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Why black women are leading the nation by starting their own business


Jennifer Walton had two “big resignations”.

After rising to the level of associate vice president of marketing for the Nationwide Retirement Institute, she stepped down in 2021 to find greater impact in her work.

She moved into the public sector, working as a marketing manager for the Central Ohio Transit Authority. But she said she felt “handcuffed” in her ability to make changes in clients’ lives.

After some soul-searching, she decided to “bet on herself” and start her own company, SKY Nile Consulting, which offers marketing and brand strategy, as well as advice on diversity, equity and diversity. inclusion.

“I wanted flexibility in my life,” said Walton, 38, from Olde Towne East.

“I wanted to maximize my earning potential. I wanted to maximize my talent. And I wanted my values ​​to match my work. And I knew that if I needed to tick those four boxes, I could only get it for myself.

Black women who start their own business seek more freedom and fulfillment

Walton’s experience reflects a broader trend of black women leaving corporate America, accelerated by the pandemic. As the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs, black women say they seek more freedom, opportunity, fulfillment and stability. They also escape discrimination and other barriers in the workplace.

Overall, women-owned businesses grew by 21% between 2014 and 2019, compared to 9% for all businesses, according to American Express’ State of Women-Owned Businesses report.

Businesses owned by women of color grew even faster at 43%.

But black women-owned businesses topped them all at 50%.

While black women make up 14% of the female population, they make up 42% of net new women-owned businesses.

Additionally, a Harvard Business Review report found that 17% of black women are starting or leading new businesses, compared to 10% of white women and 15% of white men.

Deonna Barnett said she has seen an increase in the number of black female customers at her company, Aventi Enterprises, which helps small businesses grow.

“They quit (their jobs) because they can make more money doing it themselves,” said Barnett, the company’s CEO and management consultant. “And some of them can stay home, which is helpful for caregivers and parents.”

“I was capable of more”

Research shows that the pandemic has helped push more women into entrepreneurship, after many have been pushed out of the job market.

After two unstable years, they are not afraid to leave jobs that do not meet their needs. In fact, women leaders are leaving employers at an unprecedented rate, according to LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace report. For every female manager who gets a promotion, two female managers leave their company.

They cite a lack of advancement. For example, only one in four C-suite leaders are women, and only one in 20 are women of color. And for every 100 men promoted to manager, 58 black women are promoted.

Additionally, the latest census data shows that full-time and part-time black female workers earned 64 cents for every dollar earned by white males in 2021.

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For Tenesha Hartgrove, the decision to quit her full-time job at an accounting firm in January was not about getting a promotion or making more money, but about using her skills more.

As a senior tax accountant, she was limited to doing taxes, but wanted to help people, especially entrepreneurs, with financial statements and other services.

“I felt like I had more to offer than I ever could in the job I had before,” said Hartgrove, 43, of Grandview, who now runs Ncrease Financial Services from home. . “I just felt like I was capable of more.”

Despite numerous certifications, Hartgrove initially felt she didn’t know enough to start her business.

But then she saw others giving incorrect tax advice online during the pandemic.

“I know I could do better than some of the things I was seeing,” she said. “I just feel like if all these people are doing it and they don’t have the level of education that I’ve been pursuing, I can definitely do it.”

Tenesha Hartgrove has her own accounting firm, Ncrease Financial Services, which she runs from her home in Grandview.

Surveys have shown that black women face impostor syndrome, often brought on by their experience of microaggressions at work. A study by LeanIn.org found that black women are more likely to have their judgment and skills challenged at work.

“It’s that feeling of years and years of staring blankly when an idea was said, and watching someone else say something similar and everyone cheering,” Walton said. .

Businesses owned by black women: fast growth, slow development

Despite the rapid growth rate of Black women-owned businesses, studies show their earnings are relatively low, in part due to lack of access to capital. Despite having lower household incomes than their white counterparts, the Harvard Business Review found that 61% of black women self-finance their entire startup.

Entrepreneur Vangela Barnes said she has struggled to apply for funding since starting her own power company, Wireman Electric, during the pandemic.

“It feels like a lottery,” said Barnes, 58, of Canal Winchester, who left a project manager position at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. “It’s really frustrating, and now I’ve taken time away from my company to apply. We just feel like we’re in a frantic race.

Vangela Barnes, owner of Wireman Electric, said access to credit is a major hurdle for her business.

Barnes said she was offered more business than she could accept.

“I don’t have any wealth in my family,” she said. “I don’t have aunts and uncles I can call (for loans). It’s a constant battle. went well so far, but (now) I need two trucks.”

Barnett said she had clients facing similar obstacles.

“Racism is so deeply embedded in everything,” she said. “There is even discrimination in banks even today. I experienced this with a few customers who had good credit, money in the bank and contracts, and the bankers told them anyway nope.

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Still, she said there are other financial resources available; it’s just a matter of knowing where to look.

“A lot of clients come up to us and say, ‘I’ve never heard of this’ or ‘I didn’t even know you could do this,'” she said. “Our goal is to show you what’s possible, and then find ways to make sure you have access to it.”

She also expects to see even more black women leave their employers.

“There are going to be a good number of black women starting businesses that are going to be an inspiration to others,” she said. “And even if there are black women going back to corporate America, they’re going to become owners of something again.

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