Following the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, consumers might see a lot of businesses and organizations banging on the drum of diversity and inclusion. But are these entities who are showing public sympathy for societal equality really doing anything about it? Or is it all just an act to generate more business and positive public relations?
One such critic, Founder and CEO of mobile marketing company Nodat Aireka Harvell is a Black, female entrepreneur. She informs Launch Engine that playing the game of capitalism as a member of her particular demographic means fewer opportunities to advance on the game board.
Aireka was compelled to do something after hearing the story of Tessica Brown, a Black woman—now known as the “Gorilla Glue girl”— who used the well-known brand of spray adhesive on her hair. As the adhesive became stuck to her scalp, Brown had to have surgery to remove the hair. Brown’s crowdfunding campaign raised more than $23,000 for her surgical procedure.
“The young lady who used carpenter glue on her hair is very unfortunate,” Aireka says. “I sympathize with her situation and sincerely hope she is able to recover without permanent harm to her scalp.”
Aireka learned of the story through news stories calling for empathy for Brown’s problem and seeing that her story went viral on social media. She states that she is happy that Brown got support for her hospital treatments, but that news stories like this do not help with how women of color are perceived in the community.
Aireka says, “Often, our children and the public do not get the opportunity to see Black people, especially Black women celebrated for things like entrepreneurship or tech.”
As both a marketing professional and a member of the Nashville entrepreneur community, Aireka personally knows many Black women who work long hours to serve the community through their businesses. She was frustrated that women whom she admired greatly weren’t being celebrated, despite the lip service given by many news outlets and professional organizations to promote Black History Month.
“I wanted to celebrate them and help the world know who they are in hopes of rallying support for them for their great work,” she says. Aireka cites a Forbes article which states that pre-COVID, Black women were one of the fastest-growing entrepreneur brackets. She felt that unless a Black female was working in media or the music business, positive press and a recognizable social media presence were scarcely associated with Black women. When one considers the power of news and social media—and the power they wield in shaping the public’s thoughts about particular issues—the issue graduates from mere gripe to concrete evidence of a still systemic problem.
“We are beginning to see more articles written, but not as often as it should be,” Aireka says. Speaking to the social networking side of things, she shares that, “The social media platforms require a person to prove they are worth being verified. Currently, the only way to prove that is by the number of followers you have, or being a public figure who is in television or media. However, an entrepreneur who doesn’t necessarily have a lot of followers on social media—but they have been featured in credible news outlets—is told to get their follower count up before they qualify for a verified social media account. This status could be an instrument to help more entrepreneurs be taken seriously. And it could definitely help customers to trust their company and give confidence to investors who are willing to invest.”
Launch Engine recognizes the truth in Aireka’s assertion. Thus as part of the ongoing efforts the site makes to keep the public aware of Black entrepreneurship and technology efforts in Middle Tennessee, Launch Engine and Nodat will be working in partnership to promote the stories of Black female entrepreneurs and their businesses or organizations. Aireka gives Launch Engine readers some context about those whom the site will profile in the coming weeks:
CJ Colas, Director of Team CJ Colas Uterine Cancer Foundation
Aireka says, “Founding Director of Team CJ Colas Uterine Cancer Foundation, CJ recently won her battle against uterine cancer in May of 2019. During her fight, she decided to create the foundation because she wanted to educate more women about the risks of this silent killer that kills a majority of Black women. Every year, her foundation hosts a formal gala to raise money to help pay for transportation to and from treatment, hygiene products, and groceries for cancer patients.”
Tara Mitchner, Owner of Kwench Juice Cafe
“Owner of Kwench Juice Cafe Nashville, Tara is also the first Black, female-owned juice cafe in the downtown area,” Aireka explains. “She opened the franchise with her two children because she wanted to teach them about entrepreneurship and work towards building generational wealth for her family. Tara is also a registered nurse and has been on the frontlines during the pandemic. Currently, she is a ‘SheEO’ during the day and life-saver by night.”
Christy M. Pruitt-Haynes, CEO of OurTruths
“Christy is the CEO of OurTruths, the first all-female content platform and speakers bureau that provides a space online for women to share their transparent stories, and to help other women survive their truths. Her platform is dedicated to providing resources and opportunities for organizations and leaders looking to better support their workforce by supporting Black women,” Aireka tells Launch Engine.
Charelle Lans, CEO Vision Strategy Management
“Charelle is the CEO of Vision Strategy Management, a franchise model business strategy company for small and medium businesses. Vision Strategy Management has two franchise locations, in Nashville and Atlanta. Charelle is a two-time best-selling author and host of the Women With Grit podcast. She has helped small and medium businesses raise funding for their companies in excess of $2.5M,” Aireka says.
Aireka asserts that these Black entrepreneurs deserve to be celebrated just as much as the popular athletes, entertainers, or influencers who hold a strong presence in the Black community. Speaking to the figures dominating the media landscape for Black representation, Aireka says, “This plays a huge role in what our children believe they should aim for to acquire wealth. Highlighting Black people in entrepreneurship, technology, medical professionals, politics, education, and giving the people who are making a difference in our world higher visibility can be the first step in changing the mindset and landscape for many young Black girls. It gives some a different image to look at and a different goal to consider.”
For more stories of Black female entrepreneurship brought to you by Launch Engine and Nodat, visit Launch Engine in the coming weeks. For further information about Nodat, be sure to visit their website and social media.