Born on a cotton plantation in Louisiana in 1867, Sarah Breedlove faced many challenges as she sought to work her way out of poverty during a time of intense racial discrimination. Like many Black Americans, Sarah, who would later be known as Madam C.J. Walker, turned to entrepreneurship as a way to create her own opportunity and started a hair care line in 1906. She eventually grew that company into a hair and cosmetics empire, becoming the first Black female millionaire in the United States.
Today the number of Black-owned businesses is on the rise in the U.S., with Black women fueling much of that growth. Even so, Black entrepreneurs still face obstacles, including a lack of access to funding and digital tools.
Google is committed to creating greater access to opportunities for these business owners. Last year, Google.org pledged $10 million to help underrepresented entrepreneurs start new businesses by providing access to training and capital. And we recently announced the Google for Startups Founders Academy, which will support underrepresented startup founders in Atlanta on topics such as sales, strategy, hiring and fundraising.
We’ve been working in communities across the country to provide free in-person workshops through our Grow with Google Digital Coaches program, which aims to help Black and Latino business owners become more digitally savvy and reach customers online. Since the program’s launch in 2017, our digital coaches have trained tens of thousands of business owners in cities across the country.
One of those cities is Washington, D.C., which has long been home to a vibrant Black entrepreneurial community. Our local digital coach, Johnny Bailey, has trained thousands of local entrepreneurs, including Sherika Wynter and Shallon Thomas, co-founders of T|W Lunch Tote, a startup that creates stylish and professional lunch bags. They knew that plenty of people were tired of carrying their lunches in paper or plastic bags, but struggled to find their customers.
After attending Grow with Google workshops led by Johnny, Sherika and Shallon learned more effective ways to use online tools like Google Ads, Analytics and G Suite, and put that knowledge to work. Since then, their sales have grown by 55 percent and now they face a new challenge: keeping up with orders.
As we celebrate Black History Month, Grow with Google is hosting a Black Small Business Meetup in D.C. today, where we’ll be training entrepreneurs on how to use digital tools and hearing from Johnny and Sherika about how they grew their business. You can join us by tuning into the livestream or learn more about Digital Coaches.
We look forward to continuing to support business owners like Sherika and Shallon, who carry on the legacy of Madam C.J. Walker, and the many other entrepreneurs who came before them.