throughout history, they must make the emotional investment of delving into the stories and experiences of said individuals.
The insights shared from these exchanges underscore the importance of the inaugural research report that BLAZE GROUP will be publishing in the coming months. I invite you to slow down a bit and take the time to see the world through the lenses of the entrepreneurs I've interviewed. If you, too, are a Black female entrepreneur, I'd love for you to participate in the official survey for our inaugural research study by clicking here.
Priscilla Asonibare, Founder of Creatives Auction | Abuja, Nigeria
Casey: Priscilla, when did you first know that you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
Priscilla: I've always been a very ambitious girl. During my university days, I would spend a good chunk of my time researching things like affiliate marketing, freelancing, websites that pay people to write articles, etc. Back then, I signed up for tons of different accounts just to figure out how they worked. I just knew I had an innate desire to work on my own time, be answerable to myself and really allow my creativity to thrive. I've also never had a problem with motivating myself or learning new skills - so all of that that taken together served as the spark for my desire to become an entrepreneur someday.
Michelle "Mocha" Thomas, Founder of I Am, Self Affirming Care | San Leandro, California
Casey: What about you, Mocha? When did you know you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
Mocha: I was very young, without even knowing what an entrepreneur was. I knew I wanted to work for myself, create things I love, and share them with the world. I knew I was a healer and found peace in formulating products that would aid myself and others. Funny, at the age of 10 I remember saying, “I’m already a star, the world has to catch up." That saying has always stayed with me. Only now, I’ve stopped saying it and started shining.
*snaps, snaps, snaps*
Jessica Renee Grant, Owner of Branded WC + Founder of the Branded Beauty Co. | Hopkins, South Carolina
Casey: Did it start that young for you, Jessica?
Jessica: My journey began when I became a hairstylist in 2002. It was my first glimpse at making my own money and setting my own hours. After that, I couldn’t go back to corporate!
Diving deeper into their stories.
Creatives Auction, disrupting the Creative Industry
"As the creative industry across Africa begins to boom, the need for a sustainable and easily accessible means for creatives to market their work has never been more pressing," said Priscilla Asonibare.
Creatives Auction is a first-of-its-kind online auction and e-commerce platform created to cater to African Creatives. Its mission is to bring African Creative talent to the limelight while giving them an easily accessible platform to make a living doing what they love. Typically, across the African continent, creative fields such as art, writing, music, and fashion are often regarded as hobbies and not actual career paths. However, to reverse the continent’s employment woes, there is a need to begin appreciating the utility of all careers! Creatives Auction aims to do this by creating opportunities for thousands of youth across the continent to pursue their artistic dreams, earn an income, and be seen + appreciated.
Casey: Priscilla, tell me what a typical day looks like for you as an entrepreneur.
Priscilla: I usually start my day as early as 5:30 am. I often begin with my quiet time, then I make my to-do list for the day and begin working until about 7 am (when I take a workout break). I love the energy pump I get from moving my body and lately I find that I've fallen in love with Afrobeat dance workouts! After that's done, I take a shower and follow it with breakfast.
Then my workday begins in earnest. I work for stretches of 2-3 hours and then take breaks to respond to messages or scroll through the 'gram a bit. Generally, I start to get exhausted by about 3 pm and step into the kitchen to get some lunch, then relax a bit. I start to wrap up my work for the day immediately afterward, checking off tasks I've completed for the day and noting those I need to carry over to the following day. Nighttime falls and I'd have dinner, take a bath, and binge-watch a comedy series on Netflix or read a book until sleep comes knocking!
Casey: Love that! Sounds like the life... well-balanced and full of self-care. You deserve! What was your greatest fear before stepping into entrepreneurship?
Priscilla: I would say my greatest fear before diving into entrepreneurship was the fear of not putting out a perfect product that delivers on every level. I always thought being a successful entrepreneur meant providing an amazing solution that works 100% and looks better than what is currently attainable in the market. But now that I reflect on it, it's a ridiculous fear because, at the end of the day, most of the big players of today all started out small. I was only able to overcome this fear by working with you, Casey. You're an amazing mentor who, in less than 7 months, was able to help me shift my mindset from thinking things needed to be perfect before launch to prioritizing just making progress and learning as I go! This has been one of the greatest lessons for me and has eased an unnecessary fear and burden I had placed on myself initially.
*real tears and sniffles* :)
Casey: Wow! I adore you, Priscilla. I'm so proud of you for putting skin in the game to bet on yourself. It's always worth it - always will be. You're just that brilliant. :) Last question, as a new entrepreneur - what does your support system look like?
Priscilla: My support system is quite small for now and consists mainly of my family & friends, you as my mentor, Olaloye Bunmi & Bolaji (who both started the very first online movement for Nigerian Creatives in 2018), and of course, my boo. :-) I'm definitely keen on connecting with more like-minded entrepreneurs as I go through this journey and joining a couple of dope creative communities across Africa.
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Priscilla brings up a very common theme - the scarcity of support that exists for new entrepreneurs. BLAZE GROUP works to move beyond checking the box for B2B offerings and really creates vulnerable, safe spaces where entrepreneurs can bring their entire being into community settings and be nurtured. The research report that we are working to publish will provide insights that several industries can use to create space for Black female entrepreneurs. If you're a Black woman founder, please take part in our research study here.
I Am, Self Affirming Care - Healing the Mind through Skin Care
"'I Am' believes that validation starts within," said Mocha Thomas. "It’s a healing brand that encourages the mind and body to form a connection. My mission is to provide representation for Black American skin needs with daily affirming statements. It’s where skin care meets self care."
I Am, Self Affirming Care provides handcrafted, quality, and affordable products that aid in the pursuit of healing within the BIPOC community. Healing through skincare is a new wave, and Mocha has created a table for many to sit down and just be. “I Am” was created as a response to a lack of Black American products having moisturizing and hydrating properties. Many Black Americans suffer from various skin conditions due to a lack of moisture and hydration. "I Am" provides a skin regimen that produces a natural glow, sparking self-realization and deeper self-love.
Casey: Mocha, what does a typical day look like for you?
Mocha: Whew Chile, thee ghet-to! In all honesty, it’s an array of emotions and feelings. Yet, I start my day with a tap-in with myself. I assess my mood and feelings. I ask myself questions that lead to meditation, talks with God, tea, music, and visual therapy. This is something I've conjured up myself. I visualize my daily goals and say them aloud so I can hear them. Afterward, I affirm myself with the many post-it notes around my house.
By this point, I can tackle my day. I research and learn more about ingredients for improving and formulating new offerings. I fulfill orders and apply to Black Marketplaces. I’m still employed, yet I’ve been slowly transitioning to full-time entrepreneurship this year.
Casey: I love that, Mocha!! You are the embodiment of your brand - one of the reasons why I adore your spirit. I'm excited to hear about your transition to full-time entrepreneurship. Given you have all the feels, what does your support system feel like today?
Mocha: My support system is rooted in adding and supporting me. They add value, substance, time, energy, and sometimes silence! They've poured into me when I didn't know I needed it. They provide safety for me to just be. They are strong in softness. Independent, yet dependable, and self-aware. I need that around me, and they provide that. They also provide doses of reality checks and uplifting statements. Similar to me, my support system has things going on, so it makes it easy for them to be there given we're all on the same journey in our respective lanes.
Casey: Ase. It sounds like your support system feels like home... as it should. Last question, mama. What were your greatest fears before stepping into entrepreneurship?
Mocha: My greatest fear was, can I do this?! Am I capable of creating a product that actually does what it says it will? Or am I suffering from imposter syndrome? I realized it was both. I could indeed do it and I was suffering from imposter syndrome because I was the first to do it. When you do not see it and you create it it’s scary, because you’re the only one who sees the vision. Taking the first step alone is hard, but worth it. In the words of Nike: “Just Do It.” And I did. Each step gets better, my stride has become more confident and I've been walking by faith. Largely because, up until this point, I've never steered myself wrong. Why would I now? The fears of money never came because I love doing this and I know it will come. Even still, knowing I created a product that has legit improved people's overall self-esteem because I became an entrepreneur is so worth it!
I'm always inspired to learn of the ways that Black female entrepreneurs are committing themselves to provide higher quality solutions for Black consumers where large, mainstream companies fail to do so. This heroism is to be applauded, but it also reminds me of how unacceptable it is that non-harmful, quality solutions aren't being offered to minority communities at scale. The needs of minorities are understudied, suggesting that they are undervalued. I encourage Black female entrepreneurs to help BLAZE GROUP provide desperately needed thought leadership by participating in our research survey here.
Branded WC Boutique + The Branded Beauty Co. - Retail and Coaching
"My mission is to help faith-based women entrepreneurs Build, Brand, & Grow their businesses. I created my brands because, as a faith-based woman myself, entrepreneurship wasn’t an easy road. There were times when there was little to no support. I struggled with the stigma of being a woman, wife, and mother - while having my own dreams and wanting to fulfill my purpose. I want to be a resource and a testimony to other women," said Jessica Renee Grant.
Branded WC offers women's clothing and accessories. The Branded Beauty Co. offers group coaching, masterclasses, intensives, and digital products.
Casey: What does a typical day look like for you, Jessica?
Jessica: Whew, lol. I’m up at 6 am to do devotion, and then get my kids ready to take them to school. I then check my calendar, which is planned the day before, to see what’s on my agenda. My schedule usually consists of meetings, content creation, lesson planning, emails, back-office work, etc. After dropping the kids off at school, I go by and check on my store. Next, it's dinner prep. Thereafter, I turn into "Mommy Uber" to take my children to whatever practices they have. I work out at 5 pm, pick my kids up, head home for dinner, and help my kids wind down for the night. I'm usually up until 12 am - responding to messages, business platform comments, and planning for the next day. Some nights are late nights when God is downloading into my spirit.
Casey: Wow, my head is spinning! What does your support system look like with all that you have going on?
Jessica: My husband, mom, and mother-in-law really step in so I can have the flexibility to grow. My business team is also a huge help, as they take over tasks so that I can focus on the things that are important from a management perspective.
Casey: Lastly, what were some of your biggest hurdles as you stepped into entrepreneurship?
Jessica: Trusting myself enough not to quit and becoming dedicated to the vision. I really had to get in the word and build a relationship with God; it helped really me. I realized that I wasn’t capable if doing it all on my own - but with Him, I could make anything happen.
Success does not happen overnight - even for the strongest, most optimistic, and persistent ones among us. Given the burden that will always be associated with being an entrepreneur at the center of all things in our businesses, it is important to me that BLAZE GROUP offers solutions that help Black women-owned businesses sustain over the long haul. If BLAZE GROUP can help them recover from unexpected blows, affirm them when they are being overly critical of themselves, teach them how to stress test their businesses + establish operational expense levers that they can pull to reduce cash leakage... then we can ensure that more and more Black female entrepreneurs make it to business maturity. According to a recent study from Harvard Business Review, only 3% of Black women were running mature businesses as of 2021.
If you are a Black female entrepreneur - we need your input. Please participate in our research survey to provide critical insights into the needs, motivations, and experiences of Black female entrepreneurs. Take the survey now by clicking here.