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Article: Black Entrepreneurs Empowering Tomorrow's Generation

Black Entrepreneurs Empowering Tomorrow's Generation

Hey Nice Nation! In Part II of our Black history Month celebration, the LWP Chief Wellness Officers, Kitty & Stephanie, are thrilled to have had the unique privilege of connecting with the founders of Ben Oni, Kindred Paper, Hey Girl Hey, and Bon Femmes. Each of these businesses faced unique challenges, contending with stereotypes, representation, and the dynamics of their respective industries. Striving to carve a niche for themselves, they confronted these unique struggles and celebrated distinct successes. Yet, amidst their diverse journeys, a common factor unites them all—the owners' unwavering commitment to their vision and their drive to succeed against all odds.

Today, these women stand as pillars of inspiration during Black History Month, and we are honored to share their stories. Their journeys serve as a testament to the resilience and determination that can lead to success, reminding aspiring entrepreneurs that triumph is always just around the corner.

Hey Girl Hey: Redefining Social Connections & Celebrating Sisterhood

In the vibrant heart of Brooklyn, New York, sisters Seanice and Sharina Clarke are revolutionizing social interactions through their innovative venture, Hey Girl Hey.

Recognizing a need for meaningful social experiences among women in their community, the dynamic duo founded Hey Girl Hey to provide a space where women could connect, inspire, and empower each other. Breaking traditional barriers, they infuse fun and games into socializing, fostering genuine relationships and celebrating the power of sisterhood.

Seanice shares with us that Hey Girl Hey is more than a game, she says “Heygirlhey is a form of acknowledgment within the community. With six different colors showcased throughout the deck of cards representing various skin tones, each category speaks to a different shade.”

Drawing from their own experiences, the sisters developed Hey Girl Hey's unique games through a creative process rooted in personal connection and community feedback. Their meticulously crafted decks of cards feature inclusive questions and activities, spanning from favorite TV characters (from Living Single to Friends) to broader cultural aspects, bridging generational gaps and promoting diversity.

Beyond simply a business, Hey Girl Hey is a platform for empowerment within the black community and beyond. Their father's entrepreneurial spirit serves as a guiding force, instilling in them the importance of community and mutual support. By hosting inclusive events, mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs, and supporting local businesses, Seanice and Sharina actively contribute to fostering community growth and mutual support.

Despite the demands of entrepreneurship, Seanice and Sharina prioritize self-care, emphasizing the importance of sister moments, celebration, and rest. Their advice to others navigating the balance between business and well-being is simple yet profound: “give yourself grace, stay courageous, and maintain an open spirit of giving and receiving within your community” shares Sharina.

Ben Oni: Jewelry that Symbolizes Hope and Resilience

Ashley Newman is the visionary behind Ben Oni, a jewelry brand that transcends mere adornment, symbolizing hope and resilience. Ashley's journey to founding this thriving brand was deeply personal, marked by a profound realization about aligning one's life with passions and purpose.

In the midst of challenges and uncertainty, Ashley found herself in a cycle of discontent, merely surviving each day without fulfillment. It was a pivotal moment of self-reflection that led her to take a bold step – leaving behind a job that drained her spirit. In what felt like an "Eat, Pray, Love" moment, the founder took time to reflect on their true desires and passions. Realizing a stifled creativity in previous roles, they asked themselves a fundamental question: What brings true joy? The resounding answer was clear – a love for jewelry, a passion for discussing it daily, and a deep affinity for photography and graphic design. Merging these talents and gifts, Ben Oni was born, a brand encapsulating the essence of "Son of my Sorrow."

Beyond crafting exquisite pieces, Ashley envisions Ben Oni as a beacon of empowerment for the black community and beyond. She's deeply committed to uplifting underprivileged youth, offering them opportunities to learn valuable skills and explore entrepreneurship, thereby challenging stereotypes and representing black excellence.

Reflecting on her entrepreneurial journey, Ashley acknowledges the myriad of challenges she has faced, particularly financial hurdles. Yet, each obstacle has been a catalyst for growth, teaching her resilience and resourcefulness. For Ashley, resilience is not merely a trait but the very essence of navigating the entrepreneurial path.

Amidst the demands of business, Ashley prioritizes self-care as a cornerstone of success “ I find joy in taking baths and allowing myself moments of relaxation. A significant luxury I've embraced is doing nothing at all, allowing my mind to rest. Finding 10-15 minutes to simply sit and do nothing is crucial.” Her advice to others echoes this sentiment – self-care isn't a luxury but a necessity, essential for sustaining oneself amidst life's demands.

Ben Oni isn't just about jewelry; it's a testament to the transformative power of hope, resilience, and pursuing one's passions. Through Ashley's journey, it becomes clear: even in our darkest moments, there's the potential for beauty and growth.

Bon Femmes: Empowering Women Through Art

Bon Femmes founder, Omotola (Tola) Akinbiyi is a vibrant testament to female creativity and entrepreneurship since 2019. Offering a range of art, home decor, and beauty products, Bon Femmes celebrates women's impactful contributions across sectors.

What makes Bon Femmes stand out is its dedication to giving back. With every sale, a portion goes towards women-led charities, fostering empowerment and communal growth. Despite facing significant challenges, the joy of supporting and empowering fellow women has been immeasurable.

Tola's entrepreneurial journey traces back to childhood, where her hustler spirit was evident from making wallets out of Starbucks wrappers in 3rd grade. After dabbling in various ventures post-graduation, Tola found inspiration one early morning, igniting the journey of Bon Femmes. Despite uncertainties, her unwavering passion fueled her determination to make a positive impact.

Reflecting on pivotal moments, Tola recalls last year's challenges that prompted invaluable lessons on preparation and resilience. Amidst difficulties, the validation of receiving the first order from a stranger remains a cherished highlight, reaffirming the trust in her brand.

Balancing business demands with self-care, Tola emphasizes that self-care is unique for everyone. Engaging in activities like needlepoint and indulging in guilty pleasures like watching Real Housewives brings her peace.

For those hesitant to pursue their dreams, Tola's advice is simple yet powerful: “take the leap. Fear of failure shouldn't hinder potential success. Embrace the risk, as even unsuccessful ventures offer invaluable lessons. The journey may be daunting, but taking that first step is crucial in realizing one's dreams!”

Our Kindred Paper: Spreading Joy One Card at a Time

In response to a need for more personal connections and joy in the world, Our Kindred Paper was founded by Savannah Stephens.

Savannah's journey began in 2020 during a period of personal hardship, including the end of her marriage and transition to single motherhood. Through her own struggles, she discovered the power of honest conversations, realizing the importance of reaching out and connecting with others. “I became intentional about checking in on friends and started sending greeting cards to connect with people during a time when gatherings weren't possible. The big box greeting card brands lacked the language I needed, so I decided to create my own. Designing greeting cards became a way for me to bet on myself and make a scary but fulfilling decision.”

This inspired her to create her own line of greeting cards, filling a void left by mainstream options that lacked the heartfelt language she sought.

One pivotal moment in Savannah's entrepreneurial journey came when faced with a significant order and potential cash flow issues. Through creative problem-solving and support from her community, she learned the value of building relationships and collaboration. This experience highlighted the importance of trusting partnerships in overcoming obstacles.

Balancing the demands of running a business with self-care is essential for Savannah. She prioritizes simple acts like taking naps and ensuring her basic needs are met to maintain balance and well-being amidst the busyness of entrepreneurship. Through it all, Savannah and Our Kindred Paper continue to spread joy, reminding us of the power of simple gestures in creating lasting connections.

This Black History Month, we celebrate these individuals and many others who continue to rise above challenges, contributing to the rich tapestry of black history and legacy with their tremendous achievements. Their perseverance and determination led to their success, making them a beacon of inspiration for many.

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