The entrepreneurial spirit has captivated black women. We’ve heard for over a decade now that black women outpace men at business startups. That trend has caught wind among millennials, particularly those raised by mothers who encouraged them to reach for the stars and to reach for their aspirations with strong faith and life-affirming values. It’s no wonder today why 64 percent of black women agree our goal is to make it to the top of our profession. For many, entrepreneurship is a leading way to get there.
Businesses majority-owned by black women grew 67 percent between 2007 and 2012. That’s more than businesses owned by all women combined at 27 percent. And as of 2015, black women were majority owners in 1.5 million businesses. And in addition to constant cheerleading from the amazing women in our life, black women’s ambitions are driven by higher levels of achievement in education. Sixty-four percent of black women enter college right out of high school and 25 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher (up from 18 percent in 2005).
For many of us, entrepreneurship represents independence, leadership and control over our income-earning potential—which is rising, too. And those qualities are what appeals to millennials’ ever-growing goals and aspirations. Fourteen percent of black women have incomes of $50,000 or higher.
You’ll find these and other important insights in Nielsen’s new report “African-American Women: Our Science, Her Magic,” which paints a stunning portrait of black women’s economic power and consumer and cultural influence. Black women are not only redefining what it means to be a woman for ourselves, we are at the vanguard of changing gender roles and unlimited possibilities for women of all ages and races. That’s huge, and partly due to black women more often taking the high-risk road to financial stability and career emancipation. Ask and most black women (84 percent) will tell you that, given the choice, they prefer to be their own boss, 13 percent more than non-Hispanic white women. Sixty-seven percent say that, one way or another, they find themselves in leadership positions.
Sometimes we are spurred into action out of necessity, as was the case with Danielle Smith. She launched Detroit Maid in 2013 after she couldn’t find a cleaning service willing to take work assignments in Detroit. “Firms that were just two or three miles away in the suburbs wouldn’t come into the city. It made me angry,” she said. “And I was sure I wasn’t the only Detroiter who wanted some kind of basic service.”
Smith capitalized on the wealth-building potential of fulfilling a need in her community. Black women find deep satisfaction in meeting the needs of others. We have stepped up in the fight for environmental justice in communities such as Flint, Michigan. And our affinity for natural products, from hair care to kitchen cleansers, signals opportunity in another growing sector: 60 percent of black women agree they buy natural products because they are concerned about the environment, and 63 percent cited concerns about their own and their loved ones’ health. We’re prioritizing ourselves and our health.
Business ownership can be a risk. Because many African American women are more likely to be the head of the household, it’s a risk that should be thought through carefully. We are indeed thorough and unafraid to share our opinions and thoughts and the successes of others who lead by example. That’s what black girl magic is all about.
Access to capital, however, has yet to catch up to our dreams. Even though black women over-index against white women 86 percent vs. 46 percent for agreeing we like learning about financial services products, regularly read financial news (49 percent vs. 39 percent) and find the risks inherent in the financial markets exciting (47 percent of us agree), we are the least likely to be approached by financial institutions or by those selling financial products and services. Nielsen found that 62 percent of black women do not have household investments (65 percent higher than non-Hispanic white women) and households headed by black women under-index for every investment and financial services product except for student loans. Herein lies business opportunities for marketers within the financial sector who seek to expand market share. Find the void, fill the niche.
Black women as entrepreneurs — even with our lack of investments — do not stop! Learning more about and investing in various types of capital support products and services might be just the help many of us need to further fund the dreams that the amazing and influential women in our life have encouraged us to pursue.
SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, U.S. STRATEGIC COMMUNITY ALLIANCES & CONSUMER ENGAGEMENT, NIELSEN CHERYL GRACE
Cheryl Grace is an award-winning communications strategist with a proven track record of building brand awareness and managing the reputation of major businesses. She is the senior vice president of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement for Nielsen and drives Nielsen’s thought leadership strategy under the auspices of Nielsen’s Office of Diversity. As the lead content executive Cheryl and her team spearhead conversations on diversity issues of importance to Nielsen, its clients, media stakeholders, influencers and communities alike across the United States. Cheryl joined Nielsen in 2004. She has previously served as Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Government Relations; and as Senior Vice President of Communications for the company’s consumer packaged goods business.