How Black-Owned Businesses Can Lead to Flavorful Lives

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(Photo by: Kerry Ingram/TU Student)

If you could eat only one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

For Bashyra Green, 8, the choice was an easy one to make.

“I really like tacos,” Green said, smiling widely. “You can make tacos out of everything!”

Green is an African American elementary school student who knows exactly what she wants to be when she grows up. Unlike her fellow classmates, who she claims want to be things such as teachers or superheroes, Green wants to be something most children don’t initially identify with: a business owner.

“I’m going to own a taco shop and call it ‘Pinky’s Taco Land’, obviously for Pinky,” Green said, as she gestured to her pink stuffed pony. She got up from where she was sitting to grab Pinky for a tight hug. When asked to explain more about her dream shop, Green’s entire face lit up.

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Green hugs her stuffed companion, Pinky, in admiration. (Photo by: Kerry Ingram/TU Student)

“The food is going to be different types of tacos, like cupcake tacos, pancake tacos, fish tacos, and regular tacos,” Green said.  “I’m also going to be the boss of my taco shop. That’s important.”

Green’s drive for entrepreneurship is strong, however research shows that she may have difficulties that lie ahead due to two major portions of her identity: her gender and her race. According to a report by the Center for Women’s Business Research, minority women are the fastest growing entrepreneurial segments in the country, being three to five times more likely to start their own business than people belonging to other racial and gender groups. Despite this, minority women also face a shortage of financial and social support that can lead to difficulties in running a business.

“The reality is–similar to the women’s suffrage movement, which for the most part excluded minority women–middle-to-upper class educated white women have driven much of the recent conversation,” wrote Natalie Cofield, in a Forbes article entitled “Minority Women Entrepreneurs: Go-Getters Without Resources.” The article spoke of the imbalances that occur in the business world for minority women, and how they typically have very little outside support for their efforts.

A report from the Center for Community Economic Development Coifeld’s statement, stating that the median net-worth for single white women was $41,500 compared to $100 for African American women. Ashley Jones, an African American entrepreneur and owner of Emboss Cosmetics, has directly experienced this obstacle.

“Some of the daily challenges I face include no outside help and a lack of resources,” Jones said. “I am a black business owner doing everything from scratch.”

The other large problem minority women face is the amount of negative representation given to them in society and the scarce opportunities to fix their reputation. According to research done by the brand Dove for its campaign, seeing people with similar traits achieve their goals is proven to have a huge impact on people, especially in adolescents. Having a role model that one can easily identify with can help to improve levels of self-esteem and motivation. These levels can decrease when people with similar traits do poorly.

When asked about her role models, Green spun around and laughed before referring to the one woman she sees everyday: her mother.

Green’s mother, Kendra Ingram, a 29-year-old pastry chef, currently works at a catering business while simultaneously attending culinary school. Ingram aspires to open up her own bakery post-graduation. She blames cultural stereotypes and the media for the lack of social support towards black female business owners.

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Ingram waits for wedding guests to arrive in order to try out her woodland-themes cakes. (Photo by: Kerry Ingram/TU Student)

“It’s hard enough for a black woman to be successful,” Ingram said, shaking her head at the thought. “The judgement from other people can play a big part in how that black female sees herself and her self-confidence. If she has no support and a bunch of people telling her she can’t… it’s just, it’s hard.”

Kaylar Will, owner of Kaylux cosmetics, noted that even as an established and popular line, her brand has faced prejudice due to its minority ownership.

“For some reason, when a business is owned by a minority, when people have a bad experience with that business they like to group all black businesses into one,” said Will. “Some people have this idea that black businesses are almost bad. I’ve had women tell me they were expecting to have an unpleasant experience and that was pretty hurtful. It just shows we have a long way to go, but I’m willing and prepared.”

Will’s “long way to go” standpoint is not far off; according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Census Bureau, women and minorities make up a low share of U.S. business owners, and African Americans own less than 10 percent of businesses that could be categorized in each of the top 50 metropolitan cities. Despite minorities making up a sizeable portion of the country’s population, they only account for a small percentage of businesses.

“In the industry I work in, there’s not a lot of successful black females,” Ingram said, referring to the pastry world. “It’s a very small percentage.”

When asked about the possible affect female black business owners could have on her daughter, Ingram hesitated, thinking hard about the effects.

“I’m not sure, only because she doesn’t look at physical attributes,” Ingram said. “She just looks at people and if they’re good and bad. Personally, I think it’d be great because I do see color.”

Green already faces discrimination due to her race. Her joy slightly depleted as she mentioned the bullying she deals with at school.

“I’m different,” Green said.  “I don’t fit in well at school. I get bullied. There’s a boy in my class that hates me and he makes others hate me too. It’s because he’s white and I’m black.”

Green held Pinky tighter to her chest, closing her eyes and sighing. When asked if she thought skin color mattered, she immediately shook her head.

“No,” said Green. “I think that everyone should get along.”

In the face of such obstacles, there is still hope for black owned businesses, found within the minority business owners themselves.

“It feels great [owning a business],” Jones said. “I have had a pleasant experience thus far, and it is fulfilling to know that I can do what it is that I set out to do.”

To Will, being a successful business owner also means proving to others that anything is possible.

“Literally dozens and dozens of women tell me constantly how inspirational I am to them and that means a lot to me,” Will said. “I have younger family members, and nieces and nephews, and I’d love for them to grow up and decide to be a business owner because of me.”

Green is an example of the inspiration that black owned businesses can cause in children. She coins her mother as someone she looks up to for her goals, and dreams that one day, they both will have businesses to call their own.

She expressed her excitement by jumping up and down with Pinky before simply stating:

“It would make me happy!”

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