By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
They’ve got talent, strength and Black girl magic.
Black women-owned businesses were among the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey conducted by Gusto and the National Association of Women Business Owners. Black business ownership is currently trending upwards by nearly 30% compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to a study conducted by the University of California Santa Cruz economist Robert Fairlie.
Many of those businesses were started out of a necessity to find creative ways to survive when many businesses were shuttered, causing workers to lose their jobs or become furloughed. Though many of the businesses started with a dream, those dreams can quickly fade without the proper business tools for long-term success. Moreover, Black women-owned businesses often face systemic challenges, such as securing funding, financial backing, marketing, entrepreneurial training and obtaining mentorship.
To help combat these issues, Capital One Business partnered up with Boss Women Media to present its third annual Black Girl Magic Summit Pitch Competition, which awarded $100,000 in grants to Black women-owned businesses to help them expand their company and reach their goals.
Marty McDonald is the founder and CEO of Boss Women Media and creator behind the Black Girl Magic Summit.
McDonald said the mission of her organization was to equip, empower and educate Black women to change the business and leadership landscape in order to elevate and impact in the world.
“Boss Women Media really was to create a space and place for women to gain tools and resources so that they can propel in their careers, whether they are a thriving corporate queen or a startup hustler trying to take their side hustle to the next level,” McDonald said. “The Black Girl Magic Summit equips women with the stories of other Black women that look like them. And ultimately those stories showcase a big possibility. A big possibility of how you overcome, how you create, how you make impact and how you transform, not just your community, but generations to come with the career that you desire, that you deserve to have.”
The summit included the pitch competition for Black female entrepreneurs.
“We’ve all seen the alarm that as it relates to Black women when they are running a business or the funds it takes to run a business or as a collective, how they’re being supported through investors in the marketplace. And the stats say, ‘1,800 Black women are starting a business every day.’ But out of those 1,800, only 20% are above the poverty level. And the biggest hurdle for them was funding, access to dollars, investors and people. So, we want to make it a little bit more accessible for the Black woman who is really equipped to create this career of her dreams if you will, and we want to be able to position her … If she has a need for inventory dollars that we’re able to supply her with that or if she has a need for marketing, that’s what these dollars can be used for. Or if she just has an idea and she has a proof of concept, these dollars to help propel her to the next level.”
McDonald said her organization is an offline media women’s empowerment community that creates experiences for women to connect and be a resource through brands who are looking for Black women who are looking to market themselves because they understand that Black women are the highest spending consumer out of any ethnicity.
Currently, the group has a community of over 100,000 Black women that brands can serve.
McDonald said she started Boss Women Media after working as a mid-level manager in corporate America and not getting further opportunities to move up.
“I worked in corporate America, and I worked in mid-management, and I never saw anyone in leadership who looked like me, and I knew that there were other peers who may not have the same organization, but same level who were seeing the same challenges that I was experiencing,” McDonald said. “I decided to create a space and a place for women to connect and talk together, gaining resources on how they can propel their career forward. And so that was the premise of Boss Women Media.”
The competition was open to Black female entrepreneurs who could show how their business could solve a problem in the marketplace or help communities thrive.
A total of four judges including McDonald picked the winners.
“We selected three winners based on the problem that they were solving and where we saw the dollars that really impacted their business,” she said. “We have a rubric that we go by in terms of selection based on what the presentation looks like, the marketplace, the opportunity and then what’s the pitch?”
The competition received about 10,000 applicants from around the country. Two of the top three finalists went to Dallas residents.
“And so this year, our first place winner was chef Amber Williams from Dallas who had a commercial kitchen to address the food desert and lack of fresh food in South Dallas. There is a huge need for resources in this Southern Sector of Dallas,” she explained. “And so she’s creating a commercial kitchen that not only allows chefs to take part in to utilize but also for the people who live in the Southern Sector to be educated on how they can properly cook and create healthy solutions for them and their family. So that the disparities that are in front of us can be eliminated as a Black race.”
Williams, the owner of Le Rouge Cuisine won a $50,000 grant. Blair Gyamfi and Morgan Taylor of Moms Actually received the second-place prize of a $30,000 grant. Third place and $20,000 was awarded to Fathiyyah Doster of Juice Defined.
Williams said she was shocked when she found out her business beat out nearly 10,000 applicants to claim the top prize.
Williams – who resides in Oak Cliff, where she runs her Creole fusion catering business – grew up on a blend of Texas and Louisiana culture and flavors.
“I’ve actually been cooking since I was little, and I came from a family of home cooks and people who just love food and have been around my whole life. And at the age of eight, I knew that I wanted to become a chef so I could share those same memories and flavors with potential clients,” Williams said.
Her mission is to serve fresh food and meet the needs of those living in food deserts such as South Dallas.
“The foundation part of our business is trying to eliminate food deserts,” Williams said. “I grew up in a food desert. I still stay in the area now that is considered a food desert. And that’s always been my social impact focus for my company. I even spent my free time volunteering and teaching cooking classes on behalf of nonprofits to aid that effort. So one of my goals or one of the plans that I’ve been working on is to open up the first production kitchen space in the Southern Sector of Dallas, because there are none that exist right now. And a part of that experience was pitching my idea to build out that production kitchen. So now that money is going to be a seed, so I can start on making this production kitchen a reality.”
Williams said she is passionate about helping those who do not have access to fresh produce or food.
“Although I still live in a food desert, you know, I’m privileged enough to have the means to go to Whole Foods and Central Market whereas the rest of the community doesn’t,” she said. “And a lot of these issues are systemic. I think the community and other communities like food deserts deserve a chance. They deserve the education, the access to healthy food so we can give ourselves a chance for a healthier life, a longer life and we can just broaden ourselves to enjoy without that having been a detriment to us.”
Williams said she noticed that most of the commercial kitchens that are popping up in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex are on the North side of the city.
“If anybody’s going to fill the void, you know, it’s gonna be me,” Williams said. “So it’s a big task. It’s a bit of a big ask, and I know most investors are looking towards those opportunities for that – just believe that you know the right people come into play. They’ll have the money. They’ll believe in the vision, and we will make it happen.”
Despite her struggle during the COVID-10 pandemic, Williams said she will continue to build her business.
“We will keep growing and keep excelling, but this will be a huge experience going into the investment side and going into this real estate side of things, which is new territory for me,” she said.
Williams also has some advice for others looking to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality or are thinking about entering a future competition such the one she entered.
“Keep networking because I do believe that your network is your network and just constantly expanding,” Williams said. “My network has proven to be such a pivotal part of my business growth, and a lot of the people in my network act as my marketing team. They’re pushing my name.”
“Keep educating yourself. I’m constantly looking for opportunity, always staying abreast of what’s going on, and really tapping into those untapped markets. So I can find those hidden opportunities that I can take advantage of. So just stay forever a student of your craft. You know, I’m forever learning about business. I’m forever learning about where the trends in the food industry are going, and how I can build my business and make it a competitive business and kind of a pivot to a niche place where I can kind of elevate and kind of dominate in this space.”