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Saturday, June 3, 2023

It’s Black Female Entrepreneurs’ Time to be at the Driver’s Seat 

Where I am from, nail salons are a quick, convenient, in-and-out maintenance experience. However, I wanted to create a nail salon experience that could be a cozy, welcoming space for social gatherings. For nearly a decade, I’ve owned and operated my nail salon, Scrub Nail Boutique, and later opened my hair salon Twist Out Blow Out. My customers come to me for more than just the quality care; they also come for the community. Salons are havens for Black women to congregate and share spaces that feel uniquely ours. The ability to create that atmosphere is simply empowering. But there’s another layer to my work that is empowering— my ability to financially support my employees as an entrepreneur.

Being a business owner allowed me to employ incredible Black women and provide jobs to my local community. The more successful I became, the better life was for everyone around me, from my employees, who are like family to the neighborhood I call home. I was able to help co-found the National Association of Mom Entrepreneurs, a non-profit that helps Black moms start businesses in Sandtown, Baltimore, where I grew up. 

However, being a Black woman entrepreneur is not easy and the path here was nothing short of a journey. As we leave Black History Month and look towards Women’s History Month, we must reinforce the commitment to Black women, especially Black women entrepreneurs.

Small businesses are the pulleys that keep our economy running. They are also a steppingstone for Americans into the middle class. While 17 percent of small businesses are started by Black women, only three percent survive to become mature businesses. When our businesses are in distress, we struggle to find emergency funding, leading many of us to shutter our doors.  

Recent research surveyed 1,200 Black women businesses and 86 percent initially financed their business with personal savings. Nearly half put less than $10K into the business, just as I had to use $15K of my personal savings and seek additional small business funding to supplement my investment.

Trying to start my nail salon business was backbreaking. Having just become a new mother and losing my home and belongings to a fire just before my due date, this became my fuel to move full steam ahead with turning my dream into a reality. I spent months trying to find a commercial space to rent and despite having great credit, funding, and a business plan, I was turned away by multiple landlords and banks that doubted me. Upon reaching a turning point in my business, I applied to Goldman Sachs “10,000 Small Businesses,” which helped me realize the potential of my business, and equipped me with the network and tools I needed to take my business to the next level.

Black women entrepreneurs need real investment and resources to close the gap with their white male counterparts. Goldman Sachs’ new “One Million Black Women: Black in Businesses” program is a critical step forward, designed to train and invest in Black women sole proprietors, a critical demographic with 96 percent of Black businesses run by sole proprietors, of which 55 percent are women-led. Black women solopreneurs are the foundation of Black entrepreneurship and the key to reducing the racial wealth gap for Black women everywhere.

Black women are resilient, tenacious, and fearless. Without those qualities, I would have never been able to open my salons. But we cannot keep doing it on our own. Small businesses can flourish with the mentorship of other successful black women and easier access to funding. Successful black women need to be celebrated and propelled up, so young Black girls around the country can see that success and wealth aren’t reserved for a certain group, but for them too. We need your help year-round. An unstoppable economy starts with Black Women entrepreneurs in charge.

Jasmine Simms is the owner of Scrub Nail Boutique and an alumna of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses.

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