About a year ago, I was standing in an airport bookstore waiting for my flight to Beijing.
I browsed the typical set of beauty and style magazines when I noticed Jessica Williams in a hot pink blazer on the cover of a magazine I never read—Wired, a monthly magazine that provides an in-depth coverage of current and future trends in technology; along with a glimpse into the world of business, culture, innovation, and science.
Normally I don’t look at the technology magazine section where Wired is located, but Jessica Williams drew my attention. Why? Wired had a young, smart, and successful black woman on its cover, and for the first time in my life, I was looking at the magazine rack to discover titles like the Harvard Business Review, INC., and more. It was an entirely new world (in print form).
Why had I never looked at this section of the magazine rack before? I was working at a startup and managing projects, but I never felt like business and entrepreneurship magazines were aimed at people like me.
I had spent so much time convincing myself that I wasn’t old enough, male enough, or white enough to be an entrepreneur.
I was inspired by that moment to look for other young, black female entrepreneurs. Along the way, they’ve shown me how to fearlessly and shamelessly go after your goals in life and business.
Here’s a look at a few of my favorites that will inspire you as well.
Tara Reed, Founder and CEO at Kollecto
Tara Reed, a young art collector, built Kollecto—also known as “Tinder for art”—an app to help democratize the art-collecting experience. She did it without using code. Kollecto is a startup that helps everyday people become art collectors.
The app teaches you budget-friendly ways to collect art and helps you find cool art, based on your taste. As a non-technical founder, she built Kollecto’s app and recommendation engine without writing a single line of code.
Tara frequently blogs about how to ‘build apps without code’ and has inspired hundreds of non-technical to founders to launch their own apps, using what she calls her code-free toolkit.
Before launching Kollecto, Tara led quantitative marketing initiatives at Google, Foursquare and Microsoft.
Yelitsa Jean-Charles, Founder & Creative Director at Healthy Roots Dolls
Yelitsa Jean-Charles was still a student at the Rhode Island School of Design when she launched Healthy Roots Dolls, a toy company that sells a line of dolls and storybooks that aim to expose kids to different cultures.
Their team leads a toy company that teaches natural hair care to young girls of color and ultimately helping children celebrate the beauty of diversity. The dolls come in different skin tones, facial features, and hair textures to accurately represent the diversity of the African Diaspora. The dolls also come with books that share stories from different cultures: African-American, Haitian, Nigerian, and Afro-Brazilian.
Young girls see one of the Healthy Roots dolls and squeal with joy that the doll looks like them. It’s clear that Healthy Roots is not just selling dolls, but spreading an ideology to love your own beauty, culture, and identity.
Zim Ugochukwu, Founder and CEO at Travel Noire
Zim Ugochukwu, born in Mankato, Minnesota to two Nigerian immigrants, is the founder and CEO of Travel Noire, a digital publishing platform connecting unconventional travelers from the African Diaspora.
She’s developed a digital publishing platform with a user base of more than 350,000 people to change the way we view international travelers and feature insights from a global community of black travelers.
In a previous life, Ugochukwu “cloned a gene as a biologist, ran a national anti-tobacco campaign, helped open a Civil Rights Museum & traveled through 90% of Asia.” Today, Travel Noire aims to be the ultimate resource in black travel and has created a thriving community of like-minded people, driven by a sense of adventure and wanderlust.
Finding and identifying myself with young, entrepreneurial black women makes me feel like I’m capable of building my dream business. These female role models prove that it doesn’t take a million dollar investment from daddy to build a business that makes the world a better place.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Kassy Lee is career coach who helps scattered twentysomethings find purpose in the workforce through personal development, entrepreneurship training, and bespoke coaching programs. She shows her clients how to leverage the power of meditation and mindfulness to unlock their career potential and make a social impact. Her writings have been featured in prominent online magazines such as Elephant Journal, Mogul, Thought Catalog, and Holstee’s Mindful Matter. Connect with @kassylee_ on Twitter.