In the spirit of Black History Month, we’re excited to turn the spotlight on some amazing Black-owned businesses within the Seller Community to share their stories on how they navigate the world of entrepreneurship.
We chatted with some Seller Community members — Stacelyn @Stacelyn24, Jacqueline @JUYBoutique20 , Alicia @rjonin , Lenore @lenjobakes, and Ernestine @TOTSC — to learn more about their journeys as Black entrepreneurs, what Black History Month means to them, and how they mark Black History Month throughout the month of February.
How do you celebrate Black History Month in your business, and what does this month mean to you personally?
“We celebrate Black History month at the nail salon by showcasing customized nail art that we use and design on our clients’ nails. We normally post once to twice a week about a Black innovator who has helped the society or who is actively uplifting the society as a whole. We also create a unique cocktail that will be featured with one of our specialty pedicures. 🙂” — Stacelyn (Stacelyn24)
“During Black History Month I set up a display with the main focus being a drawing/art piece created by my daughter celebrating the beauty of our culture. This year I’m adding artwork from another Black artist as well. Personally, this month means to me that other cultures get to learn more about my culture. Whether they are intentional about it or not, it’s everywhere during this time, so I make sure to highlight any and all Black culture excellence.” — Jacqueline (JUYBoutique20)
“In my business I make Black History Month a special time by sharing inspiring stories of Black people. I started with a newsletter to my clients, then ventured into BHM-themed nail art on social media last year. This year I’m excited about creating a founder series on Instagram, beginning with my own journey. While it’s heartening to see BHM recognized nationally, I hope for more continuous integration of Black history beyond just a month of celebration.” — Alicia (rjonin)
“We don’t really celebrate Black History Month at work! As the owner and only Black person on staff, it feels pretty strange to be like, ‘Celebrate meeeee!’ But I operate every day like it’s Black History Month in that I’m incredibly proud of my heritage and my culture and don’t shy away from talking about it or embracing it. Black History Month used to feel a lot more like a celebration when I was younger, I think. Back then I was also raised more in a monoculture featuring folks from the Caribbean (mostly Jamaica) because I went to a traditional Black church. Now that I’ve moved out of the city and away from that community, there’s less of an emphasis on breaking down ‘our culture’ for the younger ones because we aren’t in as concentrated a space. I do mourn the loss of that specialness. Someone today actually referred to February as the ‘worst month of the year’ because winter does drag on here in Canada, but I was still taken aback by it!” — Lenore (lenjobakes)
“We actually just celebrated by attending the famous Orange County Black History Parade and Unity event on February 3 in Anaheim, California. The energy at this event made me proud as a Black-, woman-, and veteran-owned and operated business owner!” — Ernestine (TOTSC)
@JUYBoutique20 is selling their Black Excellence Collection for Black History Month
Have you faced any unique challenges as a Black entrepreneur, and how have you overcome them in the course of building and running your business?
“Haven’t really faced any major [challenges]. We do have clients calling, asking us if we’re really Black-owned. Seems the Asian walk-in salons have been advertising that they are Black-owned as well, and a lot of people have been misled.” — Stacelyn (Stacelyn24)
“Yes, indeed. As business owners I think we all face unique challenges, but as a Black, female business owner I feel like I’m not taken as seriously as my fellow male or other ethnicity business owners. I feel like I’m sometimes pushed down the list and others are taken care of before me. I handle this type of behavior by showing up as my authentic self and making sure everyone knows I’m just as great if not even better than others they are comparing me to. I’m very proud that I’ve built my business from displaying my product on a six-foot table to opening two locations.” — Jacqueline (JUYBoutique20)
“Challenges have definitely been part of my journey. Access to capital was a significant hurdle for me, a big reason for my love affair with Square. As the business grows, my focus is shifting to strategic planning. Figuring out where to reinvest revenues — whether in marketing, new equipment, or staffing — is now crucial. Mentorship has been a game-changer for me. Participating in a small-business accelerator program for Black founders has provided valuable guidance. I’m eager to see how my business evolves over the next 12–24 months.” — Alicia (rjonin)
“I think there will always be challenges as a Black entrepreneur. We started in 2020, and in May of that year, George Floyd was murdered. There was an influx of customers all of a sudden! We could attribute it to a lot — people wanting to support local during a pandemic, people just wanting to support a Black business owner — but the reality is it felt a lot like virtue signaling. Those customers didn’t find us because our product was good; they found us because I happened to be Black. A lot of them stayed on as regular customers, and I’m glad they found us, but a lot more were here for the post on social media to show that they were ‘doing their part.’ We’ve become incredibly discerning about who we align ourselves with (especially in February), because we have *lots* of requests for last-minute orders because they want to support a Black entrepreneur. But you see them once for the year and they’re attempting to make you scramble because of their bad planning. That doesn’t make sense.” — Lenore (lenjobakes)
“Funding. I continue to press forward with a positive outlook.” — Ernestine (TOTSC)
Are there historical figures or events from Black history that inspire or influence your business values and practices?
“I’m inspired by a number of people, including Mabel B. Little, who helped shape Black Wall Street along with other great entrepreneurs. But my biggest inspiration was and will always be my mother. I watched her work so hard to take care of us and make sure we had everything we needed and wanted. When I had kids, I wanted them to know they didn’t have to work for anyone to be successful. They have the option to create something and build it for themselves.” — Jacqueline (JUYBoutique20)
What advice would you give to aspiring Black entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own businesses, especially during Black History Month?
“Know your numbers. Know how much it’s going to take, down to the last penny, then round up. Add in your profit and then start pricing from there. Again: Know. Your. Numbers. 🙂” — Stacelyn (Stacelyn24)
“Do it. Today is your opportunity to build the tomorrow you’ve always wanted for you and your family. Just think, a month from now you can either have a month of progress or a month of excuses for why you didn’t progress. Last but not least, enjoy the journey.” — Jacqueline (JUYBoutique20)
“To aspiring Black entrepreneurs starting their own businesses I’d say, ‘Define your WHY, and then redefine it and then redefine it again.’ Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey that tests your mental fortitude. Knowing your purpose and that of your business at a deep level will help you navigate the tough days. If money is the primary motivation, I’d say reconsider entrepreneurship and perhaps redefine your WHY. Don’t hesitate to ask for help; we go farther together. While every business is unique, the foundational tools of business apply across niches. So, define your WHY and seek support along the way.” — Alicia (rjonin)
“I’m actually a venture coach with an entrepreneurship accelerator here in Kitchener, specifically for Black entrepreneurs. I tell them what I was told all my life, ‘You’ll have to work at least twice as hard to get as far as some other folks.’ It was true when I was growing up, and it’s true now. However, you cannot be denied if you come correct — have all of your facts straight, be well-educated about what you offer, ensure your finances are in order. Folks can *want* to deny you, but they can’t deny a good thing. Be assured with what you need to start your business, get a good mentor/coach around you, and make sure your product is outstanding. Other than that, be your normal, typical self. You don’t wake up in the morning and see Blackness — you just see you. Use your self-confidence (real or manufactured for the moment) to make room at tables that no one is saving space for you at, and back it up with being able to deliver what you promise. Soon, folks will also just see you for you and what you bring as well.” — Lenore (lenjobakes)
“SIMPLY START and the momentum will come! Most of all, celebrate and be proud of your progress, no matter how big or small it may seem to YOU. For your ideas and efforts have the ability to change the world. JUMP IN! YOU ARE NEEDED!!!” — Ernestine (TOTSC)
Thank you to Stacelyn @Stacelyn24, Jacqueline @JUYBoutique20 , Alicia @rjonin , Lenore @lenjobakes, and Ernestine @TOTSC for taking the time to participate in this article. 🖤 Learn more about their businesses below.
- @Stacelyn24 owns Digits and Spikes, a nail salon in Charlotte, NC.
- @JUYBoutique20 owns an online women’s boutique, Jackie’s Uniquely U Boutique.
- @rjonin owns Peint, a nail salon in Houston, TX.
- @lenjobakes owns Lenjobakes, a bakery in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
- @TOTSC owns The Old Town Soap Company, a soap store in San Diego, CA.
Did you know that the Seller Community has a group specifically for Black entrepreneurs and business owners? Join Uplifted Voices today.
Max is a Community engagement manager at Square. He’s passionate about helping sellers grow their businesses and fostering connection within the Seller Community.
This article is only for informational purposes. The information provided in this article solely reflects the authors’ views and are not endorsed by Square. This article is limited in scope and is only intended as a high-level overview of the topics mentioned. Seller Community conversations are for educational purposes and do not constitute legal, financial, or tax advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, you should consult with a qualified legal professional.
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