Celebrating Black History Month: A Founders-on-Founders Q&A with 4 Black Business Owners

Hey Nice Nation! We hope that your 2024 is off to an amazing start, and that your Intentions are continuing to support your goals! As they say, time flies when you’re having fun, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s already February. This month, we’re excited to shine the spotlight on some incredible Black-owned brands, along with the founders behind them. If you haven’t already checked out our curated shopping list, click here to find some gifts for your bestie (or yourself). We’re highlighting our friends on the blog all month long, starting with a Founders-on-Founders Q&A. Adriana chatted with the creators to get to know more about them:

Seanice Clarke & Sharina Clarke

Seanice Clarke & Sharina Clarke
Co-Creators of Hey Girl Hey

Adriana: What is the word you lean on the most when you need to navigate obstacles in business?

Seanice & Sharina: Grace. As sisters and co-founders approaching our 3- year anniversary, we are still learning how to run a successful business, while we continue to strengthen our sisterhood. Running a business can be tough, but by approaching obstacles with grace, we are able to maintain a positive mindset, handle difficult situations with composure, and find solutions that align with our values and goals.

AC: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned on your entrepreneurship journey so far?

S&S: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Hey Girl Hey Game was created in the middle of a global pandemic, at a time where there was major uncertainty and isolation. We had a vision of creating a game that would empower and uplift women, but we faced countless rejections from investors and struggled to find our footing in a saturated market. We kept refining our game, reaching out to potential partners, and connecting with our target audience. And slowly, things started to turn around. We refused to let the obstacles define us.The journey taught us the power of perseverance and the importance of never losing sight of our dreams, no matter how challenging the road may be.

Savannah Stephens

Savannah Stephens
Founder & CEO of Kindred Paper

AC: What’s your one word?

Savannah: Maybe. When I am faced with a challenge, I can sometimes hear myself thinking, “Panic! This is the end!” Then, I remember the word “Maybe”. Maybe this isn’t the end. Maybe there’s something I need to learn here. Maybe this isn’t my thing. I've learned to say "maybe" even to the good things. Maybe this will lead me to my north star, maybe it won't. Maybe this is the outcome, but if not, I will keep going. Because maybe the next thing is my thing.

AC: What was your biggest “pinch me” moment as a business owner so far?

SS: Well, being in multiple LWP stores, for one! That first stockist order was a huge moment for me. I told everyone I knew! That my little paper company is a partner with a brand and team that I admire greatly is a big deal to me! When I talk about traction for Kindred Paper, I am proud of how we’ve grown our retail footprint and have made our way to mass retail with our product on Walmart.com, but honestly, it is the everyday life I’ve created for myself that has me pinching myself. I enjoy my personal autonomy and my ability to be present with myself and my kids without some else restricting my time. It’s not always breezy, but I remind myself that I asked for all of this! I pinch myself and remember, this is the life I've created. I designed this and I love it here.

Ashley Newman

Ashley Newman
Founder & Creative Director of BEN ŎNI

AC: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

Ashley: The biggest lesson I’ve learned on my journey is that it doesn’t matter if you have incredible ideas if you don’t execute them. Ideating, research, and strategizing are all great and necessary, but spending too much time there is unproductive. I’ve learned that at some point, your brain has to go from thinking to DOING, and you must know when enough is enough when it comes to imagining.

AC: What is the word you lean on most in your day-to-day life?

AN: My one word is perseverance. When obstacles are in my way, I allow myself to feel like quitting, but I don't allow myself to quit. Quitting is not an option! I keep pushing because my breakthrough might be on the other side of that next step forward.

AC: What has been your biggest business-owner “pinch me” moment so far?

AN: My most significant pinch-me moment happened when a Macy's jewelry buyer emailed me after seeing BEN ONI in WWD. At first, I thought someone was pulling my leg, so I rushed to LinkedIn to verify that she was real. It turns out that she was legit, and we've been part of the Macy's family for nearly three years.

Omotola Akinbiyi

Omotola Akinbiyi
Founder of Bon Femmes

AC: What is the word you lean on most?

Omotola: When navigating obstacles in business, the one word I lean on is "Google." During challenging times, I've found that someone else has experienced the same issues and has shared valuable insights on overcoming these hurdles somewhere on the internet. The internet really is an invaluable resource for problem-solving. 

AC: What big moment had you thinking “I need someone to pinch me, this must be a dream”?

OA: Honestly, the biggest “pinch me” moment is so hard for me to pinpoint because every fun interaction I have with a customer feels like a “pinch me” moment. Whether it's the joy expressed by someone loving their purchase, the satisfaction of hearing positive feedback, or the loyalty shown by repeat customers - each of these is a “pinch me” moment that makes everything I do so rewarding.

AC: What is the biggest lesson you've learned on your entrepreneurship journey?

OA: One of the biggest lessons I've learned is the importance of embracing my failures and using them to help my growth, personally and professionally. Every mistake has been an opportunity for me to learn and become a stronger and more resilient business owner.


We’re always in awe of our entire community, but there’s just something special about a female founder, isn’t there 😉? Next up on the LWP blog, we’ll be diving into the stories behind these brands & how business owners find time for self-care with a packed schedule. Keep an eye out for an exclusive piece from our Chief Wellness Officers later this month.