Despite fewer support networks, less access to resources, and an unrelenting global pandemic, many Black-owned businesses have achieved an astonishing feat since 2020. They continue to rise and flourish even in a struggling economy. According to NBC News, American Black business owners increased by a staggering 38 percent from February 2020 to August 2021. Black entrepreneurship is booming across all industries and these enterprising business owners are smashing barriers, celebrating diversity, and representing the next generation of Black-owned businesses.
Young Paris, Musician, Fashion Icon & NFT Entrepreneur
Young Paris is known for his electrifying, high-energy musical performances. His dynamic tracks even caught the eye of Jay-Z’s ROC Nation, leading to a deal with the label in 2016, where he worked alongside artists such as Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Olamide, Skales, Jay Park, and Trinidad James. However, Paris is so much more than a talented musician and producer. He’s a Renaissance man, a prolific creator, tastemaker, and entrepreneur, making his mark in music, art, fashion, real estate, and the NFT space.
Paris is committed to creating opportunities in the Metaverse for Black creators. Not only is he an avid supporter of the hottest NFT projects, but he’s releasing his much-anticipated NFT collection, the Syndicated Cat Club, at the end of February 2022. The collection, which has already caught the eye of investors and art appreciators, consists of 9999 unique digital art pieces of bespoke creatures. The Syndicated Cat Club will be featured in the Metaverse alongside Disney, Marvel, and other media powerhouses.
“I’d like to see more Black creatives in the NFT space because so many amazing under-represented artists can tap into this market and profit from the high liquidity and potential return of owning these tokens,” says Paris. “NFT’s are a unique and very profitable space for all artists. I’d like to use my platform to encourage more Black designers, musicians, and creatives to get on board.”
Chef Derrick McCray, Senior Owner and CEO
Chef Derrick McCray, Senior Owner and CEO of McCray’s Backyard BBQ & Seafood, is a third-generation pitmaster carrying on his family’s tradition of serving up the best barbeque in the world. From addiction, homelessness, and several near-death experiences to serving up his world-famous barbeque to celebrities such as Serena and Venus Williams, Brad Pitt, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Dan Marino, former President Bill Clinton, and President Joe Biden, McCray knows how to play the long game.
A former Florida A&M University wide receiver, once scouted for the Dallas Cowboys, McCray always imagined going to the Super Bowl, but he couldn’t have imagined the road that would lead him to the Big Game. McCray’s Backyard BBQ & Seafood caught the attention of the NFL host committee in 2006 when a West Palm Beach employee recommended his food truck to cater an event for the host committee at West Palm Beach City Hall. It was this invite that sent him to the Super Bowl XLI. Since 2007, McCray’s has been the preferred chef for various NFL-sanctioned Super Bowl events including the Player’s Networking Event (PNE).
Binta Brown, co-Founder of the Music Lab
Binta Brownleft her successful career as an attorney to found omalilly projects, an artist management, development, and music production company. Since then, she has also worked as executive director and co-founder of the Music Lab, a nonprofit educational program for young artists and musicians in Milwaukee. Through her leadership positions, Brown has pushed to make the business aspect of the music industry more supportive and equitable for Black artists.
Dr. David Walcott, Founder of NovaMed
Dr.David Walcott is a medical doctor (MD. Ph.D. MSc.) and entrepreneur with over 5-years experience as a Founder, Operator and Consultant to several businesses in the Caribbean. Dr Walcott is also the Founder of NovaMed, a company driving the adoption of innovative healthcare solutions in emerging markets. Walcott is also a Founding Partner of the Visionaries’ Summit, a platform that manages and convenes a global community controlling over US$140B in investment capital.
Yetnebersh Nigussie, Activist and Human Rights Lawyer
Yetnebersh Nigussie is an Ethiopian human rights lawyer who pushes for women’s and girls’ rights and inclusive education. As a blind woman, she has helped change perceptions of disability in Ethiopia. Nigussie is also the senior inclusion adviser for Light for the World, an organization that fights for the inclusion of the 15% – about 1 billion – of the world’s population who have some kind of disability. In 2017, she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award for her inspiring work.
Vimbayi Kajese, Founder of #Adtags
Vimbayi Kajese is the the Founder of #Adtags, a proudly African based marketplace that helps conscious brands source desperately needed images of people of colour for advertising, from everyday social media users around the world. After 15 years of working in media, Vimbayi knows that the power of visual representation is lifesaving. She was invited to expound on her thesis on the TED stage in her thought-provoking talk entitled: “Can an Image Save a Life?” Her activism for creating new narratives: for women, people of colour, her African continent and tech in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is at the heart of everything she does.
Nathalie Walton, CEO of Expectful
Nathalie Walton nearly didn’t become a mother. The stress of her pregnancy led Walton to download Expectful, a meditation and sleep app for new mothers. Her risky pregnancy caused her placenta to burst during childbirth, almost killing her and her son last year. Now she’s the CEO of the startup, helping expecting and new moms alike. Walton, who feels lucky to have survived, says the haunting experience made her an example of a reality she had long known: To be a pregnant Black woman is to be at risk, regardless of economic background. And now, Walton is the chief executive of the company, helping to pivot its product strategy to grow beyond recorded meditations. Walton helped the startup raise its first millions in venture capital, making her one of the few dozen Blackfemale founders to do so.
Hadiyah Mujhid, Founder & CEO of HBCUvc
Hadiyah Mujhid, is the Founder & CEO of HBCUvc, a nonprofit that is dedicated to changing how investment capital is formed and allocated to benefit historically underestimated groups. Mujhid’s mission is to foster the development of inclusive innovation economies. Recently, Mujhid helped HBCUvc launched the 1 Million Fund, which offers first-hand investment experience to HBCUvc fellows who will manage and operate the fund, supporting POC founders of early-stage, tech-based businesses.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Hadiyah received an MBA from Drexel University and a BS in Computer Science from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, a historically black university. Hadiyah is a strong advocate for leveraging technology and entrepreneurship to address economic inequality and has over 15 years of software engineering experience.
Joakim Noah and Angela Yee, #CIROCStands
In celebration of Black Excellence Month, former Chicago Bulls player, Joakim Noah, and radio personality, Angela Yee, team up with CÎROC and Sean “Diddy” Combs to unveil the brand’s newest iteration of their ongoing community-centric platform #CIROCStands, an initiative that supports Black and Brown voices through original video spotlights, visuals, and billboards, and shares inspirational true stories of progress, achievement, and success.
During Black History month, Joakim Noah and Angela Yee take the #CIROCStands mission to Chicago, a city known for its entrepreneurial spirit and hometown pride. #CIROCStands will amplify the success stories of four trailblazing Black Chicagoans and highlight the bold and ambitious spirit of these local voices, sharing their unique stories in their own words.
“I’m so thrilled that I got the chance to interview these remarkable Chi-town heroes,” says Angela Yee. “They’re making such a profound impact in their communities, providing inspiration to future generations and even this generation.”
“As someone who’s made Chicago home over the years, I’ve always been proud of how much Chicagoans support their own and continue to build the Black community,” says Joakim Noah. “These community leaders, each of whom has carved out their own individual paths to find success here in Chicago, should inspire others to think creatively, work tirelessly and seize their destinies by establishing their own businesses in their own communities.”
DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director NFL PA & The Labor Union, NFL
DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFL Players Association, aims to diversify the business of the NFL athlete. In 2020, he led NFL players to ratification of a new 10-year CBA on the eve of the national shutdown of all major sports and businesses. The deal secured the players their highest share of revenue in history, increased the pensions of current and former players, and added more than $1.5B to players’ salaries and benefits over the next eight years. Smith is responsible for creating One Team Partners, a venture capital company that collectivized the name, image, and likeness rights of players in football, baseball, and soccer to build a company that is now valued at $1.5B in less than two years. Smith has also developed a partnership between the NFLPA and MLBPA to create a trading card company, which now has a valuation of more than $1B. That company recently purchased Topps Trading Cards.
Dara Aaron Kennedy, TV/Radio Host, Business Entrepreneur
Dara Kennedy is a versatile broadcast journalist and multi-faceted entrepreneur. She crafted her on-air television and radio path to join award-winning media teams. Kennedy has traveled to more than 15 countries, hosted prime time shows abroad, covered primer athletes, interviewed heads of state, and speaks to graduates and young professionals by doing what makes her happy— helping people of color be heard and felt seen. Her newest venture, the media company DiversTV, spotlights BIPOC in content-creative industries. The media production company is active in gaining and collaborating on original projects that highlight people of color in front of and behind the scenes, from on-the-ground events to creating and pitching ideas for linear and streaming productions.
Dara is the founder of the Sports Finance Summit, assisting young entrepreneurs with hefty wealth decisions. Her corporate appearances include Morgan Stanley, Imperial College of London, Amway, the NBA, the United Nations, and JP Morgan Chase. Aside from her media work, Dara is passionate about mentoring and inclusion and was a Global Citizen for the Nelson Mandela: 100 initiatives in South Africa.
MoAnA Luu, Founder of ManLuu
MoAnA Luu is a Martinican entrepreneur, global creative leader, brand architect, media expert, philanthropist, and interior designer who ventured into launching ManLuu, an NYC-based brand committed to sustainable manufacturing. The American fashion house showcases luxurious interpretations of creole culture and honors the rich, diverse cultural tapestry of the French West Indies. ManLuu launched in the spring of 2021 with an installation in Nordstrom department stores. The brand is a celebrity favorite having been featured in Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and worn by Cardi B during her second pregnancy announcement.
Austin Owens AKA Ayo The Producer, Grammy Award-Winning Producer
Grammy award-winner, Ayo the Producer, has earned accolades as the most sought-after producer following his 2018 Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, Cardi B “Invasion of Privacy,” and his placement on her chart-topping smash “W.A.P.” with Megan Thee Stallion. His extensive production catalog includes acts such as Jaden Smith, Lucky Daye, RMR, Agnez Mo, and debut artist Channel WYA. While the Orlando native has undoubtedly brought his love of beats to the forefront, and his reign in production continues with his new label Far From Familiar, his mission in music is far greater than production.
These days, Ayo is working on All Things Creative, a creative hub that brings creative opportunities to Orlando. The hub features recording studios, podcast space, photo/video spaces, education, and more. He’s also actively forming an initiative that teaches young men basic life fundamentals such as filling out mortgage applications. When he’s not working on these endeavors, he’s hard at work bringing his passion project to life, a documentary about his older brother who lives with cerebral palsy.
Monique Rodriguez, Founder of MIELLE Organics
Monique Rodriguez founded MIELLE in 2014 with only one product, the Advanced Hair Formula, a unique proprietary blend of herbs, amino acids, and minerals to support healthy hair, skin and nails, and the immune system. Since then, MIELLE has expanded to a half-dozen collections under Rodriguez’s direction, including products for skin and children, distributed to more than 87 countries and available in more than 100,000 stores across the U.S., including Sally Beauty, Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart.
Rodriguez has been recognized in Forbes, Black Enterprise, Sophisticate’s Black Hair, and Essence, appeared on The Steve Harvey Show, The Real, and The Wendy Williams Show. Rodriquez’s products are favorited by many celebrity fans, including Black-ish actress, Yara Shahidi, and the television maven, Shonda Rhimes. Rodriquez is committed to empowering women around the world through her beauty, business savvy, and her Secret Sauce to Success podcast and academy.
Larry Lawson, Media Network Executive
Lawson is a creative and innovative senior media executive with 20+ years of experience in various forms of newscasts and content sharing on digital and social platforms. He has launched several successful on-air products on streaming, linear, and social media platforms, including the Black News Channel, where he was the Executive Producer, Showrunner, and creator of the 24/7 streaming platform, BNC GO— a streaming product offering separate content for younger viewers, available and over 200M connected devices and OTT platforms.
Lawson began his career at CBS News producing segments at CBS This Morning working on historic events such as the Republican National Convention, the Olympic Bombing at Centennial Park, and was the lead producer for special live coverage of the death of Princess Diana.
Lawson held creative and executive positions at CNN, the Black Family Channel, as well as ESPN, where is launched the NBA Fastbreak show. He was also the Senior Director of News and Coordinating Producer at New England Sports Network (NESN), growing viewership by 40% and launching the careers of many high-profile talent viewed across television screens and devices today.
Kyle Y. Flanigan, Ph.D., Cofounder of US Specialty Formulations, LLC
Dr. Kyle Flanigan, Ph.D., co-founder of US Specialty Formulations, LLC, is one of the very few Black owners of a biotech company. Dr. Flanigan’s specialty is in the development and commercialization of medication bringing oral vaccines to market. He is an innovator in vaccines and immunotherapies, small molecule formulations, botanical pharmaceutical-grade extracts, and contract manufacturing.
Randall Williams, Co Founder & CMO of Dr.Tusk
Randall Williams, is the CMO of Dr.Tusk an eco-conscious personal care brand that makes all natural personal care and skincare products. For over 35+ years, Randall has been a serial entrepreneur focusing on creating and growing brands both in domestic and international markets. Endeavoring in markets such as entertainment, financial services, technologies, and consumer products, Randall has vast experience in what it takes to bring ideas to life.
As CMO of Dr. Tusk, Randall works continuously to expand the brand. He is constantly exploring strategic partnerships that allow the brand to grow.
“I love being part of a team that takes an idea and turns it into reality. Purpose-driven products such as Dr.Tusk makes every effort that much more fulfilling. I remember spending many early mornings with my grand father on his farm in NC as a very young child; it was hard work planting seeds and working that soil. But there is nothing like watching all that hard work turn into acres of plants for as far as the eye could see. Building a brand is just planting a seed and working soil!”
Kim Overton, Founder of SPIbelt
Kim Overton, is the Founder of SPIbelt, an innovative running belt that solves the pocketless problem. Whatever Small Personal Items (SPI), SPIbelt holds it in its discreet, expandable running belt with comfort and ease over any distance.
SPIbelt is noted as the original runner’s belt — which is sold in thousands of retailers in 40 countries worldwide and on Amazon. Not only has Overton created a worldwide fitness essential 15 years ago from her hometown of Austin, Texas but this month a park in Austin will be named after her grandfather, Volma Overton, Sr a civil rights icon. Overton, Sr. was particularly notable as a leader in the desegregation of the Austin school district and his support for racial equality.