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The UPS Store Small Business blog
  • 14 February 2022
  • Liam Edwardson

Wise Words from Black Women Small Business Owners

Historian Carter G. Woodson created Black History Week in 1926Expanded into all of February in 1976, Black History Month is today a federally recognized celebration of the many achievements of African Americans. That includes Black businesswomen, who have been launching new enterprises at higher rates than ever before. In fact, 17% of Black women in the U.S. are in the process of starting or running new companies, compared to just 10% of white women and 15% of white men, according to Harvard Business Review. Still, Black women business owners face common struggles, rooted in both systemic sexism and racism, which can lead to a dearth of funding.

black woman running fashion design business

We have compiled thoughts and advice from successful Black women on how they overcame the odds.


In 2019 in Brooklyn, New York, Naj Austin founded Ethel’s Club, a social and wellness platform that celebrates people of color through community, arts, culture and wellness.

Austin says, “It’s important to tune out the noise and focus on what you’re building. … Keep your vision and purpose clear, despite what the world may say is or isn’t possible.”

To make cooking easier for a friend fighting cancer, Deborah Clemons mixed her steak spice rubs into butter. That led her to found Infusion Blends, a line of spice-infused gourmet butters.

Clemons recommends that Black female entrepreneurs “find the money first, then start your business. That is easier said than done for sure ... but at the same time you need those resources to make your business viable.

“Putting the horse before the cart can be a necessary evil, but believing in what I’ve done and the perseverance to make it work and sacrificing certain luxuries has pulled me through.”

On the other hand, Chaunique Major-Louis believes money shouldn’t be a big hindrance at the start. For more than a decade, Major-Louis opened restaurants for some of the best chefs in the country before starting her own venture: Major’s Project Pop, a kettle popcorn company in Orlando, Florida. 

“Don’t spend so much money getting started,” Major-Louis says. “I created my website and logo and I’m still using the same ones today. You don’t have to be the smartest. You don’t have to have the most money. You just need to have faith, a commitment to learn and the ability to bounce back after failing numerous times.”

Alisia Ford founded Glory Skincare as an inclusive beauty brand offering expert advice and beauty products for all women.

“With every decision, move with purpose and authenticity,” Ford says. “As a woman who has often felt like an outsider because of my skin tone, I saw an opportunity to put women of color at the center of everything. I wanted to create a brand where women of every hue felt empowered to prioritize their well-being.”

Not only has Kimberly McGlonn earned a Ph.D. from LSU, she is also the latest winner of The UPS Store® Small Biz Challenge. Her small business, Grant Blvd, has become a testament to the scope and vision of a Black woman-owned enterprise, fusing fashion, inclusion, and sustainable practices.

Dr. McGlonn reveals what has guided her: “Focus on learning about our systems. Really study them — the longer stories, the myriad perspectives — so you can see things from a different altitude. Then, find where there is pain for you (where you see suffering) and where there is joy (for you). Work to disrupt in that direction, at that intersection.”


Sisters Uchenna and Chioma Ngwudo left their corporate positions and founded Cee Cee’s Closet to bring quality African-made clothes and accessories to New Yorkers and fans all over the world. 

“Build your network,” Uchenna urges. “You can network upwards to learn from people’s previous experiences. You can network across for tips, encouragement and new opportunities.”

Major-Louis agrees: “Surround yourself with a tribe of people that believe in you, challenge you and motivate you to keep going.” 

As the owner of LPS Consulting PR, a boutique PR and marketing firm, LaTonya Story has repped well-known athletes like Michael Vick and Dwight Howard, winning industry recognition along the way, such as the Women in PR Trailblazers Award. 

Story urges budding Black women entrepreneurs to be unafraid to take chances and to reach out to people they would like to work with.

“My first opportunity came by way of me calling a radio ad that I heard for the Allen Iverson Celebrity Summer Classic,” Story says. “I served as a volunteer for two summers in the public relations department, which allowed me to network and meet professional athletes, one of which took a chance on me and became my first paid client." 


Dr. McGlonn feels it takes more than hard work. People think small business success “just kind of happens and you run a sprint and build something that is bold and beautiful. But it also takes persistence, which is hard work over time.”

In 2016 designer Lisette Scott founded jewelry brand Jam+Rico to inspire joy and confidence in whoever wears one of her Caribbean-inspired pieces.

“Often the biggest hurdle that entrepreneurs face is self-doubt. You will have good days and bad ones. … Many times I will second-guess my designs or hesitate many business decisions, but I have to constantly remind myself to believe in myself.”

After creating a product that repaired her own damaged hair, Grace Eleyae launched her hair-protecting product line Grace Eleyae in 2014. She strives to live by a Nelson Mandela quote: “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

“There have been plenty of times in our journey where it seemed like it was the end,” Eleyae says. “Whether we faced financial issues, or operational issues or supply chain issues, the way we got through it was by making decisions that reflected our hope, not confirmed our fears. I try to find the hope in every situation.”


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