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Celebrating Three Young Entrepreneurs During Black Business Month

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

August marks the arrival of Black Business Month. Founded by Frederick E. Jordan, the idea came about when he realized there were few financing options for black entrepreneurs when he started his company. As a result, he partnered with John William Templeton in 2004 to make August a month dedicated to black businesses. The idea was to encourage consumers to recognize and support black-owned companies, raise awareness about their challenges, and acknowledge up-and-coming entrepreneurs. And this year, it is even more crucial to advocate for black-owned enterprises.

While COVID has been devastating for many small businesses, it was especially hard on African American owned companies. Unfortunately, this was just the latest of the many setbacks that they have encountered throughout history. For example, in April 2000, a congressional study found that many banks disregarded African-American neighborhoods, including those with higher incomes meaning that local small businesses could not get loans. Moreover, twenty years later, data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act has shown that lenders still deny mortgages for black applicants at a rate 80% higher than white applicants. The net worth of the average Black household is approximately 1/10 that of the ordinary white family. And it is why Black business ownership is significant because it's a route for creating multi-generational wealth.

However, those businesses need ongoing support considering that eight out of ten Black-owned businesses fail within the first 18 months. Buying from black businesses helps build stronger communities, create job opportunities, lower local taxes, close the racial wealth gap, and much more. So, in honor of Black Business Month and all the amazing companies out there, Our Money Matters wants to acknowledge three young entrepreneurs of color who are truly inspirational.

1. Maya Penn

Founder of Maya's Ideas, Penn began her company at age eight to create a greener planet. The now twenty-one-year-old created her sustainable fashion brand, as an eco-designer, by creating clothing and accessories from organic, recycled, and vintage materials. In 2011, she founded a nonprofit, Maya's Ideas 4 The Planet, where she designed and created eco-friendly sanitary pads for women in developing countries. She is a global activist, entrepreneur, filmmaker, philanthropist, artist, and author.

Penn has spoken at Ted-Talk three times and was personally picked by Oprah Winfrey as her youngest Supersoul 100 entrepreneur, thought-leader, and changemaker. She was featured in Forbes magazine at just ten years old in addition to The Huffington Post, Business Insider, CNN, Entrepreneur Magazine, Essence, Time, Ebony, Disney Channel, and many more.

Penn has won many awards, such as the 2016 Coretta Scott King A.N.G.E.L. Award, and has received a commendation from Barack Obama. Her overarching mission behind everything she does is to fight for environmental and social justice.

2. Asmau Ahmed

Asmau Ahmed, the founder of Plum Perfect, is one of only twelve black women who have raised more than $1 million in VC funding. Ahmed began as a chemical engineer, holding an MBA from Columbia Business School and a BS with Honors in Chemical Engineering from the University of Virginia. In addition to her full-time job as a senior finance executive for Bank of America, she began pursuing her passion for innovation. Asmau wanted to build an accessible technology to make personalized shopping simple for women of color, so she and her team spent nearly eight years analyzing over 16 million colors to refine the patented technology behind the Plum Perfect app. A user uploads a selfie; the app creates a personal color profile, and products are recommended that suit the color profile.

3. Janice Johnson

Founder of Muka, Janice Johnson, began her company because of her frustration with the extreme disparity between white and black homeownership. Muka's mission is to virtually unite minority homebuyers and sellers with reliable realtors who can educate them and simplify the process of buying or selling a home. Her passion for the industry came from her mother, who was one of the few African American real estate agents when she began her career.

Muka is also passionate about creating new opportunities for compatible minority businesses such as movers, interior designers, builders, etc. She is building a database that homeowners can utilize to hire vendors of color and intends to encourage other minority real estate entrepreneurs and vendors through her referral platform. Her ultimate goal is to make it easier for minority homebuyers to find realtors who look like them.

In summary, some of the most effective ways to narrow the wealth gap between white and black Americans is to buy from black businesses and to provide support and educational tools that can help people of color manage and invest their money. That’s why Our Money Matters is offering students of HBCUs/MSIs as well as community residents and organizations surrounding their campuses, the opportunity to utilize our free financial portal. To find out more about how to sign up, click here.

Our Money Matters is supported through a generous financial grant by the Wells Fargo Foundation.

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