8 Black-owned businesses that are shaping futures and uplifting communities

Empowered by Verizon Small Business Digital Ready skills, these small business owners are expanding their impact.

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1. From the military to market leader: Tiffany Richardson

CEO, Artisan-Preneur Consulting, Virginia Beach, Virginia

In honor of Black History Month, we shine the spotlight on eight small business owners who, with the support of Verizon Small Business Digital Ready, are increasing their digital acumen and laying the groundwork for their families’ future success. Through passion, determination and a commitment to growth, these entrepreneurs are not just building businesses, they’re creating opportunities for community empowerment.

In 2021, Tiffany Richardson launched Artisan-Preneur Consulting to help entrepreneurs in her community launch and grow their businesses. She began her entrepreneurial journey after spending six years in the armed forces.

Richardson faced challenges in securing clients once she started her consultancy. That all changed, though, after she leaned into her passion for artificial intelligence (AI) and tapped into three key elements: niche expertise, strategic partnerships and support from Verizon Small Business Digital Ready. She started hosting regular networking sessions, which allowed her to better support her community and also grow her business. Richardson credits her Digital Ready skills with helping her attain new business and says her website brings in 20% of her clients, thanks to UX changes she learned through the program. She also says she boosted efficiencies by 20%, thanks to learnings from free Digital Ready courses, which allows her to take on larger projects.

Richardson is also using these skills to build a legacy of entrepreneurship within her family. Her husband and mother are part of her business and her children have become budding entrepreneurs. “I share what I learned with Digital Ready to help my kids grow their businesses,” she says.

2. A mother’s quest for gentle care: Cherlyn Carby

CEO, Skylar J’s LushUs Kids, Richmond, Virginia

Like many entrepreneurs, Cherlyn Carby started her company to address a need: When she couldn’t find a gentle, all-natural shampoo for her young daughter, she created one. As a result, Skylar J’s LushUs Kids, a company that sells plant-derived hair care for children, was born. As a solopreneur, Carby manages all aspects of the business, from product creation to operations and marketing. Discovering Verizon Small Business Digital Ready provided her with invaluable support and guidance, helping her gain confidence and acquire new skills in marketing and business. Carby grew her social media following and, thanks to a 1:1 Digital Ready coaching session, restructured her website, leading to a 26% increase in online sales.

With all her success, Carby’s main goal remains the same. “For me, LushUs Kids is building a legacy for my children, passing on a business they can be proud of and they can continue,” she says.

3. Crafting beauty and hope in Houston: Nakia Vestal

CEO, DollMaker Lashes, Houston, Texas

When Nakia Vestal started her eyelash salon nearly eight years ago, she says she never dreamed she’d be able to pull it off on her own. The beauty entrepreneur has since launched her own product line (thanks, in part, to a $10,000 Verizon Small Business Digital Ready grant) and provides her community with more than just a new look: She says her clients treat her like a therapist — and she loves it. “What goes on in the lash room stays in the lash room,” Vestal jokes.

With what she’s learned through Digital Ready courses, Vestal expanded her business and established a foundation to leave a legacy for her family. “I’m a mom, I’m a grandmother, I’m the first entrepreneur that has ever done this in my family, so it’s not only about my brand and Dollmaker,” Vestal says. “I’m here as a light to give people hope and to let them know that if I can do it, then they can do it.”

4. Finding harmony in art and ambition: Anwar Dougsiyeh

Co-founder, Lotus Rosery Music Festival, Atlanta, Georgia

When it comes to building community, the founders of the Lotus Rosery Music Festival are passionate about providing a platform for young artists in Atlanta to come together and share their musical talents. But with a goal of expanding the festival’s reach to global audiences, co-founder Anwar Dougsiyeh realized he needed to increase his business savvy. That’s where Verizon Small Business Digital Ready came in. Dougsiyeh dove into the free courses and encouraged his co-founders to do the same. As a result of the Digital Ready learnings, Dougsiyeh was prepared when a partnership with a major beverage brand came through. After he took a digital marketing course, the festival sold 1,000 event tickets — a record number.

“As a lotus flower is born in mud, underwater, it grows in water and rises out of the water to stand above it, unsoiled,” Dougsiyeh says. “For three years, I felt like we were submerged in mud. [The event] felt like us blossoming out of the water.”

5. Wellness as a community pillar: Chantel Bratcher-Coleman

Owner and lead therapist, Shaping Minds Therapeutic Services, Newark, Delaware

Chantel Bratcher-Coleman is dedicated to bringing wellness and good mental health to her community. As a therapist with more than 20 years of experience, she’s been able to achieve this mission through her business Shaping Minds Therapeutic Services. Verizon Small Business Digital Ready played a part in her business’s growth story, helping her learn new funding techniques to increase her business credit, along with other finance-related topics. That, in turn, allowed her to better serve with her clients and community: She engages with local elementary students, using play as a form of therapy, and has plans to fund wraparound services, like a mobile resale clothing shop (which she currently uses to donate clothing to families in need). All in all, Bratcher-Coleman says she’s happy to be a part of her clients’ healing journey.

6. Building financial know-how: Clarissa Pace

CEO, Shekinah Services, LLC, Monticello, Arkansas

City councilwoman, pastor, business owner: Clarissa Pace wears many hats, but the constant in each of her roles is community empowerment. Pace is the CEO of Shekinah Services, a firm that helps people with tax prep, credit restoration and other financial services. Along with her team of specialists, she counsels other entrepreneurs on how to build and structure their businesses. In her quest to expand her own expertise, Pace turned to Digital Ready courses that improved her digital marketing skills, leading to more customers gained via email and social media.

While Pace is an advocate for her community and her clients, she also supports the ambitions of her team. “I want my employees to have what they need to be thriving business owners,” she says. “Although they work for me [now], I’m pushing them to work for themselves.”

7. From home kitchen to community cornerstone: V’Esther Goode

Owner and chef, Boomer’s Kitchen & Catering, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

V’Esther Goode has made her mark on her community by serving up homestyle meals via her food truck and catering company, Boomer’s Kitchen & Catering. What started as a small endeavor — she was selling breakfast platters out of her home — has blossomed into a thriving business that keeps Goode’s services booked. “In the beginning, [this business] was just to get my son through college,” she says. “But now I know this is something I can leave a legacy behind with. When I go, my children will have something to carry on. My family will have something to be proud of.”

Part of what helped Goode’s side hustle transition into a flourishing business was her participation in the Digital Ready program. She learned how to track her finances, secure corporate catering jobs, use search engine optimization (SEO) for her website and more. Best of all, she gained the confidence to define her own path. “I’m most proud that I built this on my own, debt free, and [that I’m] the first of business owners in my family. To keep serving the same community that built my business for me is just amazing,” she says.

8. Education as a beacon: Samantha Sinclair

CEO and founder, Pathway to Purpose, Brooklyn, New York

For Samantha Sinclair, CEO and founder of college prep company Pathway to Purpose, education was the foundation of her family when she was growing up. “My family is from Guyana, and my parents came here to provide unlimited opportunities for my siblings and me,” she says. “Part of that was education.”

Sinclair has an extensive academic background, but recognized the importance of expanding her business network and digital marketing skills, so she participated in the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready program. Through the program, she was able to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs and refine her brand’s story — a story that includes supporting 15,000 students. She also learned to share her mission through social media, thanks to Digital Ready coursework.

“Social media is about storytelling,” she says. “It’s a means to highlight the great work we’re doing, to share resources, and support our students and families.”

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