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On average, successful black women entrepreneurs have started companies at over four times the rate of all businesses, according to the 2019 American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses report. Yet despite the rise of Black women's success in entrepreneurship, the business world remains largely inaccessible to them.
Black people make up 14.2% of this nation's population. But of the nearly 6 million businesses with more than one employee in the United States, only 2.2% are Black-owned, according to a 2020 Brookings report.
Taylor Mills, a traveling entrepreneur, taught herself digital marketing skills through online courses and YouTube to become a self-employed digital nomad.
She indicated that her time in corporate America influenced her decision to create her own venture and shared insights into her experience as a Black woman entrepreneur.
"Through my experiences and some statistics, [it's clear that] Black women face a lot of barriers in the corporate world," she said.
The Importance of Black Women Entrepreneurs
Between 2014 and 2019, African American women started 42% of net new women-owned businesses, three times their share of the female population (14%), according to the American Express report.
"I know a lot of Black women who have been fired or laid off and have to jump through hoops to get promoted," Mills said. "We just take that talent and invest in ourselves."
The fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States are young Black women business owners who contribute to the country's economic development through innovation and by redistributing wealth. According to the Harvard Business Review, 17% of Black women are in the process of starting or running a new business, compared to 10% of white women and 15% of white men in 2021.
Black women entrepreneurs create job opportunities and bring innovative solutions to the market. Diversity creates stability. By bringing fresh perspectives to the business landscape, Black women entrepreneurs increase competition and representation in industries that, historically, have lacked diversity and innovation.
Overcoming Systemic Racism as a Black Woman in Business
Significant systemic and social barriers disrupt Black women entrepreneurs' success. One such barrier is discrimination in access to capital. Lack of access to capital adds additional challenges for minority business owners as they seek to cover startup costs and expand their companies. Examples of prejudice in lending include:
- Increased interest rates
- Strict loan requirements
- Difficult agreement terms
While financial barriers limit Black women entrepreneurs' ability to grow their businesses, Black women entrepreneurs also face nonmaterial social barriers such as limited access to mentorship and exclusion from networking opportunities. Despite these barriers, such as having relatively lower revenue, the Harvard Business Review found that 61% of Black women self-funded their startups in 2021.
Though this is changing, pieces of America's racist past continue to linger, making it difficult for Black women entrepreneurs to make meaningful connections with experienced business people who can provide guidance and opportunities. Lack of representation reinforces these problems.
You can see why it's important to address systemic biases. Advocating for fair and equal pay means advocating for women entrepreneurs, who deserve equitable access to capital, networks, and other crucial aspects of business development.
How to Thrive as an Entrepreneur
In the next section, you'll find valuable insight into how Black woman entrepreneurs can maximize their opportunities. You deserve to thrive as a successful businessperson. Discover and share our tips.
Supportive, inclusive networks can speed up your professional development, bringing you closer to your goals quicker than you might expect. Mills states that "most of [her] clients, even corporate clients … have almost always come from networking."
Surround yourself with a diverse community of like-minded professionals, including fellow entrepreneurs and investors. You'll learn more and gain access to resources that include potential partnerships and mentorship and investment opportunities.
You'll also benefit from the power of collaboration through relationships that expand your mind and inspire you on your entrepreneurial journey. Mills suggests going to coworking spaces, retreats, conferences, and networking events to meet other professionals.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
Everyone experiences mental unwellness. According to a Small Business Economics study in 2018, "32% of the entrepreneurs reported having two or more mental health conditions, while 18% reported having three or more mental health conditions."
As an entrepreneur, Mills believes in setting boundaries.
"One big difference between working for yourself and for someone else is that you're in charge of your healthcare, and you have to schedule breaks," Mills said. "There's no legal or workforce requirement to do that as an entrepreneur."
Mills uses apps to manage her schedule so she doesn't overbook herself which can lead to burnout.
It's important to practice self-care, which includes taking breaks and setting and maintaining your boundaries.
Mills said she carries her clients' emotions, especially if she's "talking to somebody who's launching a business for the first time, and that's emotional."
Consider therapy and meditation. And remember to contact a mental health provider if you experience mental unwellness. "I need to have some sort of outlet…," Mills said. "And for me, that's my own coach or my own therapist."
Find a Mentor
Great mentors have the experience and empathy to lead you through difficult entrepreneurial challenges with logical advice and honest encouragement.
To find a mentor who will help you build both your skills and confidence, consider joining professional organizations designed for Black women entrepreneurs who want successful careers.
These organizations can offer mentorship programs tailored to your needs. Professional organizations also offer networking opportunities and access to career-building resources. Discover these organizations in the following section.
Professional Organizations for Black Women
The following professional organizations provide supportive communities that lead to networking opportunities, professional development and networking programs and events, and valuable — career-advancing — resources.
The Future of Black Women Entrepreneurs
If you feel optimistic about the future success of Black women entrepreneurs, you're not alone. Toward the end of 2021, J.P. Morgan reported that Black women business owners were the fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs in the United States. Black women make up nearly 2.7 million businesses nationwide.
Their success is largely due to how Black women entrepreneurs have decided to change the business landscape. Instead of building companies from scratch, many of them buy existing companies. This innovative strategy allows them to save money and take fewer risks.
Starting a business also allows young Black women entrepreneurs to bypass many of the attitudinal barriers that disable women in the workplace. If you're considering starting your own business, don't give up. By pursuing entrepreneurship, you'll open up doors for other women of color to do the same.
Meet Our Contributor
Hey there, I'm Tay! I'm born and raised in Los Angeles. I believe in building your business (and career!) around your ideal lifestyle and not the other way around. I've taken a non-traditional career path. I dropped out of college to move to Spain and start working. I loved the work culture and lifestyle of Spain and honestly never wanted to go back to school. When my visa renewal kept getting rejected, I decided to go back to school.
After I graduated, I had a hard time landing and keeping a full-time "traditional" job that brought me joy. I've been freelancing for the last decade as a digital marketer and a business coach. I've hosted virtual and in-person retreats, mastermind groups, and 1-to-1 coaching sessions. My mission is to encourage people to prioritize doing things that bring them joy. Through online workshops, live coaching and strategy sessions, and mastermind groups, *solopreneurs* work with me to build their dream businesses in alignment with their ideal lifestyles so that they can actually feel free.