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By Octavia Warren Gilmore
As a creative, I’ve always been driven by a desire to turn original and imaginative ideas into reality for as long as I can remember. In 2013, without any prior business experience, I chose to leave my full-time job to build my own branding and digital marketing agency, Creative Juice.
My goal was to bring more diversity to agency ownership – and nine years later, I remain the CEO and head creative of a thriving business.
That being said, my success did not come without the trials and tribulations that hinder Black women entrepreneurs far too often.
With the end of Black History Month and the start of Women’s History Month, I can’t help but reflect on the unique barriers that we face as Black women because of our dual racial and gender identities. The American Dream was founded on the belief that every citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success through hard work, determination, and an entrepreneurial spirit.
Yet, the reality is not all paths to the American Dream are created equal – and it is Black women who face the steepest climb.
Barriers Black women face hinder U.S. economy
Lack of access to capital, network, and resources has stacked the odds against Black women entrepreneurs. As a result, Black women still face a 90% wealth gap when compared to White men. Entrepreneurship can be an important tool in boosting earnings for Black women and reducing this gap.
The disadvantages Black women face represent not only a loss to the Black community, but to the American economy as a whole.
For instance, Black women are leading our nation’s recovery by starting new businesses faster than any other demographic, but they are first to face barriers when it comes to business ownership.
Roughly 17% of new businesses are started by a Black woman, but only 3% eventually become mature businesses, ultimately leading to Black women owning their own businesses at a rate 24 times lower than White men. Statistically speaking, Black women are considered “the underdogs”, however, the challenges they face have only made them more inventive, resourceful, and resilient.
Investing as a way to boost U.S. economy
That’s why I believe in the power of investing in Black women entrepreneurs.
As a society, we have an opportunity to level the playing field and spur economic growth and innovation across the board. Notably – reducing the wage gap for Black women has the potential to create between 1.2 to 1.7 million U.S. jobs and increase GDP by $300 to 525 billion, proving that when Black women entrepreneurs win, everybody wins.
When I first began building Creative Juice, I felt a constant need to prove myself. As a young, Black woman, my success has often been challenged by potential clients and even peers.
Participating in Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, gave me the opportunity to not only better understand my company’s finances, but to connect with a strong network of other supportive small business owners who continue to offer their expertise across industries. Being able to access and utilize these resources gave me both the confidence and business acumen to ensure that all of my business endeavors will thrive and continue to grow.
Black women entrepreneurs make a dollar out of 15 cents
Programs like Goldman Sachs’ new initiative, One Million Black Women: Black in Business, which focuses on Black women sole proprietors, are also critical. Ninety-six percent of Black businesses are run by sole proprietors, of which over half are run by Black women. With 1.6 million Black women solo entrepreneurs across the nation, it’s clear that addressing the racial wealth gap starts with Black women sole proprietors.
I like to say that Black women entrepreneurs make a dollar out of fifteen cents.
While we don’t always have the network, capital, or means to get our business off the ground, we continue to persevere and create businesses that represent the future of American entrepreneurship.
It’s time we invest in Black women entrepreneurs, and “solopreneurs”, in particular, to build a better future for Black women and our entire economy.
How will you invest?
Octavia Warren Gilmore is the CEO and CCO of Creative Juice and an alumna of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses.