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Roll Call! 12 Women Entrepreneurs To Keep On Your Radar In 2020

These women are changing the narrative.

Human Interest

While #BlackGirlMagic may be trending on social platforms, we as Black women know that our magic has been around for centuries. Being recognized as a powerful Black woman in today's society is growing to become the norm in comparison to how far we've come, but we have so far to go. Women of color, specifically Black women, are running nearly half of all registered women-owned businesses and unfortunately, according to Forbes, less than 4% of Black women entrepreneurs make it to the million-dollar mark. These women below are changing the narrative.

With Women's History Month coming to a close, we cannot let the month go by without recognizing Black women entrepreneurs who are out here doing their thing, especially while Miss Rona is in town. From public speakers to world-renowned yoga instructors, check out this list below of xoNecole-approved badass Black women to watch this year:

Maura Chanz

Have you caught Yara Shahidi's IG TV series, "Unguided"? If you have, then you've met Maura Chanz and have already witnessed her creative genius. This Los Angeles-based rising creative initially took a leap of faith after graduating from Spelman College and jumping into the industry as the apprentice of Black Lightning creator Mara Brock Akil. Maura is also the owner of TRIBE, which is a community garnered specifically for women of color seeking fellowship amongst our sisters.

Alechia Reese

International speaker, creative brand strategist, world traveler - what doesn't this woman do? Alechia Reese, author of Eating Elephants: Winning Life One Bite At A Time, is a survivor of domestic violence and makes it her mission to connect dope women around the world with her passion for communication, entrepreneurship and leadership. Catch her on the move and speaking at widely recognized conferences and brands from BlogHER to Microsoft and moderating the Imara Retreat, an annual women's retreat in Africa to build and connect Black women.

Trinity Mouzon Wofford

When you're the brains and beauty behind a beauty brand, when do you have the time to be a columnist for Inc. and keep the aesthetic flowing perfectly on your Instagram feed? We don't know how, but Trinity does it. As the owner of Golde, Wofford has been recognized in INC Magazine's "2019 Female Founder 100" list and Forbes' "30 Under 30". Need we say more?

Raynell Steward

You may recognize her as YouTube sensation Supa Cent, but she's making headlines in the beauty world for the creation of The Crayon Case. Awarded at the BET Social Awards for Social Hustle, CEO Raynell Steward has been flexing her entrepreneurship brain by using her social presence to entrepreneurship and philanthropy. Within one hour, Steward successfully sold $1.37M worth of beauty products in 2019. That's what we call a boss.

Sukie Jefferson

Sukie Jefferson is the lead operator and founder behind Sukie's Candle Co, exotically scented premium soy wax candles - made fresh to order and individually hand-poured. Jefferson's products have been recognized in GQ, Black Enterprise and Vogue UK, and should definitely be a Black woman brand to add to your household.

Dana Chanel

Remember those encouraging notifications you would get every morning from the Sprinkle of Jesus app? Yeah, that's Dana Chanel's doing, but she's been doing a whole lot more since then. After creating the number one Christian mobile app in the world, Dana has shifted her focus to developing generational wealth through family businesses with her latest venture, Jumping Jack Tax, a platform created by herself and husband Prince Donnell as a means to provide a virtual tax preparer. Aside from being relationship goals with her bae, Dana Chanel has truly embodied being a boss babe by creating a space for other women entrepreneurs and keeping true to your faith while building a business.

Lalah Delia

"If you walked away from a toxic, negative, abusive, one-sided, dead-end low vibrational relationship or friendship — you won." The words spoken by bestselling author of Vibrate Higher Daily: Live Your PowerLalah Delia drops gems throughout her book about moving forward and being in-tune with yourself spiritually and mentally. Delia is also the founder of Vibrate Higher Daily, a vibrational based-living online community and mentoring program through women empowerment.

Jessica Jones & Wendy Lopez

These two women are bold, beautiful and Black registered dietician nutritionists, and Jessica Jones and Wendy Lopez are on a mission to help women of color learn to eat intuitively through a "healthy plant-powered diet". By putting their health first by encouraging women to maintain healthy nutrition through their joint venture Food Heaven Made Easy, Jessica and Wendy have created an accessible community and multimedia platform for people who want to create culturally relevant plant-based meals, but aren't quite ready to take the full leap as of yet.

Autumn Myers

At just the age of 25, the former BuzzFeed social strategist is making a name for herself in the media industry with the launch of The Queen Sessions, a motivational content platform to uplift women of color with interviews, blog posts and more. Autumn Myers is also the digital media lead for Black-owned brand, America Hates US, where she served as the lead writer and touched upon topics of culture, entertainment and politics. Recently, The Queens Sessions released their own affirmation journal perfect during the quarantine to keep your dreams and visions manifested.

Leticia Hunt

Mommy-to-be Leticia Hunt is the creator of FOREH, an accessories brand that uplifts Black culture with HBCU-inspired pieces and tactical vests. Inspired by her own experience as a military veteran, the Tuskegee University graduate also serves as a podcast host for 2 Shots & Talk, a children's book author, a stylist and creative director. She emulates her own mission that with the right balance, you can truly do it all.

Shontay Lundy

Just in time for drop tops and summer sun, if Rona ever lets us out of our houses, Shontay Lundy has created the ultimate product for Black women. Black Girl Sunscreen is a product that every melanated queen should be carrying in her bag to protect our skin from harmful rays and avoiding that annoying while residue that other products that aren't made for us may leave. Finally, a skincare brand that caters exactly to our needs during the hot, unbearable summertime heat.

Codie Elaine Oliver

The importance of positive Black narratives in film and television cannot be stressed enough, and Texas-bred producer Codie Elaine Oliver has taken responsibility for showcasing Black love in an affirmative love on her show, Black Love which showed on Oprah Winfrey's OWN Network, now available for streaming on Facebook Watch. Nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Director in a Television Movie, this film creative is one to watch as she navigates motherhood, Hollywood and developing content that creates the appropriate narrative for #BlackLoveMatters.

Featured image via Lalah Delia/Instagram

You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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