Meet the 2021 Black Girl Magic Pitch Competition Winners
Capital One Business gives $50,000 to three successful businesses owned by Black women
According to a recent report from Harvard Business Review, 17% of Black women – more than any other demographic – are currently in the process of starting or running new businesses. While encouraging, Black business owners also face a disproportionate number of challenges on the path to running a profitable and growing business, which is why it’s important to foster wide-scale, intentional support of these businesses year-round.
In August, Capital One Business partnered with Boss Women Media for the third annual Black Girl Magic Pitch Competition. Part of the two-day Black Girl Magic Digital Summit, the competition awarded grants totaling $50,000 from Capital One Business to the top three finalists out of a pool of more than 5,000 submissions from women-owned businesses.
“At Capital One, we know how important it is to invest in diverse communities and businesses, and support organizations that expand economic opportunity,” said Zainep Mahmoud, Senior Director, Small Business Card at Capital One. “We are proud to partner with organizations like Boss Women Media and to continue to meaningfully engage women business owners with the resources and tools they need to thrive.”
First place and a $25,000 grant went to Monisha Edwards of the Scent & Fire Candle Company. Ashley Young of Bridal Babes took home second and a $15,000 grant. Third place and a $10,000 grant went to Jacquelyn Rodgers of Greentop Gifts.
Each finalist pitched their business ideas to a panel of Capital One judges, including Dayna Fleming, Director, Small Business Card; Emmanuel Offiong, Vice President & CTO, Small Business Bank; and Zainep Mahmoud, Senior Director, Small Business Card.
Read on to learn more about the winners and their businesses.
First Place ($25,000) – Monisha Edwards, Scent & Fire
Sometimes, the brightest lights can come out of the darkest times.
That’s what Monisha Edwards found after suffering from her own mental health challenges brought on by a family tragedy. After being diagnosed with depression and PTSD, she found solace in creating a line of eco-friendly aromatherapy oils and candles, which allowed her to focus on self-care and just breathe. Using her previous experience as a branding expert, she posted the creations online and on social media. Monisha says people loved her candles and scents, along with her business philosophy to create widespread wellness, and the business took off.
Spurred on by this early encouragement, Edwards created Scent & Fire. When the pandemic started, she really saw her sales skyrocket. “I created a line of quarantine candles because I wanted to bring a little light into the homes of everyone because we were all shut in,” says Edwards. “That's been one of my greatest successes so far, being able to take a terrible situation and make it into something great.”
While Edwards is looking to build her business leadership skills, she’s also looking to grow her bottom line. She currently has plans to hire new employees for the upcoming holiday season, and she’s developing an app that centers on wellness and sponsors referrals to Black therapists for underserved community members. “I want to be able to use Scent & Fire as a platform to educate about mental wellness and sustainable wellness practices.”
Second Place ($15,000) – Ashley Young, Bridal Babes
As Ashley Young was planning her wedding in 2016, she had difficulty finding a dress that suited the various skin tones and body shapes of her bridal party. After a seemingly endless search, she finally found the right dresses to make her bridal party feel stylish, sexy and comfortable. Her big day was a huge success and the photos of her wedding went viral.
“I was like ‘people need this,’” says Young, who co-founded Bridal Babes, an online bridal-wear boutique offering an array of affordable and fashion-forward bridesmaid dresses and contemporary bridal attire for “women of color with curves,” with her husband Charles. “It was just a phenomenal success straight out of the gate. That's how we knew we were onto something.”
Then the pandemic hit, and Young braced herself for a nosedive in business. Despite challenges with supply chain issues and figuring out how to manage inventory as wedding plans changed, it didn’t happen. “I think the biggest surprise was that this was such an untapped market, it was able to weather storms like a pandemic,” says Young. “People still figured out how to get married. And we have been profitable throughout this time.”
Young isn’t shy about who is ultimately responsible for her business’s prosperity. “I think our biggest success is our community. They shared comments with us, and that actually helped us with learning to shift our product offering. And it's just been so helpful to be able to engage and learn from them.” Young has plans to expand to a new warehouse and acquire new customers in the coming months.
Third Place ($10,000) – Jacquelyn Rodgers, Greentop Gifts
Family is everything for Jacquelyn Rodgers.
When Jacquelyn was a child, her mother painted holiday decorations to reflect her own Black family since she could not find any diversity in holiday decor at the time. When Rodgers started her own family, she noticed the same issue: “I just wanted my son to see representation.” She also noticed there was an $8 billion market for wrapping paper, and got into the business of making diverse Christmas wrapping paper and other gift items. She named it Greentop Gifts, after her grandfather’s old restaurant in North Carolina.
Since starting the business in 2016, she’s seen a groundswell of support. “The thing that keeps me super inspired and knowing I'm on the right path is hearing from moms or grandmas or aunts that say ‘you know, I've been looking for something like this, I can't find it anywhere. You're solving this need,’” says Rodgers. “And this is so important.”
Often, Rodgers has to convince more tech-focused investors that her business is about more than just wrapping paper, it’s about how we see ourselves as a society. That’s where her network of moms and other Black entrepreneurs comes in handy. “Having people in these spaces that can champion and support women-owned and Black-owned businesses has been super helpful to open doors.”
While Rodgers never planned on starting a gift business, it’s grown into something much larger and more meaningful. “For me, it was something I just wanted for my son for Christmas, and then it kind of evolved.” She plans on investing in marketing to keep spreading the word about Greentop Gifts.