“Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them!” ~ Madam C.J. Walker
Madam C.J. Walker is one of the most influential entrepreneurs to ever start a business. Not only that, she created a product that solved a problem in her own community and was able to find much success in that. Nearly a century later, we continue to honor her legacy and the legacy of other black leaders and influencers during Black History Month. While the month is about honoring the past, we must also take a moment to look into the future and highlight the black entrepreneurs working today.
Crystal Etienne, PantyProp
Stain-free wearable’s that eliminates discomfort, and correctly absorbs leaks and stains.
Crystal Etienne, founder of PantyProp, is a great friend and success story from Maker’s Row – you can check out her interview on Maker’s Row Live here. What makes her such a great example of an entrepreneur is that she had no experience in the industry she was looking to work in. However, she took the leap anyway! “PantyProp began out of my own frustration with constant discomfort and worry during my day,” she told us.
Though it’s a product and industry that was a hard sell, she has found a lot of success. She noted, “in 2016, in only a few months we were able to bring 90% of our products to market, secure agreements, and grow rapidly.” Crystal has strong goals and hopes for the coming year, but she left us with this advice, “starting a business is one of the hardest things to do to your brain, but the feeling is one of the best things to have in your heart.”
Dondre Smith, ALMVGHTY
Streetwear brand that cuts & sews high-quality garments for the original and unique
When it comes to the start of his brand ALMVGHTY, Dondre Smith said that it began when he taught himself how to use photoshop and illustrator in his school’s computer lab. Since then, he had found success. He highlighted a recent event his brand coordinated: “The biggest achievement for my brand was the Civil Arts event we threw in the beginning of the year. It was our first fashion show and pop-up shop in Wicker Park Chicago. It was a successful event with a great turnout.”
When we asked him what year would be his breakout year, he said, “I believe this will be the year.” He added that one of his goals was “to be sold in 3-5 retailers by the end of the year, become one of the [best] known streetwear brands.” His words for entrepreneurs were to “put your ideas into action. If you have a desire to create or share your vision, then have the faith that you can do it! Then create a plan and execute it with persistence.”
Markisha Velazquez, Junior Baby Hatter
We make tiny caps for tiny chaps and offer matching father and son hat sets
Like many entrepreneurs, Markisha Velazquez started her business to solve a problem that she was experiencing. “Shopping for my own son, I saw an inequality for stylish accessories for baby boys compared to baby girls. I wanted parents to have just as much fun dressing up their sons as they do their daughters,” she said.
Speaking to her fellow entrepreneurs, she said, “Do it! Don’t over think it. Just surround yourselves with other positive people with a boss mentality and the rest will fall in line. The resources are out there. It just takes a bit of grit to find the answers and guts to ask the questions. Also share your vision with as many people as possible and then listen. You don’t have to take everyone’s advice, but you will learn a lot from their feedback.” Check out some of her articles on our blog!
Randy Wells, Rockridge
Premium men’s shirting crafted responsibly from the finest materials
Randy Wells, who has written several articles for our blog, started Rockridge in the fall of 2015 after being frustrated with being unable to find well-fitted button down shirts at a reasonable price.”After 18 months of prototyping and testing, we launched in 2016 and have never looked back.” Since then, he said, “getting to a point where I felt confident and proud of the shirt we made.”
When asked about words of encouragement for entrepreneurs, he added, “work on a very small part of your idea and if you enjoy the process then keep moving forward.”