Black women are the fastest growing racial group of business owners in the U.S. today. But there are still many challenges they face to even out the playing field in a white male dominated field.
LaToya Stirrup is the co-founder of Kazmaleje, a Miami based hair tool product company, and knows the challenges that come with starting a business.
“It’s not easy especially when you are developing a product,” said Stirrup. “It’s very cash intensive. Like you have to spend money to make it happen. Especially when you are manufacturing an actual hair tool.”
Getting money is one of the many challenges business owners face. But for women of color, they are finding it even harder than their male white counterparts.
“Women business owners pay back more sooner and are more reliable to do so,” says Stirrup. “And yet we don’t get the same funding when it comes to traditional loans, when it comes to banks or financial institutions.”
According to Pitchbook, American female business owners get only 2% of venture capital funding. Women of color getting a fraction of that money. Stirrup and her sisters got loans, grants and raised a lot money on their own to start their business. They also did a crowd fund campaign using ‘I Fund Women’ and got an award from American Express for $25,000.
“It’s been a very blessed, but challenging experience sometimes because you’ll get invoices from all these things you are trying to develop,” says Stirrup. “And you’re like, ‘Oh where is this going to come from?’ And some way it just all works out.”
Things are working out for Stirrup as she finds herself in a unique class. Black female business owners are the fastest growing demographic of any racial group. American Express found a 164% increase since 2007.
“We are coming up with businesses all the time because we are looking to solve our own problems,” says Stirrup. “For so long, we haven’t been taken into account when it comes to product development. But we are consumers.”
Stirrup and her sisters addressing the problem for people with curly textured hair by reinventing a hair tool with less pain and less tugging, while reinventing the idea of what dreams are possible for little girls of any color.
“Believe in your dream,” says Stirrup. “Just continue to believe in your ability to make your dreams come true, because you can do it.”
Experts say the problem is a misunderstanding between investors and minority business owners. The banking and investing world is mostly white and male. But now we are starting to see networks geared toward women and women of color that understand and appreciate the value their ideas bring to the market.