When you watch the news, most of the big-name entrepreneurs you hear about are white males in Silicon Valley – Mark Zuckerburg, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and the like. But don’t let that deceive you – Black women are one of the fastest-growing demographic groups of entrepreneurs in the United States.
If you need inspiration as a Black female entrepreneur, it can be difficult to know where to look when you aren’t represented in the media. To solve that, we’ve got a list of 35 Black female entrepreneurs who are making big moves and changing the game.
We would be remiss not to start this list off with the queen of Black female business: the one and only Oprah Winfrey. She’s known for her work as one of the most popular daytime talk show hosts on television, but her work in business is just as impressive – if not more. She started a TV network, founded a production company, and is estimated to be worth nearly $3 billion.
She may have started as a fashion model, but Iman’s business sense is what powers her day-to-day success these days. Since 1994, the Somali-born entrepreneur has focused on her own cosmetics line which focuses on providing makeup for people with darker complexions.
She also started a clothing design line in partnership with the Home Shopping Network. The line is called Global Chic and it has become exceptionally popular.
The CEO and founder of the Buzz Marketing Group, Tina Wells has been working hard to aid companies in connecting with young demographics. Buzz Marketing works with significant clients like MAC Cosmetics, Nike, and Steve Madden, taking advantage of social media to bring them the best information on how to engage young people.
Tina Wells has also written a book titled Chasing Youth Culture and Getting It Right.
Sheila Johnson is a legend in Black entrepreneurship. She is the first Black woman to reach a $1 billion net worth in the United States as well as to become the owner or partner of three professional sports franchises. But beyond that, she is perhaps best known for having co-founded the BET network with her then-husband Robert Johnson. Her influence runs far and wide.
The hair and skincare business Carol’s Daughter has blessed millions of customers with its uniquely effective product line, and Lisa Price is the entrepreneur behind it all.
She started out experimenting with creating different beauty products in her bedroom until a segment on women in business came on Oprah. That inspired her to turn her hobby into a business, and now she’s raking in the benefits of that decision (and the dedication that followed).
She’s an actress, a rapper, a singer – and an entrepreneur. Queen Latifah is one of the most successful Black women in the world: she’s the Queen of Rap for a reason. But you shouldn’t ignore her business chops. She’s been an executive producer for several different television projects, like season 3 of MTV’s television version of Scream. She’s also the partial owner of Flavor Unit Entertainment.
There’s something intrinsically beautiful about Black women starting businesses, but the Bronx’s Noëlle Santos has taken that beauty to the next level: her business helps her community as well as her own pockets. She’s the founder of The Lit. Bar, a New York City bookstore that works actively to increase literacy in her community.
The project began out of a protest to save her neighborhood’s only bookstore, and it ended with her founding her own. After years of work, the Lit. Bar opened in 2019.
In 1971, Beverly Johnson stepped onto the cover of the US edition of Vogue and into the public consciousness. That high-water moment in her modeling career ended up becoming a significant starting point for her business career. She founded the Beverly Johnson Hair Collection, which soon became a significant designer and supplier of wigs and beauty products of all kinds.
Takia Ross is a ray of sunshine in the business world. She is the owner and founder of Accessmatized, a Baltimore-based makeup studio that focuses on bringing beauty and positivity to every one of her customers. The business is growing fast, reporting high revenue growth year-to-year. If you live in Baltimore, we recommend trying it out!
Like many entrepreneurs, Funlayo Alabi started her business from a place of dissatisfaction and a refusal to simply accept that things had to stay the way they are. She couldn’t find any products that would work to heal her dry skin, so she founded her own beauty company to make it happen. Her company Shea Radiance is now on the shelves of 450 major retailers, and she is thriving.
The fingerprints of Angela Benton’s entrepreneurship are all over the Internet. She is currently the CEO and Founder of Streamlytics, a data firm that focuses on identifying streaming trends while prioritizing ethics in personal data ownership.
She has also founded a global startup accelerator for minorities called NewME, which has been since acquired. Before that, she started BlackWeb, which served as a place for African-Americans with technological interests to congregate on the web.
If we’re honest with ourselves, a lot of the time we’re just guessing when we choose different makeup and beauty products. Sure, we know some things that work well with our features, but products are seldom actually matched to us. That’s what Kimberly Dillon tried to remedy when she founded the company House of Mikko.
Dillon’s story is an inspiring one for a couple of reasons – first of all, she succeeded in starting a company and working behind it for some time, but the company is no longer active. That said, Dillon hasn’t let one failure stop her from doing good work – she’s now the Vice President of Marketing at Papa & Barkley.
Yve-Car Momperousse is passionate about bringing together social businesses and “real” businesses. In that pursuit, she founded Kreyol Essence, a beauty company informed heavily by the styles and resources of Haiti. They especially focus on using Haitian black castor oil and moringa oil. All of their products are ethically sourced from Haitian farmers in good labor conditions.
Beyonce didn’t get her unique combination of drive and on-stage power from thin air – her mom, Tina Knowles, merits your attention. Before her daughter’s prominence, she owned and operated a hair salon in Houston, TX. Now, she has two fashion lines to her name, both of which are only sold through the Home Shopping Network and Walmart.
Kita Williams and Monique Jackson
You may know Williams and Jackson, more often known as Kita and Mo, from The T.O. Show, but their business talents expand far beyond what you’ll see there. They were co-executive producers of the T.O. Show until 2011 and leveraged their show’s success into successful public relations careers.
Like many of the entrepreneurs on this list, Tasha Smith took her success in an industry and leveraged that into a business. She started the Tasha Smith Actors Workshop to help other actors grow into their gifts and talents. It offers online classes and private coaching services, following a 12-step program based on the Chubbuck Technique.
Amber Williams believes that stories reach potential customers way better than sales pitches, and she’s passionate about helping businesses tell their stories effectively. She focuses on helping beauty brands specifically and loves to especially help people of color to turn their business into a sustainable and successful venture.
Her clients have appeared in Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, and more.
Rita Robert Otu
Rita Robert Otu loves agriculture, business, and supporting rural women – that’s why she founded Beau Haven Farms. It’s both a farm and a training center for Nigerian women to come and learn more about the art of growing cassava and starting businesses of their own. Because of Otu’s training, these women leave with a new way of life in front of them.
In 2019, SaVonne Anderson launched Aya Paper Co – an eco-friendly stationery business based in Newark, NJ. It’s a small company right now, but Anderson’s verve and business sense are sure to grow it significantly before long.
And indeed, the company has been growing. They’ve created partnerships with major sellers like Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Nordstrom, and their revenue has been growing significantly.
Math club isn’t widely considered to be “fun” among children, but Angela McIver is setting out to change that through Trapezium Math. She started the club in 2014 as an in-person venture but was forced to shift it online through the COVID-19 pandemic. But that shift has also been a blessing, as she has been able to make it available to many new clients.
Tracy Reese has had many shots at entrepreneurship, like many of the names on this list. But she has never given up, no matter what has happened to her businesses. And that perseverance has paid off in massive success – she’s a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, she’s designed for Michelle Obama, and she’s opened fashion lines carried by huge retailers all over the world.
Corvida Raven has been dubbed the “Oprah of the Web” by some – she founded the blog shegeeks.net when she was just 19 years old. Shegeeks is a female-focused tech blog that speaks in plain language to readers of all kinds. She’s received recognition from Essence, Fast Company, TheGrio, and more in her work.
Shonda Rhimes is a legend. She’s a show creator, a writer, and a producer of some of the best television to grace the world’s screens. From Bridgerton to Grey’s Anatomy to Scandal, Rhimes is an immensely popular, award-winning artist. She has not allowed the industry pressures of racism and misogyny to keep her down and has allowed her relentlessly creative spirit to spur her into success.
Cathy Hughes was the first African-American woman to lead a publically-traded corporation as well as the first one to start a media network of her own. She founded Radio One in 1999, which has gone on to become a hugely influential radio network.
The Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s Business Hall of Fame inducted her, the Sojourner Douglass College of Baltimore gave her an honorary doctorate, and she’s received many more awards as well.
Leanna Archer has been an entrepreneur since the age of 9 when she founded Leanna’s Essentials., a haircare line that focuses on all-natural hair and body care products. The company doesn’t appear to still be active, but Archer’s story of refusing to give up on her childhood dream is nonetheless inspiring.
Madame C.J. Walker
Madame C.J. Walker was the first African-American woman to become a self-made millionaire. She started her haircare company by creating products and selling them door-to-door. By 1908, she opened up a factory and beauty school and started pumping out pomade, shampoos, and hair growth options. Soon, she was unstoppably successful.
This list could not possibly be complete without the inclusion of Tyra Banks. She’s followed the pattern that many other Black women before her have: be successful at something, then turn it into a business.
For Banks, her trade was modeling.
She was the first Black woman to appear on the covers of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and GQ. She took that success and ran, starting TV shows, fashion lines, and new ventures left and right.
Shontay Lundy saw a need in her community: all the sun protection products on the market were for white people. They didn’t work well with Black skin and left behind an unsightly white cast after use.
So she started Black Girl Sunscreen, a company that sells sun protection products that double as moisturizers, geared specifically towards the skin needs of Black women.
Beatrice Dixon cares a lot about feminine hygiene. In her youth, she created a clean, natural feminine wash for personal use. She got the recipe from an ancestral dream and used it as the basis for the Honey Pot Company, which creates all-natural, plant-based feminine care products. Dixon has been quite successful in this pursuit.
KJ Miller and Amanda Johnson
It’s common knowledge that often when cosmetic companies sell “nude” colored items, they’re primarily marketed to white complexions. That’s why K.J. Miller and Amanda Johnson set out to provide an alternative for women of color, creating Mented Cosmetics. Pigment is their passion, and also the basis for their name – “pigMented.”
Pinky Cole is an Atlanta-based restauranteur with a passion for innovation. In 2018, she founded Slutty Vegan, a food truck that focuses on serving irresistibly delicious vegan dishes. Through her hard work, unique marketing, and relentless perseverance, it has grown to four trucks spread throughout the city.
Judi Townsend created the Oakland-based Mannequin Madness as a side hustle in 2001, but they’re now one of the top five distributors of mannequins in the country. Their distinctive mannequin recycling program is also the most successful one in the country, according to their website.
Since she was a child, Dreena Whitfield has cared a whole lot about telling Black stories. She wrote fictional Black stories then, and now she works to amplify real Black stories through her public relations firm WhitPR. Whitfield wants to help other Black entrepreneurs and magnify their efforts by providing them the resources to effectively communicate to their audiences.
Mara Brock Akil
Mara Brock Akil is a writer, a TV producer, and the co-founder of Akil Productions. She’s been the business voice behind some major TV hits like Girlfriends and Being Mary Jane, and is currently working with Netflix to create new content.
Birame Sock is an eclectic entrepreneur – she’s founded a digital marketing platform called FlyScan, Inc, she’s an Independent Board Director of the TV loyalty rewards company Viggle, Inc, she created the receipt management software MyReceipts, and much more.
She’s a power player whose endlessly curious and inventive spirit is a blessing to the world.
Famous Black Female Entrepreneurs, Final Thoughts
Black women will do what it takes to make things work, and the women we’ve featured on this list are some of the most creative, dedicated people in the world right now. If you’re feeling inspired by this list, don’t just continue scrolling – get out there and start something incredible!