Meet the Black Men and Women Charting a Path in Entrepreneurship
Black History Month is a time to celebrate the triumphs and reflect on the struggles of the Black community, with a focus on the many contributions African Americans have made to help shape our society today. This includes the achievements of Black entrepreneurs from the past, present, and future.
From the first self-made female millionaire in American history, Madam C.J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove), to today’s biggest and most successful names – Oprah Winfrey, Sean John Combs, Sheila Johnson, Janice Bryant Howroyd, and Michael Jordan, there is also a long list of inspiring, rising entrepreneurs who continue to shatter the glass ceiling.
Read the stories of some of the rising stars among Black entrepreneurs in the U.S., making marks in their industries and opening doors for others in the community.
Blk & Bold
Childhood friends Pernell Cezar and Rod Johnson created BLK & Bold Specialty Beverages, the first Black-owned, nationally distributed coffee brand that, in just three years, reached a seven-figure annual revenue and landed partnerships with Amazon, Target, Ben & Jerry’s, and the NBA. The brand’s coffees and teas are now available in more than 5,600 retail locations across the country. They also donate 5 percent of their total profits to nonprofits supporting kids in underserved communities.
Michele Hoskins - Michele’s Syrup
The first minority supplier for Denny’s, the first minority supplier for Wal-Mart, and a partner of some of the biggest food companies in the world, including Sara Lee and General Mills, Michele Hoskins is the founder of Michele’s Syrup, a recipe that was handed down from her great, great, great grandmother, America Washington, a former slave. Michele started by making syrups in her mother’s basement and delivering them to local groceries before she began manufacturing her specialty syrups in 1984 when her brand took off.
Diishan Imira - Mayvenn
A graduate from Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business and with a strong foundation in international trade logistics after living and working in China, France, Brazil and Ethiopia, Diishan Imira co-founded Mayvenn, after realizing that 95 percent of African American salons did not retail the compatible products their customers wanted. Mayvenn began with the idea that if people of color are spending billions of dollars on beauty products, they should also have ownership in the businesses that sell those products. What began with just one box of hair in the trunk of his Toyota Corolla, Mayvenn is currently serving over 50,000 stylists today.
Jasmin Foster - Be Rooted
A lifetime lover of stationery, Jasmin Foster started her own stationery business, Be Rooted, featuring inclusively designed journals, planners, and more with artwork that features Black women, created by Black women. Foster created the brand for women of color so that they feel seen and feel like they belong in the world of stationery. In addition to her online store, her products were also picked up by Target nationwide in her first year of business.
Morgan DeBaun - Blavity
After seeing a void in the media market for Black millennials, Morgan DeBaun founded Blavity – creating and curating culturally relevant content and sending it directly to this audience. It is home to the largest network of platforms and lifestyle brands serving the Black millennial community. She has also founded Blavity.org, a non-profit created to drive Black economic advancement forward through entrepreneurial fellowship programs featuring grants, education, and mentorship.
Ryan Williams - Cadre
After attending Harvard and working at Goldman Sachs, Ryan Williams co-founded Cadre, an online marketplace connecting real estate investors and operators. The company makes it easier for investors to manage their investment and gain liquidity by selling their interest in the secondary market. As one of the few Black founders in real estate, finance, or technology, he has raised over $133.3 million for this venture.
Stefania Okalie - Solely Fit
A Haitian-Nigerian-American from South Florida, Stefania Okalie left her job as a reporter to launch her luxury, body-inclusive activewear brand Solely Fit. Each edgy piece captures the beautiful narrative of a woman’s body and the core of who she is while empowering her to be all that she is inherently destined to be. Her products have frequently been used by celebrity stylists and have been photographed on popular celebrities including Zendaya.
Nathlie Walton - Expectful
After a harrowing experience during her pregnancy that almost killed her and her son, Nathalie Walton created a new meditation and sleep app for new mothers called Expectful. Feeling lucky to have survived, Walton knows she lived through an experience that made her an example of something she had already known well – that pregnant Black women, regardless of economic background, are at risk. She helped her startup raise its first million in venture capital, making her one of the few dozen Black female founders to do so.
Monique Rodriguez - MIELLE
MIELLE was started by Monique Rodriguez in 2014 with one product, Advanced Hair Formula, a proprietary blend of herbs, amino acids, and metals to support healthy hair, skin, nails, and the immune system. Today, MIELLE features multiple product collections for adults and children and is sold in over 100,000 stores in more than 87 countries, like Sally Beauty, Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart. It became the first in the industry to receive more than $100 million in investment funding, and in 2023, MIELLE joined the international consumer goods corporation, Procter and Gamble.
Denise Woodard - Partake Foods
We would be remiss not to highlight the accomplishments of Partake’s very own founder and CEO, Denise Woodard. After a scary night in the emergency room where her daughter was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, Denise left her corporate job at Coca-Cola Co. to start an inclusive food brand that was safe to share and enjoy by everyone. After humble beginnings selling allergy-friendly cookies from her car, she sold her engagement ring and drained her 401k to start her business. Today, Partake Foods is stocked in retail stores across the country including Target, Whole Foods, Sprouts, Kroger, and Walmart. She is the first Black woman to raise $1 million for a food startup, and most of her investors are also Black, including celebrities Jay-Z through his VC fund Marcy Venture Partners, Rihanna, and H.E.R. She also founded the Black Futures in Food & Beverage, an annual fellowship program that mentors HBCU students and helps them secure internships and jobs at the program’s end.
Inspiring Black Entrepreneurs of the Past, Present, and Future
We could continue this list with countless other inspiring Black entrepreneurs who are making waves in just about every industry. What’s more, many of these extraordinary business people are opening doors for future entrepreneurs to find success. Here at Partake Foods, we celebrate Black joy and success every month with a special spotlight on February as the country collectively recognizes the significance of Black history.