Throughout US history, African-Americans have used entrepreneurship as an outlet for creativity and as a way to uplift the community. From Booker T. Washington establishing the National Negro Business League during the Jim Crow Era to Earl G. Graves launching Black Enterprise magazine in 1970, entrepreneurship has played a crucial role in African-American culture.
A recent study conducted by Guidant Financial and the Lending Club found that 70 percent of African-Americans were happy running their businesses and another 72 percent said their companies were profitable. For African-American women, the numbers are even higher. Additionally, according to USA Facts, African-American women established an estimated 42% of new women-owned businesses.
Today, women such as Oprah Winfrey and men such as Robert Smith are breaking glass ceilings as entrepreneurs. Their actions have inspired the everyday man and woman to be creative, accept new challenges, and establish their own businesses.
As part of our mission at Invoice2go to create a global and inclusive culture, we want to celebrate the contributions Black entrepreneurs have made to the world of business. Our Freelance Forum community seeks to recognize inspirational small business owners who carve out their own path.
The African-American entrepreneurs chosen for this list have varied stories and businesses. Some are working full-time jobs while juggling a side hustle. Others have smoothly transitioned from their professional careers to become full-time business owners. But one thing is certain: they all possess a mindset that exudes passion and perseverance.
1. Geovani Derice – 2020Living, Inc.
Everyone has potential. Everyone has talent. And everyone needs a coach pushing them to achieve their greatness.
Author and motivational speaker Geo Derice helps people at various stages in their lives identify their greatest goals, create an incredible vision, and then develop the mindset to make it all achievable.
As a motivational speaker, Derice connects with young adults and college students, encouraging them to overcome their fears and maximize their potential.
The author of two books, The Thirst Is Real and Geo’s Gems, Derice uses his knowledge as a successful self-published author to teach thought leaders, speakers, and entrepreneurs to share their expertise through book publishing.
Derice’s greatest advice for fellow entrepreneurs: “Our abilities as freelancers or entrepreneurs are not fixed. It often looks that way because we only look within where we are,” he says. “Go outside your industry to find inspiration so that you can continuously be exposed to fresh ideas.”
2. Tonita White – Dopely Lit
In 2019, Tonita White, a single mother of twins, was searching for a creative outlet that could also help her make some extra money. Her love of candles and the environment inspired her to launch Dopely Lit, a home fragrance line featuring soy-based, additive-free candles.
Two years later, Dopely Lit is growing. White sells her candles through her e-commerce website and by attending carefully selected pop-up shops.
White’s advice for juggling motherhood, a career in the hospitality industry, and a successful side hustle: Keep it simple.
“Stay in your own lane, move at your own speed but be deliberate and intentional,” White says.
The budding entrepreneur focuses on promoting two scents–Dope and New New–that are available as a candle or wax melts. During the holiday season, Dopely Lit rolled out B.Bryant, a scent dedicated to White’s great-grandmother.
And while many side hustlers overwhelm themselves with being on several social media platforms, White promotes her home fragrances through a dedicated Instagram account.
“Just be consistent,” White advises. “Every day I’m learning how to build a great legacy for my children.”
3. Teneshia Jackson Warner – Egami Consulting Group
It is not uncommon for communities of color to feel ignored or misunderstood by companies in their approaches to marketing. Taneisha Jackson Warner, founder and CEO of Egami Consulting Group, solves this by connecting corporate brands to the urban consumer.
By spearheading strategic alliances and directing various programs and events, Warner has helped companies such as Yum! Brands (which operates KFC), Heineken, Hennessy, Dasani, Bounty, and Western Union connect with their desired market.
In addition to her business, Warner is the author of The Big Stretch, empowering readers to crush their goals in 90 days.
4. Trévon Sailor – Sailor’s Brew Coffee
Coffee is often associated with its power to awaken the senses and motivate drinkers to move quickly. In 2019, Trévon Sailor, a lover of great coffee, launched his side hustle, Sailor’s Brew. Featuring premium, international coffees, Sailor’s Brew was sold at pop-up events and the business’ e-commerce site.
Working with his brothers Travis and Tevin, Sailor has been able to transition the brand to a lifestyle brand that features a rotation of high-end coffees from around the world.
More than anything, Sailor’s Brew wants its drinkers to believe in the power of working hard and staying motivated.
5. Latasha Stewart Estelle – Black Love Boutique
Celebrating Black love and culture has consistently been a counter to racial injustice for African-Americans. And that’s why Latasha Stewart Estelle established Black Love Boutique.
Black Love Boutique is a lifestyle brand celebrating African-Americans through positive messaging. Like natural haircare products, T-shirts have become popular amongst side hustlers. Estelle, however, is setting her business apart from others by selling her designs as limited editions–once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Selling everything from tees and hoodies to bags and mugs, Estelle runs the brand while raising a son and working full-time in the book publishing industry.
In April of 2021, Black Love Boutique will celebrate its one-year anniversary. Estelle has used this past year to grow the business to be successful by maximizing her time. She spends nights and weekends scheduling and automating much of her business marketing.
Her greatest advice for entrepreneurs looking to get into e-commerce: “Understand your ‘why’ and make sure it is something you are passionate about. You have to be passionate in order to get through the tough times when you feel like quitting!”
6. Jason Ridgel – Guidance Whiskey
Whiskey is an acquired taste. For some people, its flavors are too strong and harsh. But for others, the taste and variety are exciting as some whiskey brands are sweet while others are spicy.
Guidance Whiskey, created and owned by Jason Ridgel, is considered a brand loved by whiskey enthusiasts and experimenters alike. The brand is the first of its kind in Tennessee and is also one of the only African-American-owned whiskey brands in the United States.
When Ridgel is not promoting the Guidance Whiskey brand, he is working as a community activist and developing partnerships with other Southern and Black-owned businesses.
7. Jazmine Thompson – Winnie and Co.
The natural hair care industry is teeming with product lines. For every hair texture, there is a moisturizer. For every curl pattern, there is a curl-defining cream. But that saturated market did not scare Jazmine Thompson, who launched Winnie and Co., a vegan hair care line for babies and children, in 2020.
The busy mom decided to establish her own products to provide healthier options that would help African-American children’s hair remain moisturized.
When she’s not juggling her family life, Thompson is promoting her business. She stays motivated by remembering that “Entrepreneurship can be frustrating and draining sometimes. When you find yourself feeling burned out, just take a step back and focus on something else for a little bit. You’ll feel refreshed and better equipped to handle those challenges.”
8. Jeff Lindor – The Gentleman’s Factory
Building a strong network is one of the keys to entrepreneurial success. This mindset motivated Jeff Lindor to establish Groomed Success and The Gentleman’s Factory in Brooklyn, NY.
Groomed Success provides mentoring and career development for at-risk young adults in New York City through workshops and programming. The Gentleman’s Factory is a co-working space and digital platform dedicated to building the professional network of African-American men.
Lindor’s mission for both Groomed Success and The Gentleman’s Factory is to create spaces where African-American males can thrive. His greatest advice for business owners, “Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride,” says Lindor. “You cannot allow every shortcoming to control your emotions. If you do, you will be very limited in this entrepreneurial journey.”
9. Stanley “Teddy” Philips – Ark Creative Company
Games are a great way for families and friends to come together and have fun. Now, add games that celebrate culture–that’s a serious win.
In 2016, Ark Creative Company was born with the intention of creating diversity in the gaming industry. The first game released, For The Culture, was based on the idea of charades and highlight African-American history and culture.
The trivia game is now popular on both iOS and Andriod platforms with more than 900,000 users worldwide. Last year, the company released For La Cultura for the LatinX community. And coming soon, What The Zodiac? A card game dedicated to zodiac signs.
Teddy Philips is the owner of Ark Creative Company and still works full-time as a Cyber Security Engineer at Microsoft. Although it is not always easy to juggle a successful business and full-time employment Philips says, “Creating from passion and purpose is what allowed me to continue on with my side hustle when I was bootstrapping and not generating any revenue in the beginning. If you are able to find fun and joy in your side hustle, then this creates the perfect work/side hustle balance needed to be successful.”
10. Nicole White – Nicole White Design Interiors
Twenty years ago, Nicole White was a daily news reporter by day and interior design hobbyist by night. Today, she runs Nicole White Design Interiors, an award-winning company that has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and Essence. White has been voted among the Top 25 Interior Design Firms by the South Florida Luxury Guide and is an emerging designer according to the Black Interior Designers Network.
When White is not busy renovating kitchens and bathrooms or transforming living spaces, she loves spending time with her son, Xavier.
White encourages side hustlers to be present in their day job and never burn bridges. “There will be a point where there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do both at the same pace, and one will have to give,” she advises. “Be fully present and available, and the universe will reward you.”
We hope that you have found the entrepreneurs featured inspiring as you move forward in your business. What motivates you to remain in business? Join the conversation in The Freelance Forum. You’ll be able to connect with a supportive community of freelancers who are working hard every moment of their day to make their businesses successful.