t Novo, we’re continually inspired by our customers – their dreams, goals, challenges, and victories. It’s an honor to share them with you.
In honor of Juneteenth 2022, we are excited to celebrate a group of exemplary black business owners. These entrepreneurs embody “small business brave” as they blaze new trails with courage, hard work, and innovation.
These business owners all have an inspiring story and valuable wisdom to share. Each is a leader in their own right. And they are united by a common thread of compassion for others that transcends industry, business type, and location — they devote significant time, energy, and funds to leverage their business to bring about positive change. Whether addressing needs within the community, empowering others, or helping those in need, these business owners lead by example. Chinna Ford, for instance, fights food insecurity among college students through her business College Snaxx. Nicole and Alex Ampadu, Co-Founders of YaaYaa Natural, leverage greener packaging and donate 10% of their profits to the HIV-positive black community. The positive ripple effect of every one of these businesses we celebrate today is far-reaching.
These Nine Black Business Owners are Leading the Charge
Founder and owner of Event Foods LLC
Founder and owner of Event Foods LLC, Brandon Houston is passionate about serving quality food and leveraging his business to improve others’ lives. With a high proportion of people of color and low-income residents, Brandon’s community benefits directly from his business. He explains, “the community in which we operate is known as a food desert, an area that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food. We are building our business to try and directly improve these conditions…. We have been able to create more choices for community members and decrease food insecurity by consistently being available and visible.”
Brandon sees the opportunity even amidst challenges when it comes to operating and growing his business. He told us, “navigating an ever-changing pandemic environment and managing inflationary pressures… have caused us to continuously innovate and pivot as needed.”
Early this year, he created Just Jacks, a mission-driven food truck. Brandon cites his food truck as a way to connect with his father, who had worked in the food industry ever since Brandon was young. “All I remember is his desire to start a food truck, but [he] never was able to make it happen. As an adult, I decided that we should take on this endeavor together and create lasting memories while serving our community.”
“The toughest part of building a new business is just starting. However, if you prepare, build a good team, and trust in yourself, there is no reason to hesitate. Commit to launching the first day, and then each new day after that is an opportunity to improve. The best thing I have ever done was bet on myself by starting my company, and it has been extremely fulfilling ever since. You can do the same.”
Founder and CEO of College Snaxx
Chinna Ford, founder and CEO of College Snaxx, is also fighting food insecurity, specifically among college students. Not only does her care package company help scholars survive from a nutritional standpoint, but fighting food insecurity among college students helps them reach their full academic potential and attain their academic goals.
Chinna herself is familiar with the struggle of food insecurity in college and has made it her mission to “provide support with food and college resources to scholars in need.”
Her business has made inspiring strides. College Snaxx has grown impressively since its inception during the pandemic in 2020. To date, the company has reached 34 colleges across the U.S. and has sent over 200 free care packages. Chinna has already launched seven community-based projects via her business, all designed to alleviate food insecurities.
How Chinna’s business fights college food insecurity
“Each season,” Chinna explains, “we support students with aggressive efforts to fight summer and holiday hunger. On our social media platform, we do daily lunch checks to offer free lunch in the form of Doordash or grocery gift cards. Our present project focuses on delivering 100 free care packages to the Vallejo community…. We offer a Community Warriors Program that gives community members the opportunity to sponsor care packages to students who register for the College Snaxx Anonymous Snaxx Paxx Program. Our College Snaxx social media platforms' purpose is to educate scholars about CalFresh and give daily encouragement.
She says, “we are proud of the impact made in such little time and hope that our influence creates ripple effects throughout our community.”
Nicole and Alex Ampadu
Co-founders and owners of YaaYaa Natural
Nicole and Alex Ampadu founded YaaYaa Natural, a mission-driven luxury shea butter business. Their unique product line features handcrafted cold-whipped shea frosting, made from imported African shea butter and scented with premium essential oils. Their versatile product is perfect for skin and hair, and it addresses a pain point that’s all too common: “we decided to start our own business after being frustrated with the watered-down skin and hair moisturizers that are currently on the market. We couldn't find a product that was perfect for our hair, face, AND body. So we created one with new ingredients that does all three!”
How Nicole and Alex support the HIV+ black community and the earth
Nicole and Alex leverage their business success to support those in need and are mindful of their ecological footprint. “We donate 10% of profits to fund medical services and schooling for HIV+ individuals, and we fund the research to create an HIV vaccine. We also partner with an amazing charity named Until.org to further empower and spread awareness for the epidemic that plagues our black community.” When it comes to sustainability, they “eliminate the use of plastics during production and packaging by only using metal and glass containers.”
Founder and owner of Kimmie Bee’s Design Lab
Kimberly Bell exemplifies adaptability when up against challenging times. In 2019 she quit her job as a public school teacher to found an education-based business full-time. “Things were going well, then the pandemic happened. Yikes! Everything shut down, and I was left wondering what I would do.” So, she pivoted and relied on a different strength. “I decided to lean on my creative genes, and I began making and selling custom items on Etsy, and that is how Kimmie Bee’s Design Lab was born. It has been two years, and things are only getting better.”
Kimmie Bee’s Design Lab sells custom buttons made with passion and an artistic eye. She’s already worked with more than 300 clients and has created over 4,500 buttons and badge reels. “My business impacts my community and communities around the world by making sure people can share their messages, memories, or favorite art – one button at a time,” she says.
“There is success on the other side of fear. Owning your own business has its challenges, but you can do it. Keep pushing!”
Founder and owner of Waste No Time LLC
Jeffrey Verly’s business Waste No Time provides essential waste removal services to the Lynn, MA community and beyond, assisting with residential and commercial junk removal and the hauling of materials. He takes pride in his team’s ability to deliver efficient and ethical waste disposal with the community and the environment in mind.
“Go green. It shows the public you’re serious about reducing your business’ impact on the environment.” He also advises giving back to the community. “Encourage your employees to volunteer in the communities they live and work in, such as cleaning up open spaces. These kinds of activities show that your business is serious about investing in the area and people.”
With a 4.9+ out of 5-star rating across two review platforms, Jeffrey emphasizes the importance of customer perceptions. They “can make or break your business. Deliver quality experiences, and they'll quickly sing your praises on social media; mess it up, and they'll tell the world even faster. Fast growth depends on making your current and potential customers happy with their experience.”
Founder and owner of The Black Village of RVA
Darrick Hanks-Harris founded The Black Village of RVA with a central goal: to uplift and empower black business owners within his local community. His business functions as a resource and a connector, hosting events that enable local black businesses to reach a broader audience. He says, “The Black Village of RVA was born from a vision of community unity to encourage and support the rise and success of small black businesses in Richmond.”
The Black Village of RVA has grown considerably since its inception, multiplying its vendor count from 8 total in December 2020 to over 1500 (and counting) in June of this year. Darrick values the independence and extreme ownership that comes with entrepreneurship, saying, “the best part of being an entrepreneur has been working on my own time and being able to make the rules that make sense. I celebrate both the wins and the losses.”
“If I could give one piece of advice to an aspiring business, I would say take your time and don’t overthink everything. Post the imperfect content. Be grateful for the mistakes you make. Give yourself grace, knowing that each day is a new day.”
Founder and owner of The Valentine Group INC
Todd founded Valentine Marketing & Media in 2020 after realizing that many small black businesses struggled during the pandemic, despite consumers' increased desire to support black-owned businesses. That was when, Todd says, Valentine Marketing & Media “started to offer outsourced digital marketing at an affordable rate to help our clients get found and scale their business.”
Todd approaches running and operating his business with poise. He values “working for myself and having the freedom to build my company the way I want, and helping other business owners do the same. The hardest part is when working with small businesses, it takes a certain type of flexibility to the issues that may arise. You really have to learn to work with what you got.”
“Don’t procrastinate! Jump right in and get started on that business you have been dreaming of. Start small, and your consumer will tell you where to go from there.”
Founder and owner of Dom G Creative Agency
Founder of Dom G Creative Agency, Domonique Green aims to bridge “the gap between people and technology.” Her business specializes in working with Black and Brown-owned businesses on creative and branding work, from audio engineering to web design and marketing campaigns. Domonique started her business bravely and took a chance. She says, “I quit my job suddenly to start this business without any funds or any clients. It was scary and a LOT of work, but I was able to pull it off and even begin building a team!”
Domonique approaches managing and growing her business with passion and determination – and she isn’t afraid to work hard. She says, “it's important to be passionate about what you do. Sometimes my days end around 4 pm, but on others, I can be up until 1 am. Whether it's working on client projects or doing research to stay on top of trends, the work doesn’t stop.”
DGCA also has a positive impact on the Black community. Domonique explains, “because we specialize in working with Black- and Brown-owned businesses, we are consistently encouraging others, including the youth, to learn more about the creative industry and entrepreneurship. Outside of our main goals as an agency, we hope to assist in placing more Black and Brown people into the creative industry.”
Domonique’s take on entrepreneurship
“The best part of entrepreneurship is seeing your purpose in full effect. Being able to see the faces of our clients after they receive their creative services is so fulfilling, and seeing our work boost their company makes it even better.” She advises, “the most successful businesses are the ones who stick to their mission and purpose. Always remember your “why” and never shy away from helping others.”
Founder and Owner of House of Chick’n
Chris Burnam lives and operates by his motto, “leave every room better than when you arrived.” In the same spirit, Chris founded House of Chick’n to provide his customers with a healthy, delicious, and environmentally-conscious chicken substitute.
Chris also leverages his business, passion, and entrepreneurial experience to effect positive change. The mission of House of Chick’n “is not just about bringing dope plant-based chicken to the world, but it is also about impacting the world and leaving it better than when we arrived.” House of Chick’n partners with local companies to help feed the food insecure. Chris also volunteers at his local JDC every month to educate children about veganism, health, and entrepreneurship.
About entrepreneurship, Chris says, “the best part of being an entrepreneur is being able to impact communities that don’t have access or knowledge to vegan foods. I also love that I can help people in the Black community that want to become entrepreneurs by giving them knowledge and any needed assistance.”
“If you have an idea, dream, or business that is in your heart, just START! Don’t worry about the how – as long as your WHY and passion is big enough, things will happen for you. And lastly, surround yourself with people with passion: dream builders, not dream stealers.”
Founder and owner of ABIKE Studio
Dotun founded ABIKE studio, a full-service creative agency, in 2020. She operates her business believing that “there are no limits to creativity, and with each new project, we aim to stretch the bounds of our imagination.” Her business has grown significantly since its beginnings. Dotun is “blessed to work with amazing Woman- and BIPOC founders to build brands…. It's been so rewarding,” she says, “to build exceptional brands for people that look like me, and the best part is definitely my clients' reaction to the work they recieve from us.”
How Dotun’s business empowers others
Since the start of her business, Dotun hosts a yearly “Brand Camp” designed to educate other business owners and creatives and build connections among them. It’s a “one-day workshop teaching business owners and creatives how to level up,” she explains. We recently started an online community called ‘Creators Class,’ which provides resources and facilitates virtual conversation around business and being a creative.”