The world of business and entrepreneurship has experienced a shift in the past few years. No longer are the numbers completely dominated by white males. According to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, women-owned businesses have grown 45 percent over the past nine years, making the rate of growth five times the national average. Georgia is the second fastest growing state for women-owned firms with a 64 percent increase, only falling behind Florida with a 67 percent increase.
More significantly, businesses owned by women of color have increased by 126 percent since 2007, making up 79 percent of women-owned firms in the past nine years and creating a trend of ethnic diversity in entrepreneurship across the United States.
African American women are one of the fastest growing groups of entrepreneurs in America. Between 2007 and 2016, the number of African American women-owned firms increased by 112 percent. Shirlynn Brownell is the face of the new American business owner. The UGA alumnus from Atlanta, Ga, is a part of this success of black female entrepreneurs.
Brownell has her own line of cruelty free, non-toxic nail polish, DKT Polish. She launched her own business with just $5,000 in September of 2016 and it has been growing ever since.
“I always loved nail polish. So, it’s been like a right of passage into womanhood in my life,” Brownell says.
“I didn’t just want any regular polish. I wanted something that spoke to the causes that I’m passionate about and that’s being mindful of what you put inside of your body just as much as what you put on your body.”
The message of Brownell’s line is to encourage the modern day woman to spend time on herself to promote physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
“It just reminds me to make sure you slow down and take care of you because you can’t take care of anyone else if you’re not well and you can’t fill anyone from an empty cup… ” Brownell says.
Anisha Prema, a third-year management information systems major at the University of Georgia, sees the increase of women like Brownell in the business world as a needed shift, especially as a woman of color herself.
“I feel that this growth is important because it sets a positive impact for younger women,” Prema says. “Diversity is very important to me because I feel that when I see a woman of color [in business] it gives me a sense of belonging.”
Brownell believes it’s important to recognize the accomplishments of African Americans, especially during Black History Month.
“The line is about women of all colors and all shapes and all tones, but for me in particular, I do it for the little black girl coming up behind me because representation is so important,” Brownell says.
“It’s important for little girls of color to see that they can do it too, and it’s not something that’s reserved for a certain sector of the population. You can absolutely follow your dreams and follow your heart…”
Both women have advice to give to other young women of color looking to start a business. Prema’s advice? Use one’s diversity as an asset. “Take reigns on being a woman of color and be proud that [you] can make an impact on a company,” Prema says.
Brownell advises young women of color to learn and give back.
“Learn as much as you can, but don’t let learning deter you from taking action and reach back and help someone out once you’ve made and have gotten to a certain point,” Brownell says.
In essence, the number and economic contributions of women-owned firms continue to rise at rates higher than the national average with tremendous growth in the number of firms owned by women of color. The new American business owner is on her rise.