A few years ago, a local Twin Cities magazine published a major story about Minnesota’s women entrepreneurs. I was excited to see who was featured — yet I ended up being very disappointed that there were not many women of color at all. I could literally count them on one hand.
I knew there were so many African-American women leaders who were doing well in the state of Minnesota.
The next week I happened to have a scheduled lunch with Shawntera Hardy. We decided we wanted to do something about it. That’s how “Fearless Commerce,” a glossy book with high-quality photography and biographies, was birthed, as a way to showcase business owners in Minnesota who are women of color.
Everyone wants to see themselves in a magazine or in the media, on a screen or in a book. Everyone deserves that, frankly. Yet time and again, many people have difficulty finding people of color represented.
We exist. It’s not that hard to find us. It’s often about where, or if, people are actually looking for them.
We chose the term “Fearless” because the women we’ve featured in our two books so far have broken barriers, keptgoing when times got hard, and pushed through racism and discrimination.
We chose the term “Commerce” because this is about business. These women are very serious about their businesses and the clients they serve. It’s about the dollars.
We purposely only focus on for-profit businesses. There are amazing non-profit organizations, but we believe that the for-profit women of color were not getting the shine and recognition that they deserve.
Since we published our first “Fearless Commerce” volume in 2017, we’ve featured more than 50 women of color business owners. Many of them are based in the Twin Cities metro area, but they do business across the state.
Our women include naturopathic doctors, women invested in natural body products, web designers, creators of games and workshops, creative design companies, publishers, acupuncturists. We’ve featured the only Black woman architect in the state, and a dentist who also owns the building where her practice of 35 years is located.
The response to our work has been phenomenal. Women featured in the book are getting new clients and contracts, because people want to support the work of these business leaders. Some men have wanted to be featured, but it’s important to us that we focus on Black women, who have been overlooked for so long — even though we start businesses at a rate higher than any other group in the country.
We launched our second book recently at a special event in St. Paul. We asked women to fiercely support these women, to hire them, to have them as panelists and speakers.
We also ask everyone to show up fiercely for yourself. If there is something more you want to do with your life— a business inside of you — get out there.
Lastly, we ask others to help us get these books in the hands of girls of all ethnicities around the state. Purchase books to give to young women so that they can see these images, be inspired, and live into their own dreams.
Camille Thomas is the founder of Vision Investment, a coaching and consulting firm for women entrepreneurs. Her business partner Shawntera Hardy recently stepped down as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, and is a 2018 Bush Fellow.