Jennifer Walton had two “great resignations.”
After rising to the level of associate vice president of marketing for the Nationwide Retirement Institute, she resigned in 2021 to find greater impact in her work.
She moved to the public sector, working as the director of marketing for Central Ohio Transit Authority. But she said she felt “handcuffed” in her ability to effect change in customers’ lives.
After some soul-searching, she decided to “bet on herself” and start her own company, SKY Nile Consulting, which offers marketing and brand strategy, as well as guidance on diversity, equity and inclusion.
“I wanted flexibility in my life,” said Walton, 38, of Olde Towne East.
“I wanted to maximize my earning potential. I wanted to maximize my talent. And I wanted my values to align with my work. And I knew that if I needed to check those four boxes, I could only get it for myself.”
Black women starting own businesses seek greater freedom, fulfillment
Walton’s experience reflects a larger trend of Black women leaving corporate America, accelerated by the pandemic. As the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs, Black women say they are seeking more freedom, opportunity, fulfillment and stability. They also are escaping from discrimination and other barriers in the workplace.
Women-owned businesses overall increased 21% between 2014 and 2019, compared to 9% for all businesses, according to the State of Women-Owned Business Report by American Express.
Companies owned by women of color grew even faster at 43%.
But Black women-owned business outpaced them all at 50%.
While Black women represent 14% of the female population, they account for 42% of net new women-owned businesses.
Furthermore, a Harvard Business Review report found that 17% of Black women are in the process of starting or are running new businesses, compared to 10% of white women and 15% of white men.
Deonna Barnett said she has seen an increase in Black women clients at her firm, Aventi Enterprises, which helps small businesses grow.
“They’re leaving (their jobs) because they can make more money doing it themselves,” said Barnett, the company’s CEO and managing consultant. “And some of them can stay home, which is helpful for caretakers and parents.”
‘I was capable of more’
Research shows that the pandemic helped drive more women into entrepreneurship, after many were forced out of the workforce.
After a volatile two years, they aren’t afraid to quit jobs that aren’t meeting their needs. In fact, women leaders are leaving their employers at unprecedented rates, according to LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace report. For every woman at the director level who gets promoted, two women directors are leaving their company.
They are citing a lack of advancement. For example, only one in four C-suite leaders is a woman, and only one in 20 is a woman of color. And for every 100 men promoted to manager, 58 Black women are promoted.
Additionally, the latest Census data shows that full-time and part-time Black women workers earned 64 cents for every dollar earned by white men in 2021.
CROWN Act:Black women embrace wearing ‘natural’ hair at work
For Tenesha Hartgrove, the decision to leave her full-time job at an accounting firm in January was not about getting promoted or making more money, but using more of her skills.
As a senior tax accountant, she was limited to doing taxes, but she wanted to help people, especially entrepreneurs, with financial statements and other services.
“I felt like I had more to offer than I would ever be able to actually provide at the job that I was at before,” said Hartgrove, 43, of Grandview, who now runs Ncrease Financial Services from her home. “I just felt like I was capable of more.”
Despite having numerous certifications, Hartgrove initially felt she didn’t know enough to launch her business.
But then she saw others giving incorrect tax advice online during the pandemic.
“I know I could do better than some of the stuff that I was seeing,” she said. “I just felt like if all these people are doing it and they don’t have the level of education that I’ve pursued, I can definitely do it.”
Surveys have shown Black women deal with imposter syndrome, often brought on by their experience with microaggressions at work. A LeanIn.org study found that Black women are more likely to have their judgment and competence questioned at work.
“It’s that feeling of years and years of getting the blank stares when an idea has been said, and watching someone else say something similar and everyone claps,” Walton said.
Black women-owned businesses: Rapid growth, slow development
Despite the rapid growth rate of Black women-owned businesses, studies show their revenue is comparatively low, due in part to lack of access to capital. Despite having lower household incomes than their white counterparts, the Harvard Business Review found that 61% of Black women self-fund their total start-up.
Entrepreneur Vangela Barnes said she has struggled to apply for funding since starting her own electric company, Wireman Electric, during the pandemic.
“It just feels like a lottery,” said Barnes, 58, of Canal Winchester, who left a project manager role at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “It’s really frustrating, and now I’ve taken time away from my business to apply for this. It just feels like you’re in rat race.”
Barnes said she is getting offered more business than she can take on.
“I don’t have wealth in my family,” she said. “I don’t have aunts and uncles I can call (for loans). It’s a constant battle. I used a lot of my retirement money to get things started, and it’s panned out so far, but (now) I need two trucks.”
Barnett said she has clients who face similar obstacles.
“Racism is so deeply embedded in everything,” she said. “There’s even discrimination at banks still today. I have experienced that with a couple of clients who had a good credit score, cash in the bank and contracts, and the bankers still told them no.”
Business in Ohio:An Ohio entrepreneur’s guide to certification for women- and minority-owned businesses
Still, she said there are other financial resources available; it’s just about knowing where to look.
“A lot of clients come to us and they say, ‘I’ve never heard of that,’ or ‘I never even knew you could do that,'” she said. “Our goal is to show you what’s possible, and then find ways to make sure that you have access.”
She also expects to see even more Black women leave their employers.
“There’s going to be a good amount of Black women who are starting businesses who are going to be inspirations to others,” she said. “And even if there are some Black women who do go back to corporate America, they’re going to go back owning something.”
Credit: Source link