I received such detailed answers, I wanted to include all the answers but, I had to be realistic. Instead it being one long post I have split it into two parts. The first part being an introduction and an opportunity for me to ask some amazing black women about their businesses.
Introducing the Business Owners
I spoke to five black business owners to get the 4/11 on the progression of black owned businesses and how they successfully run their own businesses.
I met Tammy at the Big Hair, No Care Pop Brixton launch event. Tammy greeted me with a hair compliment (always a winner). We got talking about our natural hair and her business Jim + Henry. I admired Tammy’s passion and the cool energy she had about her. Jim + Henry’s Eight is the UK’s first leave in conditioner exclusively created for curly and afro hair types.
The Curlture ladies brought my attention to the Sheabutter Cottage, and since then I have been returning to this site to buy my ethically sourced products. I love the fact that Akua is so involved in the communities that she sources her natural products from. It’s important to know where the products are coming from and that nobody is harmed or exploited whilst working.
Kam, the lovely lady behind Nylah. Nylah is a new natural hair care brand, providing naturals with gentle and safe products for kinky, coily, curly hair, with a focus on heritage and Eco-friendly resources. I was sent a few products a while back now and can safely say that their Super Botanical Conditioner is a new favourite.
I was drawn to the quirky card designs on their instagram page. Kitschnoir has a wide collection of greeting cards, for every occasion. I’m loving the Black History Month themed greeting cards, especially their Top 10 Black History Locations in London. It’s a cute gift but it’s also practical, for those wanting to explore Black British History. I love expressions of art, so I can really appreciate Cherelle’s work and it’s authenticity. My family will be getting some Kitschnoir cards in the post from now on (sorry Card Factory). You can now purchase Cherelle’s amazing cards in paperchase!
I met Kadian at the Black British Bloggers Social event. After two years of testing and trialing home made products on herself, friends and family. Kadian created BBN and a huge range of vegan/vegetarian hair care and skin care products.
Q. Why do you feel it is important to support black owned businesses?
Akua: It is important because it is a community which has been built upon helping each other and working together.
Tammy: I don’t – that feeds into the idea that black people are owed something because of their ancestral struggles. I much rather feel the need to support young people in today’s economy, who through no choice of theirs, are exposed to the realities of post-2008, and the effect the baby boomers have left on us – unable to get a mortgage, still in rented properties, pouring their savings into their passion. I support all independent businesses who are truly passionate about what they sell/do.
Kam: The economic state of any community is largely related to the amount of money spent within the businesses within that community. Which perfectly summarises the answers the question.
I believe that if we redirect our wealth and reclaim our own industries we can move closer to becoming a self reliant, self resourceful and self sustainable community. in turn we can represent our own interest. and in doing so we can begin to elevate some of the other problems within our communities. some of which are largely fuelled by our poor social economic condition.
Kadian: First, I think it’s important because supporting black businesses is supporting black people. Never forget the person behind that business. Secondly, our support affirms and enriches our communities – in terms of creative output, but also fostering economic stability. Not to be too woke about it, but…black communities in tend to be economically disadvantaged in majority white societies. So, know that for us to start these businesses, it was ten times harder.
Cherelle: Where do I start? It always has been important to do so, but especially right now when we have such big brands openly tearing us down and degrading us, we really need to be careful where we are spending our money! Choosing to blindly support companies that do not have our best interests at heart makes no sense to me. Why not support a brand that understands and has love for our culture, embraces our differences and does have you in mind when creating product? We need to elevate ourselves and show the world and each other just how strong and powerful we are when we work together. Supporting a black business doesn’t only empower and raise awareness of the brand, it also inspires others to succeed and create their own BOB.
Q. What was the response from your friends and family when you told them about your business idea?
Kadian: The business idea for Bourn Beautiful Naturals actually came from my friends and family. I did not start making my own products with the intention of selling them. When I felt my products were good enough, I started giving them as gifts to friends and family. They asked why I wasn’t selling them. One friend in particular offered me money, and she bought several things. Not all of them were useful to her (she has locs) so she passed things on to her friends and family. They asked her for more, and she encouraged me to make a go of it. I’m really indebted to her for theconfidence. Actually, my partner, family and friends have been really encouraging and actually use my products!
Kam: For those who love me it was wonderful to see the amount of support I have. My friends and my family they advocate my business, offer support, help and assistance without requesting anything in return. it’s those people who support me, who give me the determination to keep going. who love me unconditionally and see my strength when sometimes i fail to see it myself and just want to give up.
Unfortunately I have also learnt that the road to entrepreneurship can expose a in-authenticity. It’s isolating it’s consuming and it means you’re not always available. Sadly some people in your life will fail to stick around when you are not longer available to meet their self interest. But hey. That’s life
Q. Where did the inspiration for your business come from?
Akua: I am inspired by my Ghanaian heritage with the vast resources untapped in Africa and the desire to help others with skin problems.
Cherelle: Loads of different places in my life…my inspiration came from the love of creating, my love of stationary and quirky illustrations, most things cheesy or kitsch and frustration. Frustrated about my job, wanting to do something I love, constantly hearing and seeing how we are being treated and underrepresented. One of my biggest inspirations would have to be the Solange, ‘A Seat at the Table’ album. I remember listening to ‘F.U.B.U’ and knowing I wanted to do something for us but I just didn’t know what it was. A seed of inspiration was definitely planted through that song.
Q. How have you dealt with negativity or criticism?
Kadian: I am my hardest critic in all things. If I think something is trash, it’s not making it to market. It may be a bad habit of mine, but I think about the harshest criticisms someone can give me before I put something out there. So far, no one has been harder on me than I have. The not so great feedback I have received so far has, thankfully, been in small in scale. Even then, the feedback was mostly productive. I try to use constructive criticism to make products better. I’m gonna be real. The negativity and criticism that I give myself represent my biggest challenge.I work on those things all the time. I believe in the goodness of what I am producing, but I do set high expectations for myself. When I don’t meet
those, or when I’m stretched too thinly (PhD work, lecturer obligations, publishing demands, etc.), that’s when I reach for the support of my partner and friends the most. They help me deal with negativity from myself and others. It’s a long-standing issue ever since I was made to sell cookies in elementary school. Rejection has been hard to deal with since then. lol. Where am I? Therapy?
Kam: Most of us would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. this is a quote that I apply to all areas of my life. i welcome constructive criticism, it’s the best teacher that i have. Whilst i love to hear the praise about what I’m doing well. I also want to hear the hard truths because it can be difficult to see the wider picture when you’re in it. sometimes you need someone to help you step back and look from a different perspective and that is what constructive criticism offers. that being said i recognise that not all forms of criticism is coming from a place of love, and so it’s also important that i am able to recognise the intentions of those giving me advice.
Some people are disgruntled by your progression. status anxiety is a real emotion and your growth can sometimes highlight another persons feeling of inadequacies , so they might not want to see you succeed for that reason. people are people, and they might be on a slightly different stage of growth, I understand that, and I am compassionate but mindful when i experience negativity.
The second part of this post is up! In the second part of this post Tammy, Akua, Kadian, Kam and Cherelle share some advice for anyone looking to start up their own business and we think about the future of black owned businesses – Q&A With Black Business Owners Pt.2