Black Women Is The Business: Seven Bay Area Business Owners Talk On How They Make an Impact

As we round out to the end of February—a month that holds and makes space for so much cultural history.

We asked some of Oakland and San Francisco’s prolific women of color business owners what impact they want to impart on our cities. Where do they find strength to keep going? Their inspirations? And who they want to see in themselves. These are the stories of seven women in business.

// Photography by Ann-Kathrin Koch, styled and designed by Ray Darten.


Teranga Juice — Nafy Flatley


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Q

How do you hope to make an impact?

A

Teranga aims to provide at least 20 jobs in 5 U.S. communities within the next 5 years. 25 jobs in 10 communities within 10 years and 50 plus jobs in 50 communities within the next 20 years, while offering nutritious tasty organic foods and beverages at affordable prices. Jobs will be in production, distribution and service through restaurants and packaged food and beverage. We aim to establish sustainable economic avenues in the supply chain both locally and abroad. Most importantly we hope to influence other businesses (large and small) to value creating community opportunity as an asset not just a concept they flaunt as a marketing tool. Teranga also aims to support women farmers and entrepreneurs and their families in Africa.

Q

Who is your #GirlBoss inspiration?

A

My mother is very wise and extremely hard working. She taught me the value of working hard and perseverance. Some public figures, like Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Alice Waters.

Q

What about the Oakland/Bay Area community makes it a unique place to be a WOC entrepreneur?

A

Oakland/Bay Area is a very diverse community at the forefront (currently and historically) of social movements and entrepreneurial opportunity for women. Women in the ship building industry during WWII and more importantly, many small businesses, restaurants, jazz clubs, at that time that were pillars of the community. There is a great network of support for women entrepreneurs in this area.

Q

What does money/privilege/power mean to you?

A

To me, money, power and privilege mean the opportunity to strengthen the community and create opportunities for those who are less fortunate.

Q

What advice would you give to other women who are wanting to start their own businesses?

A

My advice for others would be to establish a clear vision, mission and goals for your endeavor, seek out advice from other entrepreneurs, business coaches and mentors. There are many non-profit biz dev organizations in the Bay Area. Be resourceful and always remember that you will have to work incredibly hard to achieve your goals. Believe in yourself even when you feel like giving up. It is not very likely that anything will come easy. Of all the success stories I have ever heard, I can’t think of one that came easy.


Change Cadet — Dr. Akilah Cadet


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Q

How do you hope to make an impact?

A

I don’t hope, I am making an impact in the diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging space.  When I had a 9-5 job I was heavily discriminated against being a black woman resulting in severe depression.  Now with my company I am able to help women and people of color work in spaces in which they are valued and protect their mental health.

Q

Who is your #GirlBoss inspiration?

A

Beyoncé Knowles Carter. She has built an empire that is true to the unapologetic black woman that she is. She is goals.

Q

What about the Oakland/Bay Area community makes it a unique place to be a WOC entrepreneur?

A

The thing I love about Oakland is the diversity the city still has, especially with WOC. It was important for me to start my own business in Oakland as I knew I would be supported and mentored by WOC entrepreneurs. We show up to each other’s events, buy products, use services, and promote one another.  It really is a beautiful community!

Q

What does money/privilege/power mean to you?

A

With privilege, you have the power to use it for good.  I am privileged enough to have a consulting firm where I can hire black women, support WOC of color establishments, and inspire women to get paid what they are worth.

Q

What advice would you give to other women who are wanting to start their own businesses?

A

Starting and owning a business is hard work as it is continuous change. If your passion and purpose are aligned as an entrepreneur then when an invoice isn’t paid on time, an opportunity falls through, or you lost an employee or partner you still don’t let it stop you from your mission and being committed to the business.  Passion and purpose are the guiding forces to fearlessness and endless opportunities!



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Art Is Luv — Charmin Roundtree-Baaqee

Q

How do you hope to make an impact?

A

I hope to show others that you can lead a professional life that reflects the multidimensional and creative spirit of your true inner self.  I am a firm believer that you don’t have to only choose one path. The reality is that there are many pathways to happiness. Imagine all that is missed when there are no detours.

Q

Who is your #GirlBoss inspiration?

A

My daughter.  She was born ready.  She is a creative and fearless force.  I believe that creativity and courage are the driving forces for being impactful.  When you are passionate about your goals and are willing to take risks, success is inevitable.  My daughter is always inspiring me to do what I love and do it with intention and of course, style!

Q

What about the Oakland/Bay Area community makes it a unique place to be a WOC entrepreneur?

A

Living in the Bay Area, I feel less isolated as a WOC entrepreneur.  I have the privilege of seeing other WOC who are finding and spreading their wings.  There are businesses that are in the conception phase, others that are fledglings and so many that are taking flight.  At every stage, I recognize that I still have room to grow and much to learn from those who are further along in their journey.

Q

What does money/privilege/power mean to you?

A

Having money/privilege/power means that I have the ability to pay it forward.  I may not be able to pay it forward like the Currys, yet, but I can certainly do my part to help others.  I realize that I have access in some shape or form that others only dream of. My success is not only my own.  I am here so that she, he, and they can be here as well. We were never meant to do it alone.

Q

What advice would you give to other women who are wanting to start their own businesses?

A

A.) Find your niche.  Don’t expect an invitation to potluck if you haven’t quite figured out what to bring. B.) Go through the certification process.  Get a business license. It’s the first step to formalizing and legitimizing your professional reach. C.) Join Toastmasters or any other public speaking support group.  It will help you better articulate your narrative. Plus, it’s a great confidence booster. D.) Don’t be afraid of growth. The bounty will come when you allow yourself to be boundless.


Taylor Jay Collection — Taylor Jay


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Q

How do you hope to make an impact?

A

How do we touch the hearts, minds and inspire the hopeless and forgotten. I myself was a teen mom and remember feeling complete helplessness like my life was going to go nowhere.. Fashion gave me inspiration and hope. It is my responsibility to touch the hearts and the hands of those in the same position I was once in. I will continue to build in my community and provide spaces for the under privileged to be informed, educated and inspired. We are often so busy building and working in our world or circle that we forget about those that need to be uplifted, poured into the most.

Q

Who is your #GirlBoss inspiration?

A

All the women I personally know push through against all odds. They may not be famous but they are getting shit done.

Q

What about the Oakland/Bay Area community makes it a unique place to be a WOC entrepreneur?

A

What about the Oakland/Bay Area community makes it a unique place to be a WOC entrepreneur? The change the movement and the opportunities that appear to be here, but are so hard to touch at times. The obstacles that a woman in business faces are 10 times more challenging for a woman of color (black woman). So to push through every door that seems to be locked and only available to some is beautiful amazing and inspiring to those to follow that look like me.

Q

What does money/privilege/power mean to you?

A

What does money/privilege/power mean to you? Money often provides Power… Privilege opens doors to receive an abundance of money plus power. They are one in the same. It is what you do with money/privilege/power that truly defines your character and contribution on this earth.

Q

What advice would you give to other women who are wanting to start their own businesses?

A

It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done. Get with a strong community and be fearless, kind and genuine in all that you do.


Ade Dream — Jennifer Downey Davis


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Q

How do you hope to make an impact?

A

 A.) one of the biggest ways we want to make an impact is through our Give Back program.  We utilize a portion of the proceeds from our sales to fund scholarships for children at N’Dows High School in The Gambia, West Africa.  This is the school my husband attended in The Gambia. Having the Give Back program was something that was super important to us when we were concepting our brand.  We wanted to make sure that we were using our brand to enrich and improve the lives of others.During a visit home this winter we were able to connect with some of the alumni from our program.  It was amazing to hear how the scholarship positively impacted their lives. Many of the recipients are in college now, business owners, and activist and having their own positive impact in their communities.  It’s awesome to have even a small hand in their success.

B). As a black woman and business owner, I hope that my presence can encourage even more WOC business owners .  The fashion industry can be a hard place to succeed, as a black woman in fashion it is important for me to show  up as my true self, so that other women that look like me may be encouraged to pursue their dreams, Representation truly does matter!  It’s also important for me as a business owner to mentor and support other business owners and WOC pursuing a career in fashion.

Q

Who is your #GirlBoss inspiration?

A

Recently I read Elaine Welteroth’s book and I truly thought she was a total GirlBoss inspiration.  I was inspired by how she has been able to break the mold in the fashion industry, and use her platform to celebrate, educate, and elevate the diversity that makes all of us so beautiful! In addition to Elaine Welteroth, I am surrounded by #GirlBoss’ everyday here in the bay, like the woman in this campaign. I am truly inspired by the #Girlboss’ right here in my own community.  There is nothing more inspiring than seeing someone within your circle winning and succeeding! Seeing their success motivates me to work harder to achieve my goals.

Q

What about the Oakland/Bay Area community makes it a unique place to be a WOC entrepreneur?

A

The Oakland Bay Area has some of the dopest W.O.C entrepreneurs.  Since I have started my own business so many of the W.O.C entrepreneurs here have supported me, offered advice, and used their own platforms to promote my brand.  From the very beginning business owners like Taylor from Taylor Jay Collection and Candice from Candid Art, have been some of my biggest supporters and customers. I was a featured vendor at an event last night and one of the first things I saw when I walked in was two of the fellow business owners wearing my product. That kind of love and support is so special in a market that can be very competitive and even cut throat at times. I definitely feel like I am apart of a community of amazing women, and when we all get together you genuinely feel the love, respect, and just the pure desire to see other woman winning, that within itself inspires me and encourages me to keep going!

Q

What does money/privilege/power mean to you?

A

This is a very layered question. Money/privilege/power can be associated with negativity, but if used appropriately it can be used to bring about positivity and change.  For example if someone uses their money, privilege, and/or power to support others especially those that don’t have the same resources or platform as they do, it can actually be the catalyst to bring about change and to even the playing field for those who may start of pursuing their aspirations at a disadvantage.  It’s so important to lift as you climb, as fast as you find yourself at the top you can also find yourself at the bottom.

Q

What advice would you give to other women who are wanting to start their own businesses?

A

1.  Make sure you love it. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint at heart. There are times when you will want to give up, there will be times when the obstacles may seem insurmountable, and there will be times when succeeding may seem impossible.  The hard work and sheer will required to get through these obstacles is a lot easier to manage if you love what you are doing and it’s truly allowing you to walk in your purpose.

2.  Research. I would advise anyone preparing to start their business to do some research on the market they are planning to enter it, the customer they are planning to pursue, and the competition they will be up against.  Understanding what needs you are fulfilling and how what you are offering differs from others in the marketplace. It’s so important to build your business based on what’s unique and special about your brand, and market the heck out of that!

3.  Be laser beam focused on your end game.  One of my good friends told me the other day, “Find the thing that’s most important, and first master that!” This is easier said than done, but determining your areas of focus for your business early on, and revisiting them often is very important, especially when you are first starting out.When you are starting a business there are so many distractions and opportunities to waver in your purpose.  By building a business plan and setting goals you can ensure everything ties back to your purpose. This allows you to focus and stay the course. Once you have developed your plan and set your goals, before making business decisions ask yourself, “How does this serve my purpose, or help me reach my business goals?”

4. Bet on yourself!  Know that no one can offer what you can to the world.  There will always be doubters and naysayers that try to discourage you, and that aren’t on board with your vision, and that’s ok!  Always be willing to listen to constructive criticism, but block out negativity, and anything that tries to diminish your talents or your worth.   It’s so important to believe that you have everything within you to reach your goals and walk in your purpose.  

5.  Trust Your Gut: You are the owner and advocate for your business.  Your vision is yours and no one else’s, stay steadfast in your belief for your business and trust your instincts.


Azteca Negra / Just Be Oak — Marisol Catchings


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Q

How do you hope to make an impact?

A

I created both of my businesses as ways to empower others. In Azteca Negra, I use my art to send messages of self-love, resistance, and cultural celebration within the Black and Latinx communities. In Just BE, we empower Black Women Entrepreneurs by building community, sharing resources, and creating opportunities for business growth. I had to build my chair to have a seat at the table, and now I want to extend the table and add some chairs so that others have room to sit.

Q

Who is your #GirlBoss inspiration?

A

I’ve been blessed to have a really strong community of WOC #GirlBoss entrepreneurs in the Bay Area. I gain so much inspiration from all of the beautiful women I know, who are out in the world being passionate, making a difference in their communities, and embodying their identities as fierce women entrepreneurs.

Q

What about the Oakland/Bay Area community makes it a unique place to be a WOC entrepreneur?

A

The Oakland and greater Bay Area love is like nothing I’ve experienced elsewhere. This is a hub of resources for WOC entrepreneurs, filled with support, information, and a large number of entrepreneurs who care about where we live and our larger community.

Q

What does money/privilege/power mean to you?

A

Money is a necessary tool/resource, but I believe it should be used to help enrich our lives, not to be the end goal. Privilege is absolutely something to be acknowledged, because then we know how to use it as a bridge to help others, instead of a gate to keep people out. Power is something that is in each of us. It’s the tapping into it that is the challenge, and as we connect with and empower one another, that power becomes greater.

Q

What advice would you give to other women who are wanting to start their own businesses?

A

Don’t wait for the perfect time. It will never be the perfect time. Being vulnerable and putting yourself and your ideas out there is scary, but so absolutely worth it. Be open enough to ask for help and to learn new things. Seek out others who are doing what you want to do. You’ll want to prepare for this journey with some sort of self care routines or therapy because being an entrepreneur will expose your insecurities. And exposing those parts of yourself will also give you a chance to strengthen and love yourself and your business in new ways.


Minnie Bells Soul Movement — Fernay McPherson


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Q

How do you hope to make an impact?

A

By creating opportunities, changing the narrative of being a WOC chef/restaurant owner, by continuing to build on my foundation.

Q

Who is your #GirlBoss inspiration?

A

There are so many women on this journey that inspire me, from my sister chefs, my hair stylist to Michelle Obama. Hard to name just one.

Q

What about the Oakland/Bay Area community makes it a unique place to be a WOC entrepreneur?

A

The Bay comes out to support black businesses, so many folks come to patronize my business for that reason. It’s so much love in the Bay Area, we realize and understand the importance of supporting our community.

Q

What does money/privilege/power mean to you?

A

You can create anything you want with whomever you want.

Q

What advice would you give to other women who are wanting to start their own businesses?

A

Anything is possible. Nothing comes easy but with drive and ambition you can build anything you want. Surround yourself with like minded people.


Black Women Is The Business: Seven Bay Area Business Owners Talk On How They Make an Impact
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