It’s officially Black History month and I’m so excited to help you discover Black Women who are doin’ the damn thing.
I’ve reached out to various Black women in different fields from artists, designers, entrepenuers, musicians, writers, and more to help you not only shop Black-owned, but also highlight some of the awesome work taking place all around you.
To kick off the month, here are 7 Black women you should follow – now!
- Shenequa Johnson, Graphic Designer & Small Business Owner
- Allison Esannason, Eco-Conscious Artist & Small Business Owner
- Fairley Lloyd, Writer, Editor, and Activist
- Dany Green, Visual Arts Teacher & Artist
- Sierra Lewis Johnson, Online Lifestyle Shop Curator & Small Business Owner
- Loren Maxine, Non-Profit Producer & Founder
- Dana LaVette, On-Trend Jewelry Curator & Small Business Owner
Shenequa Johnson (@sjohnsondesigns, @cadashco)
Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and Co-Founder of Cadash & Co
Having a businesses/brand is not only a logo which is why a lot of businesses fail.
Shenequa Johnson is a self-taught designer and illustrator. She’s recently started her own business with her sister (yasssss!) and thoroughly enjoyed the process of going out on her own. She’s available for freelance work and is definitely an artist on the rise.
1. What resources did you use to become a self-taught illustrator?
My father is an artist so I’d say I got my talent from that end. As a kid, I would draw on a daily and create scenes and scenarios for my characters. At first, I dismissed illustrations as I got more into Graphic design but in 2019 I started following a lot of illustrators on Instagram and my love for drawing came back. I brought an iPad and Procreate and the rest was history. To level-up my skills, I took advantage of free classes on Skillshare and watched plenty of YouTube to get more acquainted with digital illustrations.
2. What does the creative process look like for you when you’re building a brand for a client?
“As a creative, I play off of the information that the client gives. When designing a brand, I’ve found that it’s helpful when a client has done research and provides a clear brief of their vision. It starts off with questions, finding out who, what and why. Next the research and figuring out the mood of the brand my last step before the actual designing part – which is the most fun.
It’s important for people to know that having a businesses/brand is not only a logo which is why a lot of businesses fail. They don’t put enough thought into the entire look and feel of the business. They just focus on the pretty logo. Your branding should be cohesive and strategic.”
What’s been the most meaningful project you’ve worked on and why?
The stationary business Cadash & Co which I started with my sister.
2020 was a lot and it really opened my eyes to how quickly things can change. I am grateful to be able to still have a job during this whole thing because many don’t. I wanted to create a business with my sisters so that we can have something of our own to fall back on and eventually turn it info a full-time opportunity. We worked for over 6 months trying to get everything together and it turned out great. We are still very new and trying to grow but I was able design a beautiful planner, something that I’ve been wanting to do for years. This has given me the opportunity to not only have my own products but also have an example to show other businesses who want something similar that I can capable of designing on that scale making it a win for both businesses.
Allison Esannason (@shopalmarie)
Eco-Conscious Artist, Small Business Owner
Not having money can drastically limit you but it can also limit your ability to have access to certain opportunities.
Allison Esannason is a woman of many artistic trades. From art prints to masks, she’s crafty at making her way through the world. Most important to her craft is sustainability.
What’s been the most meaningful piece of art you’ve created?
“The most meaningful piece I created was my Martian Strike print. I got back into painting during the BLM (Black Lives Matter) protest. I was emotionally distraught and overwhelmed. The first pour I did was that one and it was fulfilling in ways I couldn’t imagine. So on that same day, I made about 4 more pour paintings. That week I created about 8-9 works of art. And after that, I showed one to a friend and she said I should sell it. So I took the necessary steps to do but I felt a moment of imposter syndrome because here I am a fashion designer starting up a business where I sell art. But this is nothing different than what I did in all my years in art programs and during my four years at Parsons. But I realized it was my fear speaking that was getting to me. But that went away after so many people told me they loved my Martian Strike print and they couldn’t wait to see more of my work. That was the full circle moment I needed to keep me going. Now I’m selling more than just prints, the support is growing, and that makes me so happy.”
Why is sustainability important to you?
“My educational background is in fashion design and during college, I took a class that literally changed my outlook on art and design. I began being more conscious of the materials I used and how the selling of any product can have an impact on our planet. It’s important for any brand, artist, or seller to consider their eco-footprint and the end of life of the products you buy or sell.
For me, some questions I asked myself for each product is Can this item be recycled? And if not What can I do to reduce the eco-footprint of selling this particular item? This way I can always stay true to my beliefs and my goal to always be as eco-conscious as possible and that makes me proud. It’s something I’m not ashamed of I’m able to be extremely transparent with my customers. This is why I created a page on my site that says every item that is used for each product and its packaging.”
What Challenges have you faced as a Black artist?
“For me, it’s always money, exposure, and access. I feel out of the three, money is the biggest challenge. Not having money can drastically limit you but it can also limit your ability to have access to certain opportunities and ability to have your work come across the right people.
But access is also something that has been extremely challenging. Having access to someone who can point me in the right direction or even answer a question is something I haven’t had throughout the process of starting my business.
I’m the first person in my family and friend group to start my own business so I became the person people come to but I don’t have that person yet. So it’s hard figuring it all out on my own especially in the art field which is an extremely competitive industry.”
Fairley Lloyd (@fairleylloyd)
Writer, Editor, & Activist
Think of it as a learning experience and realize that it may be pointing me in another direction that I needed to go into the first place.
With a BFA in Creative Writing and a certificate in publishing, Fairley Lloyd is a woman to watch. Her words can be found across platforms and media companies. From The Mighty to Thought Catalog, Fairley is skilled with the quill.
What is your favorite genre to write about?
“I love writing personal essays about my experiences in a way I hope people can relate to them. I’ve written about my struggles and embracing of my bisexuality, the resilience of Black women and combating racism, my mental health struggles and triumphs, and just general stories that deal with serious topics but have a hope takeaway from them. I want people to read my stories and see themselves if they feel alone, and to feel some hope that if they aren’t the only ones struggling, that we can all overcome our hurdles together.”
What does success mean to you?
“Success to me means achieving something I set out to do, and that can vary from time to time. Being published, for example, feels like success to me, as was landing my day job that I really wanted. However, I don’t think success is limited to getting a job or publishing or winning anything.
I think success really comes from anywhere in life when you learn something from your experience. When I fail or don’t get what I want, that is success, too, because I choose to think of it as a learning experience and realize that it may be pointing me in another direction that I needed to go into the first place.”
What piece of writing are you most proud of?
“It’s actually a piece I had published just last week! It’s about Anhedonia, a symptom of major depression that makes it hard to enjoy anything in life. It’s always scary talking about my mental health, but it’s something I feel like is important to share with others who are struggling or know someone who is struggling.”
Keep up to date with Fairley’s work by following her on Twitter (@fairleylloyd). You can also see a collection of her work on her personal site here. Be sure to give her a follow as she’s working on publishing her first book! To read her most recent work on Mental Health, check out her recent work on The Mighty “Why Anhedonia Is Such an Insidious Symptom of Depression“.
Dany Green (@danyxart)
Virtual Arts Teacher, Artist
Success is something that regularly changes and is very subjective.
What do you love most about hosting virtual workshops?
“One of my favorite experiences as an Artist is introducing people to the beauty and wonder of mosaics. Part of my personal mission with my creative practice is to broaden people’s ideas of “what art is”. Through my workshops, I help students explore a new art form and flex their creative muscles. The workshop is also very meditative. I know that when my class eventually falls silent that the meditative quality of mosaic-making has taken effect. Most of my students say that the process was relaxing and fun.”
What does success look like to for you?
“Success is a very elusive concept. It’s an ever-evolving thing. Most of the time, I feel successful when my vision matches the physical manifestation. When it comes to my art that means that the art piece was executed exactly to my preference and looks like I imagined it would in my head. Over time, I’ve had pieces that I felt were failures become successful in my eyes after they were praised by someone else. Some people hate my most “successful” pieces and love my ‘failures’. This taught me that success is something that regularly changes and is very subjective.“
Tell me about your favorite piece of art you’ve created.
“My favorite piece that I’ve created is Current, a 48 x30 mosaic on wood panel. It’s the first of my wood grain series. A series that I developed by realizing the beauty of the actual substrate. I laid my mirror in the wood grain lines, honoring the natural markings that represent time. This piece changed everything for me. After Current, I committed myself to being an artist as I felt it was my true life path. For me this piece marks the beginning of my journey as an Artist.”
Looking to decorate? Make sure you get a piece of Dany’s art. You can find Dany’s artwork is available for purchase on her website. You can also give her a follow on Instagram to see her new pieces as they are created.
Sierra Lewis Johnson (@neworiginshop)
Online Lifestyle Shop Curator – New Origin Shop
It means having the confidence everyday to show up to work towards my dream and to summon relentlessly the grit, determination, courage and passion to achieve it.
What inspired you to start New Origin Shop?
“My brand started as a means of self expression in 2017. At the time, I had recently relocated to Austin from New York City and I was in my first year of working a really demanding Special Education teaching position.
For one, I was truly inspired by the change of pace the move to Austin presented in my life, and I was really fascinated with the intentionality of Austin’s ‘bagless’ culture. And secondly, I needed a way to decompress from the physical, emotional, and consistent demand of teaching teenagers.
I turned to crochet as an outlet. First by crocheting minimal, stylish reusable bag alternatives. Before I knew it, I had so many bags that I chose to open my Etsy shop.
We look a lot different from our Etsy beginnings. My love for thoughtful and hand-crafted wares does not end with what I can produce though. So as we evolved over time, New Origin Shop became a space created to provide unique and affordable wares to shoppers who are eager to support independent makers and small businesses. I curate from makers, artists and businesses who I absolutely adore.”
What does being a Black Woman-owned business mean to you?
“There’s a duality to being a Black Woman-Owned Business that I feel I exist within. First and foremost I’m a proud first generation business owner excited to share my vision, values, and to build community around the lifestyle and products I love. Personally, I also feel a responsibility to share, uplift and empower other Black-Owned businesses—especially Black-Woman Owned businesses—through my platform. I do this by investing in their brands, by buying their wares, sharing their stories with our community through blog posts/social media, AND fostering positive relationships to navigate all that comes with being creatives and business owners.
Secondly, there’s added layers to the already uncertainty that often comes with business ownership. I’m often the only Black Woman in many spaces where I exist—especially given the niché market of my business—which can feel empowering but also isolating. I started from scratch, like many Black Woman Owned Business Owners I know so no access to capital, to resources, existing networks, or access to friends/families with small business experience.
I say all this ultimately to share that being a Black Woman-owned business means everything to me. It means having the confidence everyday to show up to work towards my dream and to summon relentlessly the grit, determination, courage and passion to achieve it.”
What does success mean to you?
“I’m constantly reminding myself that success is not just the final destination, not the achievement of one particular goal.That it occurs in those small moments throughout my journey when I exhibit perseverance, determination and compassion for myself and others. Success is the joy and peace that I feel, knowing that I am doing work that I choose—that I enjoy and find purpose and value within. Success is taking a step forward each day despite my fears and insecurities. It’s also the freedom and independence that I have within my work.
The definition of success will vary greatly depending on who we are and whether we’re speaking about our personal or professional experiences. It’s constantly evolving, but this is what success currently means to me.”
It’s not every day that I get to chat with someone who also has the name Sierra. So next time you’re doing some shopping, make sure you make a purchase from New Origin Shop. Be sure to give @neworiginshop a follow on Instagram to know when new items are available.
Loren Maxine (@loren_maxine)
Producer & Founder of Generations Network Non-Profit
I want to help as many people as I can tell their stories and share their voices and creativity.
Meet Loren Maxine, the Producer & Founder of Generation Networks – a place helping creators nationwide. Whether it’s a podcast or a short film, her company is there to help.
How did you decide to create Generation Networks?
I graduated from the University of Central Florida as a student athlete in the Spring of 2020. Despite a difficult year, I was optimistic about my future. I knew I would either stay in my hometown of New York City, or move to Los Angeles to pursue my career in Television and Film. Stuck in my home in Queens, I began to network. After all, everyone says, it’s all about who you know. I reached out to anyone who would give me advice. After dozens of Zoom calls and phone meetings, I decided to move to Los Angeles where I had a better chance to pursue my passions for production and development in the entertainment industry.
In the midst of the pandemic, I moved cross country to sunny Los Angeles. There were interviews lined up at a few companies, but many positions were on pause due to the pandemic. After a few months of this same routine, I grew tired of waiting for someone else to give me that foot in the door. I wanted to create an opportunity for myself and for others like me. So, I began reaching out to other young creatives who wanted to network and begin creating their own stories. I received numerous responses of individuals who were in the same predicament or were looking to make some magic together. I also met a few women (Opeyemi, Keausha, & Kyrsten) who went above and beyond reaching out to me, helped me with the foundation of this organization and became the best Board of Directors. This led to the creation of Generation Networks Inc. : a new generation of creatives striving to invent our own opportunities and do what we love.”
Tell me about the most rewarding experience you’ve had with Generation Networks?
“Generation Networks is very new but so far one of the most rewarding experiences has been watching our members listen and learn from executives in the industry during our Speaker Series Meetings. Twice a month we have an industry professional join us on a zoom call to describe their road to success, why they chose this career, and provide advice to our members. At the end we have a Q & A. We have had so many kind and open individuals speak and provide amazing advice and guidance. Another rewarding experience has been shooting our first short film written and directed by one of our members. It is currently in post-production and I am excited to see its success!”
What does success look like to you?
“To me, success is doing what you love and being proud of the work you have done. It is finding your purpose in life and your calling, answering it, and doing it to the best of your ability. This industry has so many definitions of success. People measure it with awards, who they know, or the amount of money being made. If you truly love what you do, every story that you tell big or small is considered a win. Personally, I want to help as many people as I can tell their stories and share their voices and creativity. Success is creating your own door when all other doors have been closed, and bringing others through that door with you. I look forward to more wins and success with the amazing members of Generation Networks.”
If you’re reading this, then I know you’re always looking for ways to support and help others. Donate to Generation Networks today to help fund the dreams of creators. Donate here. Remember, no donation is ever too small. And, don’t forget to follow Loren on social!
Dana LaVette (@shopthesilvertint)
Small Business Owner & On-Trend Jewelry Curator of The Silver Tint
I’m hoping to use fashion jewelry as a way to empower women and help them with their confidence.
Who doesn’t love finding a piece that brings you pure happiness? That’s exactly why you need to know Dana, the founder and owner of The Silver Tint. She’s here to help bring more joy to your life with jewelry.
About the brand:
“I had been thinking of starting an accessories company for so long. Having worked in the fashion and e-commerce space for almost 10 years, I knew I wanted it to be an online business. I’ve always had a love for accessories and how they could transform your outfit. I was laid off at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and decided to take the time to make my dream a reality. The inspiration for my brand comes from the poem Don’t Quit. There is a line that reads ‘The silver tint of the clouds of doubt…’. This line has always inspired me to find the silver lining in any situation.”
What are your goals for The Silver Tint?
“I’m hoping to use fashion jewelry as a way to empower women and help them with their confidence. The right pair of earrings can boost your confidence to nail that interview or presentation, or even shoot your shot! Accessories have just always been my bright spot in any situation. If I’m feeling down, putting on a cute piece of jewelry can always enhance my mood. I hope the pieces that I’ve curated with The Silver Tint have that same effect on my customers.
I’ve since gotten back into the 9-5 world, but I still have goals for The Silver Tint Accessories in the years to come. For the future of my business, I hope to expand to other accessories offerings (handbags, contemporary fine jewelry, etc.) and work to offer custom and exclusive pieces.”
Why you should shop at The Silver Tint.
“The Silver Tint Accessories is an online destination for curated on trend fashion jewelry. The right accessory can transform not only your look but your mood as well. The Silver Tint hopes to be like your BFF helping you find that right accessory for the moment. Our quality styles are carefully curated with you in mind. We want everyone wearing our pieces to feel confident and inspired, while looking good. Whether you’re looking for a statement piece or something for every day, we got you sis! Remember, your outfit isn’t on point until your accessories are!”
Friends, get your empowerment on and go do a little retail therapy. I mean, who doesn’t love spending a little something on themself here and there? You can see all of her new curated pieces online here. Of course, go give her store a follow!
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