Representation matters. And one major output for inclusive representation is the power of access. With proper access comes opportunities for growth, exposure to diverse ideas, and sustainable impact for generations to come.
For many historically underrepresented communities, having access meant having a seat at the table to offer the unique perspectives and experiences that can drive change and innovation.
Throughout history, there have been several examples of people breaking down barriers to ensure those who look like them have greater access to the things they fought so hard for. Black women, in particular, have consistently set the standard for what it means to reach back and build up.
One example of this is through the power of entrepreneurship. From changemakers like Madame CJ Walker to Oprah Winfrey, Black women have set the standard for community change and overall advancement regardless of industry.
Mastercard recognizes the power of Black women in business but also the expansive possibility when small businesses have access and resources needed to succeed. In fact, they have invested $500 million to help close the racial wealth and opportunity gap across America. Mastercard is dedicated to supporting small business owners with digital tools, education, funding, and mentorship to help grow their businesses and spotlight the change they are making to inspire future generations of entrepreneurs.
Blavity had the opportunity to sit with three exemplary small business owners –– Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon of Our Village United and Village Market, Egypt Otis of Comma Bookstore, and Talia Boone of Postal Petals–– to learn about the work they are doing in their respective fields and how their partnership with Mastercard has helped them to continue to impact their communities.
Our Village United
Hallmon is the founder and CEO of Village Market, Village Retail, and Our Village United. Her work centers on creating community for Black businesses, to raise awareness and be a connecting hub for entrepreneurs and patrons alike.
A part of the connectivity aspect is helping to circulate the fluidity of Black dollars while also being an incubator and knowledge hub for businesses and entrepreneurs.
With a presence in 21 cities across 18 states, Hallmon and team are committed to being a key supporter and community advocate for businesses and leaders looking to advance and grow their footprint in their respective industries.
Comma Bookstore was founded and is headed by Egypt Otis. The business specializes in Black and brown literature, carries and sells local art and brands, and hosts community events rooted in the arts, music, and culture.
Starting this work amid the pandemic, Otis quickly had to pivot her model of selling books not exclusive to brick and mortar.
Ironically, Otis’ business was not born from her love of reading but a realization to empower and give back to the community that raised her.
“Growing up, I struggled with reading and didn’t have access to books. But I always said that books saved my life. It gave me an opportunity to really put purpose to the pain and the suffering that I was experiencing in my life growing up in Flint, Michigan,” Otis explained.
Boone is the founder and CEO of Postal Petals. She runs an immersive floral and wellness company that uses fresh-cut flowers and do-it-yourself flower arranging as a tool for creative expression, relaxation, self-care, and wellness.
What started as a means of self-care for her own decompression from her former professional and activism work is now centered on curating a creative experience for corporations, couples, and individuals that includes workshops, team-building models, and self-expression tools.
Advancing The Community
While Hallmon, Otis, and Boone are making waves in separate lanes, the impact of their work in the communities they are a part of is at the core of their work.
Being community focused is paramount for each of the ladies who are identifying ways that their work is not only effecting change today but leading the world into a more sustainable future, wanting to see everyone succeed.
“I always say that to people; I operate from a spirit in a place of abundance, not scarcity. There is plenty enough for all of us,” Boone pointed out. “And that’s why I believe so strongly in the power of collaboration and working with people, right?”
Community impact has been advanced through the support of Mastercard. Hallmon, Otis, and Boone all agree that the contributions and support of Mastercard have been game-changing in helping their businesses by providing education, funding, network and tools through their Digital Doors program and funding through various grant programs, all critical resources that when provided and working together have an incredible impact.
“People always want to give us information and never want to give us the resources we need to build that thing,” Boone said. “And that’s why I think it’s so important that Mastercard not just stepped up with all this access and information, but they also stepped up with dollars.”
An additional way Mastercard has remained committed to supporting the work and community impact of these women has been through their Strivers Initiative – a program launched by Mastercard in 2021 to amplify the voices of Black Women Business owners and provide the products, solutions, and mentorship to help these women maintain and grow their businesses while encouraging consumers and businesses alike to shop, share and support them.
Mastercard has brought these changemakers incredible access through their own platforms and sponsorships, like being featured as a community superhero in the company’s ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ commercial ad spot, to being spotlighted on “The Jennifer Hudson Show” Strivers Experience, to introducing their business to new innovative environments such as the Mastercard Small Business Metaverse and tapping into key leaders at Mastercard for additional advice, resources and tools to grow their business.
The Importance Of Pouring Back Into Oneself
And while impacting the community and having a thriving business is at the forefront of success, none of this work is possible without proper self-care. Hallmon is a large proponent of looking within, so when she speaks about the community’s power, self–reflection is a part of that scope.
“Internal change is our compass of what we should be doing in the world and completing our assignments to lean deeply into self. So you can get the answers in the spiritual download or whatever you believe in, and in that space, you will realize that we’re meant to be in community. That individualism is a tool that weaponizes our mobility,” Hallmon said.
Otis, Boone, and Hallmon are all on big boss status, but know the power of paying it forward lies within being able to be their best self. Each business owner noted the power of self-care and its impact on the work they continue to do.
“I would say to be careful, I had to learn how to say no, which is very, very difficult for me to do. But you can’t continue to invest in other people if you don’t have anything to give yourself. So be protective of your time, your mind, your overall wellness,” Otis shared.
In a similar way that Mastercard believes in the power of self-care, utilizing its resources as a form of support and investing in the lights that already shine so brightly in each of the change-making business owners they work with.
“The greatest masterpiece of our life should be our work, the internal work we do so our lights can shine brightly. I’m just hoping entrepreneurs trust the light they’ve been bestowed. And if anyone had tried to dim it, speak light into yourself, keep other lightworkers around you because we all need people, and have needed people to light our fire for us when it went down,” Hallmon continued.
To learn more about Mastercard’s small business coalition, sign up here to be part of the Mastercard Small Business community to learn how to grow, protect and promote your entrepreneurial endeavors.