Why Is It The Very Definition of Entrepreneurship to Revolutionize a Market
By Lauren Stockmon Brown
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the wake of COVID-19, aspiring entrepreneurs are applying for business applications at the highest rate since 2007. Many of these entrepreneurs span beyond technology or venture-capital back businesses and instead, highlight the cultural shift that the pandemic sparked. Moreover, there are “31 million entrepreneurs in the U.S…” How can this new wave of entrepreneurs who are focused on social advocacy expand our understanding of long-term fiscal empowerment and cultural change?
Inequities surrounding the racial wealth gap abound can be found in generational profit and risk. It is simply more likely for BIPOC to take financial risks even though they do not benefit from generational wealth in comparison to their white counterparts. This is because the U.S. economy intentionally excludes BIPOC from the general market. As a result, marginalized communities are often forced to create their own centers of economic growth and prosperity. However, these enclaves of economic success reach a consistent plateau. This plateau is due to structural forms of racism that are rooted in centuries of enslavement and systemic oppression.
There are consistent external barriers that Black and brown people face as entrepreneurs. These hurdles highlight challenges that prevent access to capital and ultimately, emphasize the structural delay that marginalized communities encounter when kick starting their careers.
We live in a world founded on entrepreneurship. For this reason, it is crucial to acknowledge that entrepreneurship in response to oppression and oppressing BIPOC entrepreneurs is not a new concept or theory. Dare I say, we live in a society where the premise behind entrepreneurship is simply history repeating itself over and over again; “effective” entrepreneurship stems from an absence or a need from and within specific communities. Its very creation is meant to disrupt the general market and form bonds between brands and their consumers in an effort to transform the value of a product.
In the world we live in today, we are not only seeing history repeat itself with entrepreneurs filling a gap or innovating an inefficiency, but we are also seeing one of the greatest entrepreneurial efforts in history to change the cultural trajectory of a nation of people.
It is rare and (unsurprisingly) difficult to find racial enclaves that are also outliers within a sea of cyclical industries. However, there are industries that can be used as case studies to examine ways to disrupt other forms of racial enclaves. As we begin to look at models that have disrupted the market at large, we can find examples that examine ways to investigate and confront racial enclaves on a local-scale.
Market disruptors are “those that defy boundaries and visualize solutions from new perspectives, cutting through the status quo.” We know the large-scale market disruptors, household names such as: Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Uber, Hello Fresh and other companies. These companies thrive in spaces of practice and innovation and have changed the very nature of the market and the manner in which consumers interact with an idea, medium, or product. However, as you begin to review the market disruptors listed below, you may notice how these entrepreneurs have chosen to build their foundation and subsequent success around sustainability, racial empowerment, and transparency.
In order to identify tools that give context to a greater and ongoing story of systemic oppression, we must note the ways in which the general market is revolutionized by marginalized communities time and time again. While examining the radicalization of entrepreneurship with a racial equity lens, there is space to disrupt the general market fundamentally, and understand the pace of this impact more clearly.
4 Modern Entrepreneurs Transforming the Market in 2021
Located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the Williams sisters, Corrina and Theresa kickstarted the “chicest and most energy efficient laundromat in New York.” The Williams each have a background in fashion, design and a self-proclaimed love for the environment and “all things clean.” Celsious is a bright, innovative and millennial-esque laundromat that is inspired by the Williams’ sisters experience growing up in an eco-friendly home in Germany. In an interview with NBC New York, Corrina and Theresa explained how their mother actively taught them how to avoid using energy waste products or overly toxic materials and to instead focus on more natural products like baking soda, vegan castile soap, as well as fully biodegradable and sustainable cleaning agents. In sum, the Williams sister’s dream of revolutionizing the laundry industry. An environmentally-educated business has resulted in them adding to the social and cultural services created within and outside of the Black community.
Ah-Shi Beauty is an Indigenous and Black-owned business. Ultimately, the company plans to change the beauty industry across “all sovereign nations.” Founder and CEO, LaFrance-Chachere (Mrs. LaChach) is featured in major magazines like Yahoo LifeStyle and Good Morning America. In response to exclusionary western beauty ideals which include being tall, having long hair, light skin, a small nose etc, Mrs. LaChach founded this business with the idea of empowerment, culture and quality on her mind. “Ah-Shi” in Navajo (Southern Athabaskan language) means, “this is me, this is mine, that’s me”! As a luxury skin care and full cosmetic brand Ah-Shi Beauty focuses on inspiring one’s unique beauty on a global scale by offering quality skin care to a collective of individuals who often do not see reflections of themselves in the general market. Arguably, Mrs. LaChach has stepped into the role of an entrepreneur who primarily acts with a racial equity lens. In other words, her efforts to increase the amount of options for BIPOC in regards to quality skin care is the root of its mission statement and even the brand’s key indicators of success. How might Ash-Shi Beauty’s current measure of revenue– selling authentic skin care products to marginalized individuals– affect other corporations’ targeting tactics when attempting to engage all aspects of the market?
Dr. Kari Williams (PhD) is passionate about hair styling and education. She has merged her passion and degree in Trichology to create a business that caters to a market that is interested in natural hair and seeking guidance on how to achieve healthier hair. She is the Founder & CEO of Mahogany Revolution. Dr. Williams has worked as a speaker and educator for product brands including: Shea Moisture, Carol’s Daughter, Curls, African Pride & more. Through her ventures, she has debunked misconceptions about natural hair styles, using methods like online consultations and hair tutorials. According to Dermatologist Crystal Aguh, who specializes in hair loss, “nearly 50% of Black women experience some form of hair loss.” As an entrepreneur, Dr. Williams has merged her interests in cosmetology and hair styling while leading an 8 week Trichology certification course that offers targeted solutions for women experiencing scarring alopecia and scalp disorders.
*Trichology: the branch of medical and cosmetic study and practice concerned with the hair and scalp.
“From farmers to consumers,” Nguyen Coffee Supply is a Vietemese coffee company located in Brooklyn, New York. It is founded by Sahra Nguyen, a first-generation Vietemese American business owner. As a center of diversity, inclusion and sustainability, Nguyen partners with a fourth-generation farmer, Mr. Ton, who leads his family farm in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Together, they work to emphasize the impact of community engagement on a global scale. A key aspect of Nguyen Coffee Supply is its mission to be not only sustainable, but transparent with their consumers. They are creating a global community that has revolutionized robusta coffee and fiscal opportunities worldwide.
As the pandemic continues, society is forced to reckon with the impact of economic abuse– outside influences that threaten financial security and self-sufficiency. As a result, this moment in time has sparked moments that may feel revolutionary– medically, technologically and academically. In doing so, the meaning of entrepreneurship may have also changed the fundamental need for market disruptors on a global and local scale.
Not only are BIPOC entrepreneurs providing for their own community and beyond, they are focusing on the intersectionality of sustainability and community engagement. For this reason, while reviewing entrepreneurs from a racial equity lens, there is space to note its impact and add to this momentum more consistently.