Dasha Kennedy, founder of the 60,000-plus member Facebook group The Broke Black Girl, curated the Girlpreneur Expo at Vashon High School on the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Entrepreneurs of all ages brought their best selves, from nine years old to 40 plus years old. Hot pink signs with The Broke Black Girl logo and expo details filled the hallway, letting guests know where they can meet the 50-plus vendors, offering books, T-shirts, natural haircare, makeup, handmade soap, swimsuits, custom drinkware, jewelry, whipped shea body butters, 7-free vegan-friendly nail polish, sweet treats, face and body sugar wax, business coaching, communications, graphic/web design services, and financial coaching.
“Society tells us who we are a lot of times, and it’s not right most of the time,” said Valeria Rodriguez, artist, expo vendor and creator of “Shine In All Shades,” a coloring book for women of color. “It’s humbling for us to collaborate and coexist and be successful in this safe space. Whether you’re a vendor or attendee, it’s mind-blowing. Dope. Super dope.”
Two years ago, a Nielsen study found that black women have majority ownership in more than 1.5 million businesses with over $42 billion in sales. Last year, the Federal Reserve reported that from 2007 to 2018, the number of firms owned by black women grew by a stunning 164 percent, making them the only racial or ethnic group with more business ownership than their male peers.
The Gateway City is the perfect place for the Girlpreneur Expo. Earlier this year, NPR reported that St. Louis has more women-owned startups than any other city in the U.S.
From one row to the next, each booth proved that being black and female is an unstoppable combination and force to be reckoned with.
“It’s just beautiful to see and have a place for people to showcase their talents,” said Ashlee Nicole, expo vendor, and designer, photographer and brand strategist at Artistry Studios. “And then you realize that these business owners look just like you. They act just like you. They have the same problems as you. You can do it, too.”
A financial coach who is regularly confronted with the economic challenges black women face, Kennedy started the expo to provide a solution.
“Sitting with so many people and seeing that even when they create a budget and cut back on so many expenses, sometimes they really don't make enough money. They're not earning a living wage,” she said.
“So, I wanted to put something together where girls can put their 5-to-9s or side hustles on display or [show] that they're artistic and can create things. I wanted to put them in a room to be able to make some additional money. What they make here may pay rent; it may buy groceries. I wanted them to be able to be in a space where they can fill in the gap they're missing from their paychecks.”
Near the end of the event, everyone in attendance turned around towards a corner of the room, where a woman screamed with joy, “I won!” During the event, Kiara Martin of Credit with Kiara entered customers who purchased her business credit guide into a raffle for a MacBook Air.
Illinois resident Dagne Barton, owner of ValUAdded Consulting, won the coveted rose gold laptop, which she said will set her up for an amazing 2020.
“I was going to buy one for myself for Christmas, and now I don't have to. So now I am going to save that money and it feels amazing,” she said.
“You could go and do all your Christmas shopping at Macy's or J.C. Penny. You could stand in line at Walmart to get all these deals. But when you come to an event like Girlpreneur and you do your shopping here, then you not only help your own household with a custom gift, but you help these women and their households for Christmas. And so that's exponential giving back to your community.”
For more information on Dasha Kennedy, visit thebrokeblackgirl.com.