Black History Month provides a dedicated time each year for us to reflect on the indelible mark and positive impact that African Americans have made throughout US History. It is a time to recognize and honor the legacy of activism, strength, and determination in the Black community. The unbreakable will of those catalysts of righteous change like Fred Hampton, Malcom X, Angela Davis, and of course, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are justly celebrated the world over. And this year, we at Kapitus honor those legends as well as the local legends who carry on that strength today: Black small business owners. In honor of these business owners, this thread will be updated every day of Black History Month with new stories from Black small business owners across the country who have overcome challenges and made their own way in the business world.
They are visionaries. They are changemakers. They write their own stories. They are black business owners. And this collection is just a small way to honor them and the impact they make on this earth everyday.
New Orleans, LA
A graphic design company with a profoundly transcending philosophy, Platinum Graphics specializes in the memorializing of those lost. Platinum Graphic’s specialty is life-size posters which stand beside the casket at end-of-life services. These high-detail prints can be therapeutic and moving for those in attendance of these emotional events. Trenice and her husband became small business owners 15 years ago for the freedom and flexibility of being your own boss and they haven’t looked back since.
Neena R. Speer, Esq.
Neena Speer is an Amazon Bestselling author with a solo law firm, The Neena R. Speer Law Firm LLC, and a detailed history of public speaking and activism. Across her books and talks, Speer is a proud voice of perseverance, speaking openly about her experiences as a Black female in law school and beyond. One of Speer’s most popular books Dear Future Lawyer: An Intimate Survival Guide for the Female Minority Law Student is an Amazon Bestseller. Through her prose and public speaking, Speer is a force for good and a powerful voice for both Black and female empowerment
Querida Lugo’s The Beloved Brand Company is a one-stop-shop digital agency specializing in providing small businesses, corporations, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and institutions with the tools required to get more in touch with their self-value and closer to their next transformation. From diversity training to brand development, Lugo’s agency takes pride in teaching their clients transferable skills they can use every day. Lugo uses her expertise to directly help her community by teaching, assisting and inspiring the BIPOC community to generate substantive income. After more than 10 years in the industry, Lugo is still determined to empower each and every business owner and passionate creator who walks through her door. Lugo also runs Styling for Your Life, a resource center for those looking to live their best and fullest life.
Daytona Beach, FL
Terri owns and operates a business for businesses. Through MindYourBusinessToday, Terri has brokered deals and acquisitions and helped would-be business owners discover their potential. When Terri began her business 10 years ago, she was the only Black female intermediary with a firm in the state of Florida. Since then, she has seen her fair share of challenges proving to colleagues and customers that she not only has a right to sit at the business table but that her perspective makes her an even stronger business owner. Terri has an interest in the changing face of America’s small business owners and has been a guiding force for many of the country’s new, young entrepreneurs and business owners.
Baton Rouge, LA
Francois is the owner and face of Heiress International Enterprises, a beauty services and products business committed to excellence and quality. Francois holds both a B.S. in Business Administration as well as a license in Cosmetology and Barbering making her a genuine perfect fit for the beauty industry. Since beginning her business ventures nearly a decade ago, Francois has become a bestselling author and talk show host with a dedication for helping would-be business owners reach their goals. Francois also created the non-profit Hence Sistars of Empowerment, Inc advocating for the education and inspiration of women in the greater Baton Rouge area. A proud mentor and thought leader, Francois shows no sign of stopping her outreach and education ventures; she is an unstoppable force for good in her community and the business world at-large.
Martel Sharpe is the Principal Communications Officer with 404 Communications, a public relations and content management company specializing in entrepreneurial and small business clientele. Inside that specialization, however, Sharpe and his firm are artfully selective and have a wide breadth of clients from fashion designers to financial firms. Being a minority-owned business, Sharpe has fought an uphill battle for his firm using his own and his team’s incredible PR expertise to help clients and break out of the restrictive box often afforded to minority-owned businesses. Never having been recognized for his contributions in the 9-5 world, Sharpe started as a freelancer and quickly formed his own business after clients and contracts streamed in.
The Kim Crowder Consulting Agency is determined to reshape the modern workplace through diversity, inclusion, equity, and anti-racism (DEIA) training. Crowder’s team is made entirely of people with traditionally ignored identities and uses their combined lived experience to delve into the nuance of workplace discrimination with personal precision. Empowered by her own experiences in corporate America, Crowder started her small business to correct the moral wrongs and foster businesses to be equitable and justice-forward. Crowder’s empowering and forward-thinking philosophy has caught the world by storm having worked with major names like Target, HarperCollins Publishing, and Adobe with seminars in the past.
Damian Spencer is the co owner of RezDox, a software that allows homeowners to upload and manage the details of their home. Rezdox’s “Home History Report” is called a “a CarFax for their [clients’] home” by Spencer and is a great way for homeowners to quickly and easily manage their home’s key facts. Rezdox was born from experience when Damian sold their first home. “Homeowners should have an easy way to determine how much equity they have gained from improvements. We should all have a better warning if our appliances are nearing the end of their useful lives, so we can budget for emergency repairs or replacements,” Spencer explains. Through perseverance and unending hard work, Spencer forged his own solution for homeowners and has changed not only industry, but also the home-owning experience for the better as a result.
Wesley Chapel, FL
Joi Wade is the owner of Joiful Bee, a haircare company with the mission of helping women both establish consistent hair routines and live more confidently. After a successful career as a haircare influencer on YouTube, Wade was inspired to start her own business after reading about her commenters’ hair care journeys. After fantastic success, selling out their entire initial inventory in 2020, Wade has since expanded both her product line and operations. Now beating out supply chain shortages, Wade is a touchstone for modern business acumen and shows no sign of stopping any time soon.
Ashton & DC Cayce
Ashton and DC Cayce are the married couple and team behind REI Remodel and the REI Remodel Club. Ashton, interior designer and realtor, and DC, author, investor, contractor, and REI remodel specialist, started their own online program teaching real estate investors how to effectively flip properties and strengthen their investor network. The duo were empowered to start their business upon finding that there are little to no resources for would-be home investors to learn how to manage contractors, budgets, or schedules. Ashton and DC’s online program has allowed them to connect with a nationwide audience of future real estate investors and allowed them the luxuries that come with being a small business owner.
After spending several years at the executive level of large, traditional companies, Darryl Kelly was ready for a change. Inspired by his guiding mission of making a platform for freelancers to further their careers, Kelly created Hectic. “Freelancers are critical to our ability to be agile, maintain a capital-light business, and embrace many different ideas and talents in a fractional-focused nature,” Kelly explains. Kelly’s choice to start his own business and provide the platform for others to do the same which has allowed him and those who use Hectic to follow their own path and become better creators as a result.
Eudell Watts III & Eudell Watts IV
Kansas City, KS
A long-held family recipe, Old Arthur’s Barbecue Sauce is a multi-award-winning sauce that spawned a proud family business. Owned and operated by Eudell Watts III and Eudell Watts IV, the Old Arthur’s Heirloom Barbecue Sauce continues the legacy of Arthur Watts, a former slave who formulated the sauce still adored today. “We made minimal changes to the original recipes,” says Eudell Watts IV, a sales executive who runs the business part-time with his father, Eudell Watts III. “We were careful to stay true to the original flavors.” This time-honored tradition has become a flourishing national phenomenon as Old Arthur’s is now for sale nationally on Amazon, OldArthurs.com, and in Mariano’s supermarkets.
New York, NY
Jewell Singletary is the entrepreneur and educator behind Gratitude Griot, a diverse online wellspring of mental health and holistic wellness resources. Singletary’s business focus is wellbeing. Through trauma-informed yoga, somatic meditation, and other therapeutic arts, Singletary and her business work closely with individuals, schools, communities, and even governments to deliver her teaching. Singletary has been living with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus for nearly three decades and found balancing health and a corporate career extremely taxing. Now with her own company, Singletary is sharing the tools and methods that have helped her prioritize her own health. Following a quick pivot to online instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, Singletary’s teachings aim to reduce the building stress that has only compounded since 2020.
Hampton Roads, VA
Barbara Smith is owner of BHS Consulting, specializing in flexible leadership and management skills training programs. BHS Consulting takes great pride in specially creating each training program to fit their clients’ needs. Never believing in the “one size fits all” approach, BHS understands that every business is different, thus, can benefit most from specialized, trained consulting. Smith found in corporate America that, despite being a master’s degree holder and a highly-credentialed expert, she was regularly not invited to the business table. After witnessing employee mistreatment first-hand and beyond, Smith moved to consulting with the aim of teaching the fundamentals of an inclusive and future-centric business to the next generation of visionaries and beyond.
Greater Maryland Area
Sherrie High is the owner, operator, and notary public behind Official Solutions Mobile Notary Services. And the mobile is no joke, High works directly with businesses, realtors, and title companies procuring the solutions they need all across the greater Maryland area. High understands the value of her services and has found great success running her own small business. Having faced stereotyping in the past, High has fought an uphill battle making her name in the legal space but equally lets her success speak for itself. High is an enthusiastic and driven independent who is not only a small business owner, but a template for modern success.
New York, NY
Raven Waterman is a licensed psychotherapist and executive leadership coach with the admirable goal of helping and supporting the emotional health and professional development for Black Women and the greater BIPOC community. After working more than 20 years in the non-profit space, Waterman found that by running her own business she could focus on what she is most passionate about: addressing the mental health and leadership gap. Waterman has been breaking barriers in the professional space and made a name for herself through determination and power of will. She has become an authority on wellness and emotional health through her expertise and dependency which has only increased in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kisha Mays is the founder of Just Fearless, a collective galvanized to empower female-founded businesses through global business development. Also the operator of the Angel Fund, an investor’s fund created exclusively for female founders, Mays is an incredibly influential force for scaling female-owned businesses. Mays is acutely aware of the troubles that both female and African American owned businesses face when trying to secure funding which is why her collective seeks out those marginalized business owners and works tirelessly to close the race and gender gap in the business world. Mays admits herself that she was never cut out to be an employee; she instead proved that she was much better poised to both run her own business and give passionate trailblazers the tools to do the same.
The More Marketing Firm is an Atlanta, GA-based social media marketing firm servicing the ecommerce space and working to help their clients build exposure and natural traffic. As a small business themselves, Tenee and her firm can work with clients on an incredibly granular level affording them exactly the type of marketing and coverage they most need. From a blue-collar background, Tenee felt respect and admiration for the people who came before her but also knew she had the potential and the tools to grow. And grow she did: Tenee is a symbol for small business tenacity. As an African American business owner, Tenee has witnessed discrimination that stereotyping firsthand explaining that “people sometimes see our work and love it but then when they realize that a double minority created it all of a sudden, they question if we can do the job.” Tenee, however, lets her work speak for itself and has only grown as an entrepreneur since.
Blistey is the app and community created by Franklin Forbes. The Blistey platform was built to empower the greater BIPOC community with the ability to patronize businesses as well as exist as a meaningful lifestyle brand. Stamped as “the Yelp for the BIPOC community,” Blistey was created out of a necessity to connect the world BIPOC community in a space that accepts and celebrates diversity and grand inclusion. Forbes is a Brooklyn native with degrees from Columbia and the Kent School of Architecture who instead of giving his expertise to a large firm, used his skills in urban planning to make his own business. Blistey is more than a place to celebrate differences, but even more so a place to celebrate “what we have in common,” Forbes explains.
Priceless One Management is an event staffing and management agency owned and operated by Kylie Russell. Russell and her company have worked directly with major brands like Nike, Google, Nordstrom, Cîroc, HBO, Coca Cola, and several others to provide models, bartenders, and event managers for a variety of corporate events. Russell explains that “Before 2020, we were hesitant to let it be known that we were black owned. We felt like it may deter some companies from wanting to work with us. Most staffing agencies supply mostly blonde-haired, blue-eyed staff for events, so our work is so important to represent the billion-dollar marketplace that African Americans provide.” But since then, Russell and her team have let their superior service and client care assert their place in the events industry. Russell is a second-generation small business owner who takes immense pride in the power that comes with running your own business. The pandemic has certainly wreaked havoc on the events industry and Russell watched as once enthusiastic clients canceled and pushed back events throughout the past two years. Having built Priceless One Management herself, she has no intention of closing her doors and has masterfully pivoted to pandemic-era solutions like digital conferences.
Michelle Ngome is the founder of the African American Marketing Association and a consultant with Line 25 Consulting. Through inclusive auditing, strategy, and workshops, Ngome and her team work directly with marketing teams to help them, and their companies, reach higher highs. Their newest project is a DEI card game built to help facilitate constructive conversation in the workplace. Ngome left the large corporate space in exchange for running her own business after facing frustration with decent salaries and advancement. Now a successful business owner, Ngome is a symbol of perseverance and SMB success; she is using her skill and expertise to help other businesses grow and the space is better as a result. She explains, “Being a Black business owner is everything to me. Especially at this turn in my life, where I see the transformational change with the people that I work with on a regular basis.” Ngome’s unique plan for inclusive marketing is fresh and allows for a new kind of comprehensive success in the business world.