Aspiring toward business success isn’t a new concept, but few can get it right. Here are 10 U.S.-based companies founded by Black business owners to watch this year. Follow these inspiring young Black entrepreneurs on social media and see what heights their businesses reach.
Image Source: Public relations for Rockstaws Incorporated
1. Adrian Sullivan and Sharif Finch, Rockstaws Incorporated
Since we’re a Greater Philadelphia small business ourselves, it seems only fitting to first spotlight a local Black-owned business. Media agency Rockstaws Incorporated (RSI) was founded by former Temple University football player Adrian Sullivan and Sharif Finch, linebacker for the New York Jets.
Not only does the agency focus on representing area creatives, entertainers, athletes and business professionals, it has a soft spot for the community, too.
“RSI’s mission is to cultivate stronger media presence for young Black talent. They share their stories as successful Black men and women to inspire and champion other underrepresented disruptors,” says Binh Nguyen, public relations consultant for the agency.
Image Source: Jantrice Johnson of Muka
2. Jantrice Johnson, Muka
Disheartened by the extreme disparity between white and Black homeownership, Jantrice Johnson, a Realtor in Tennessee, is driving change.
Johnson says, “Over the years, I wanted to establish a community that would facilitate closing this gap. After years of studying statistics, tuning in to minority clients and realtors, I built Muka.”
“At Muka, we connect minority home buyers and sellers to trusted realtors that understand you and your needs while also providing educational tips that will make the home buying and selling experience easier — one online connection at a time, says Johnson.
“What makes us different is along with our community of real estate professionals, we will also be opening our doors to trusted minority vendors — including movers, interior designers, construction and more,” she says. “This will offer opportunities and connections to minority business owners and a database for new homeowners that just don’t know where to start.”
Johnson was inspired by her mother, who has more than 3 decades of experience as a real estate agent and who worked as an African American Realtor during a time when the vast majority of workers in the industry were white men.
Through her agent referral platform, Johnson wants you “to be able to find a realtor who looks like you,” and in turn encourage business growth for minority real estate professionals and related vendors.
According to Johnson, Muka has received great feedback and will be officially launched this spring.
Image Source: Orchids + Sweet Tea
3. Shanika Graham-White, Orchids + Sweet Tea
Shanika Graham-White is a recipe developer, food stylist, author and blogger.
Orchids + Sweet Tea is a “lifestyle blog that caters to proving that healthier eating doesn’t have to be boring. On my website, I share a ton of simple, unique recipes that are either vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, or regular — always using organic ingredients, she says.
A self-taught cook and baker, Graham-White’s recipes stem from her Jamaican and Southern backgrounds. “I grew up loving foods that offered real flair and extreme flavor,” she shares.
She’s collaborated with such brands as Califia Farms, So Delicious Dairy-Free, Bob’s Red Mill, Wholesome Sweet, Food52, The Kitchn and Primal Kitchen, among others. She was also featured as a food stylist in an article in the October magazine issue of Food Network.
“Overall, my mission is to help my audience feel more confident in the kitchen, while also being able to enjoy bold, unique flavors that don’t compromise their healthy lifestyle goals, she shares”
Graham-White also operates a curated shop on her website, where she shares her favorite foods, wellness and lifestyle products, including those from Black-owned businesses. In the fall, her book, “Orchids and Sweet Tea: Plant-Forward Recipes with Jamaican Flavor & Southern Charm,” will be released. To encourage healthier living, there will be more than 175 recipes featured.
Image Source: Solely Fit
4. Stefania Okolie, Solely Fit
Known for her news reporting on ABC 13 Houston, Stefania Okolie recently launched the apparel brand Solely Fit, which include Dermis and the Black Collection. Her clothing includes leggings, bodysuits, biker shorts, hoodies, pullovers, bras, tees and tanks.
According to public relations firm Creative Label, Okolie “created an apparel brand all about beauty, strength, and inclusivity. Solely Fit highlights everything powerful about women, their boldness, beauty, confidence and fearlessness.”
Okolie’s pieces have been used by celebrity stylists and reportedly worn by singer and actress Zendaya. Solely Fit also has been featured in InStyle Magazine, Essence and BuzzFeed.
Image Source: Black Bourbon Society
5. Samara B. Davis, Black Bourbon Society
Samara Davis founded Black Bourbon Society, a three-tiered membership experience for African Americans who enjoy the taste of bourbon. Benefits include access to weekend bourbon tasting trips and brand-partnered events. Merchandise is available, and private whiskey tasting experiences hosted by Davis herself are also available.
With a strong social media presence, Davis has grown the Black Bourbon Society to a membership of more than 20,000 in 5 years’ time. Additionally, she consults with spirits brands about issues involving diversity and inclusion.
She’s been featured on Wine Enthusiast’s 40 Under 40 Tastemaker 2020, The New York Times and Forbes. Davis also co-hosts the “Bonded in Bourbon” podcast and writes for the Bourbon Zeppelin each month.
Image Source: LinkedIn
6. Abbey Wemimo, Esusu
Along with his partner Samir Goel, Nigerian-born Abbey Wemimo made Forbes’ Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs list. In 2019, the two co-founded New York-based Esusu, which contracts with rental housing providers and landlords. The company’s vision and mission is “to unleash the power of data to bridge the racial wealth gap” and “dismantle barriers to housing for working families.”
The goal is to help tenants get ahead by reporting their rental payment history to Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, a payment not typically reported to the 3 major bureaus.
Reported payments could help many on-time tenants improve their credit scores. The company states individuals with established credit who have demonstrated on-time payment of 2 years could see a credit score jump of 25-50 points.
In another gesture of goodwill, Esusu created a rental aid fund to help those affected by COVID-19. There are more than 200,000 users on the platform.
Image Source: Third Person Omniscient Productions
7. Joy Cheriel Brown, Third Person Omniscient Productions
Having studied film and English in college, Joy Cheriel Brown founded Third Person Omniscient Productions, currently in production on its first feature film. The company’s mission is to elevate the collective conscience by producing television shows, plays and films that explore the meaning of life.
Brown also is a book author and scriptwriter and has received various industry accolades, including Playwright of the Year from ACHI Magazine. Additionally, her 2019 short film “N.O.S.” is currently showing on Amazon Prime, where it’s received a 4-star rating.
Image Source: Elev8
8. Seun Adedeji, Elev8 Cannabis
With the cannabis industry blossoming in the U.S., Seun Adedeji is cashing in on the retail side of things with Elev8.
Adedeji shares, “We have locations in Oregon and Massachusetts and I am considered to be the youngest Black cannabis dispensary owner in the country at 27 who was determined to gain success in this industry.”
He goes on, “My mission with Elev8 is to support the variety of customers and veterans who purchase cannabis products for health and wellness. Our goal is to always treat them and all of our medicinal and recreational use customers like gold. This I believe is what sets Elev8 apart: our ability to genuinely honor our customers.”
“Additionally, we’re on a steady track of success with multistate stores in operation, and two additional stores to open soon in Massachusetts where we currently have one,” says Adedeji. Illinois locations are also coming soon.
Image Source: MediTEAtions
9. Caryn Ward Ross, MediTEAtions
Health and wellness are at the forefront of so many people’s minds these days. Caryn Ward Ross, actress and small business owner, understands this, which is why she’s created MediTEAtions, a premium loose-leaf tea and tonic company.
Ross shares, “I launched MediTEAtions during the pandemic as it seemed even more important given the physical, psychological and emotional distance COVID has brought into our lives. By sharing a cup of tea, and speaking affirming words, we can create meaning and deeper connections — even if it is just over Zoom.”
She describes her brand as a “liquid meditation experience centered around affirmations and intentional living” and credits her grandmother for her love of tea (and prayer).
She goes on to say, “I created a tea blend specifically around using our voice and being who we are — unapologetically. It is called Manifest GOOD TROUBLE – ‘The I’m Speaking Blend’ to celebrate this historic moment in time, as well as honor our ancestors that were silenced and could not speak.”
Image Source: Maya’s Ideas
10. Maya Penn
More than a decade ago, Maya Penn started her company, Maya’s Ideas. She was 8 years old at the time and wanted to sell environmentally sustainable fashion accessories.
Since then, she has come to be a TED speaker, artist, animator, filmmaker, coder, author and activist. She also has been recognized by Oprah Winfrey as a “SuperSoul 100 Entrepreneur.”
Additionally, Penn is involved in various charitable initiatives and is the founder of Maya’s Ideas 4 the Planet, a 501(c) nonprofit.
These Young Black Entrepreneurs Are Re-Energizing the Business World
Thanks to their diverse backgrounds and experiences, these top young Black entrepreneurs are introducing fresh ideas and new perspectives into the business world that are sure to stir up excitement in 2022.
Some of these ventures are inspired by heritage and values, while others are shaped by social, economic and environmental forces. In many cases, philanthropy, charity and community care are overarching missions for these small business owners.