Former First Lady, Michelle Obama, writes at the close of her memoir, ‘Becoming’, “There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.”
Mercedes Jaime, Business Director for BWWA asks, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”
Jaime posted the rhetorical question during the third program in a series of Facebook Live webcasts of Conversations with Al McFarlane, airing at 1pm Wednesdays through the end of January.
The program features business owners who are collaborating under the umbrella of BWWA to present the 2nd Annual BEE Marketplace, a virtual cultural marketplace showcasing the talents, products, and services of Black-Women owned businesses and entrepreneurs. A groundbreaking visionary and innovative business strategy, the BWWA initiative focuses on empowering Black women to pursue their entrepreneurial genius by supporting them with expertise needed to develop their business, their products, and their standing in the marketplace.
Jaime said, for Kenya McKnight-Ahad, founder, President, and CEO of the Black Women’s Wealth Alliance, (BWWA) it was a ‘leap of faith’. The building where the BWWA paid rent for three years is now owned by the former tenant.
For Stacy Abrams, candidate for Georgia governor, it means growing the movement led by women to mobilize Black communities, to vote.
As Vice-President Kamala Harris recently said, there’s too much at-stake.
Dr. Irma McClaurin, Insight Culture and Education Editor, encourages Black women to tell their own stories and to ‘archive’ them so they can be preserved and inspire generations to come. McClaurin has created the Irma McClaurin Black Feminist Archive at University of Massachusetts – Amherst, leading by example.
Psychologist Dr. Bravada Garrett-Akinsanya, leader of the African American Child Wellness Institute, insists that Black Americans and other people of color have the right to wellness and simply ‘being’.
Kenya McKnight-Ahad and her staff at BWWA inspire Black women business owners to step into their dreams.
In each of these leaders, there is a deep-seated physical and spiritual radiance, power, and beauty at all levels, and the historic ability to keep the faith that sustains meaning, success and joy. Each demonstrates the power of remaining in gratitude despite roadblocks or heartaches, and of being a blessing by adamantly declaring the truth of their experiences as Black women. Standing in their brilliance, wisdom, confidence, passionate calling, and responsibility, they do their individual and collective part to make the world a better place.
LaToya Burrell is boldly working towards change although she didn’t seek out entrepreneurship at the beginning. She describes herself as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. Above all else, she says, she is a child of God. She has been and still is a college dean, professor, attorney, and mentor. As an author and lecturer, Burrell contributes to the change she wants to see in the world. After the televised execution of George Floyd, Burrell knew she had to do something bold. Like so many of us, the pain of witnessing this atrocious crime was beyond imaginable. What happened to humanity? What happened to civilization?
Burrell decided to write a book entitled, Be Bold: How to Prepare Your Heart and Mind for Racial Reconciliation. That book has led to her expanding engagements as a speaker, lectururer and facilitator of bold conversations on how to prepare for racial reconciliation. The book is available at Amazon.com and other booksellers.
DeTeyonce Graves, owner and creative hair stylist of DeStyle Hair Care said, “After graduating from high school, I first earned a degree in fashion but decided after having my first child that I needed a career with the potential of being more consistent and yet affording me the flexibility I needed to become the woman I was intended to me and the best mother I could be.”
“I watched my mother work in the cosmetology profession for almost 40 years. It wasn’t easy, but she was good, and she enjoyed her clientele. I decided to try and carve my own niche in the hair care business,” she said.
The DeStyle Hair Care value proposition is to not only make women look beautiful but also to elevate the women’s entire hair experience even beyond the salon. Graves works to provide her clients with knowledge on how to care for their hair as she promotes the longevity of their hair’s health. In order to grow her business, she built a website that featured haircare products she most often sold to her clients. In the face of the pandemic, she created additional haircare and beauty products, including one of her daughter’s lip gloss products that has its own tab on her salon website. Graves says she hopes to start blogging in the near future as hair care products and techniques are constantly changing. “If you’re going to be good, it’s imperative to research, study the markets, go to hair shows, and keep investing in yourself. Virtual learning is available to anyone who wants to advance in their particular niche. It’s important to know what’s out there,” she said. DeStyle is located at 2130 E. Lake St. #D, Minneapolis, MN 55407. Call (612) 807-4615 for further information.
Britany Carter worked a daily job with the school district, but had her sights set on the creative and unique accessories and gifts market. When students were sent home due to the pandemic Carter and other staff members chose to re-invent themselves by mining alternatives that could possibly open the way to better opportunities. ‘Besti B Crafts’ was a side gig for Carter. The business creates customized shirts, mugs, treats, and more.
“I started out making different things just for my family members. There weren’t too many creative crafts people in my lineage, but there certainly were great cooks. When I began posting some of my products on Facebook, like my wine and strawberry boxes, tee-shirts, and advertising for my popular dessert tables, my customer base began to increase. Thanks to a grant from BWWA, I was able to purchase materials to make my products and have an inventory. I had conquered my fear of using the Cricut Machine for printing and was able to purchase equipment for computerized printing and sublimation that made the process easier.
Cricut cutting plotters are computerized cutting machines designed for home crafters. Sublimation is a quicker process. Dye sub-printing is a computer printing technique which uses heat to transfer dye onto materials such as plastic, card stock, paper, or fabric. These printers are often used for photographic prints, ID cards, clothing, and more.
“I started my company, High Heel Shoe Fetish, when was a kid,” said Shaneka Greer. “My mom loved shoes and fashion, but I simply fell in love with shoes. I always thought they made a woman look and feel so beautiful. Finding unique shoe designs became a hobby, one day I started researching just how I could turn my hobby into a business. I posted a few samples of shoes I loed on Facebook it became a full-time job during the pandemic. Women still wanted to look and feel good. I’ve gone back to working and selling shoes, but the hard work, along with being a mother first, has made me a stronger person. I love being a woman, and I'm just so grateful to just meet all these beautiful women who have stepped out on faith. I don’t have a lot of family so just uniting and supporting one another means so much more than just being a business owner. It’s the personal connection, the service added to providing a high quality, affordable product.
The time in between pandemic lockdowns gave Greer an opportunity to learn more about entrepreneurship and finding success proven ways she could build her business. “McKnight-Ahad lit a fire inside of me. She goes to bat for all of us and convinces us that our cause is worth it. It also shows our kids how people can work together. I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m needing people while supporting others. It’s personal to me.” (go to Go to Instagram her.shoe.fetish)
“It’s interesting, though not surprising, that we would be discussing the fourth principle of Kwanza which is ‘cooperative economics’ at the same time BEE Marketplace is happening,” Burrell said. The celebration which is annually held from December 26th to January 1st was created by Professor Maulana Ron Karenga based on African harvest festival traditions from various parts of Africa. “That’s what BWWA is all about. Pollination of prosperity and how we as women can uplift and support other women by building and maintaining our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
“I want our world to be a reflection of our Creator. I want to see heaven on earth,” says Burrell. She speaks that vision into existence through her willingness to listen, to learn, to lead, to dare to dream and do something bold.