Walker's Legacy, Starting the Discussion About African American Women-Owned Businesses

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Walker's Legacy Founder & CEO, Natalie Cofield, launched the first Houston Black Women and Entrepreneurship Roundtable Discussion on June 10, 2016. Walker's Legacy was founded in 2009 by Cofield. Her inspiration was Madame C.J. Walker, civil rights activist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. Walker was the first African-American woman to become a self-made millionaire, by selling black hair products and training women all over the United States to be sales beauticians.

Walker's Legacy is a professional collective designed to build an eco-system of support for women of color in business. They partnered with the National Women's Business Council (NWBC) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy to conduct a research initiative centered on African American Women-Owned Businesses. The main purpose of the roundtable is to explore the unique challenges and opportunities for Black women entrepreneurs. New York City, New York and Washington, DC are also scheduled for similar roundtables.

I had the distinct privilege of attending the Houston roundtable and the opportunity to dialogue with several of the panelist: Tiko Reynolds-Hausman, President of TKO BizSolutions, Inc., Elaine Barber, President & CEO of the Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce, Marguerite Williams, Sr. Relationship Manager, Vice President of Wells Fargo Bank's Business Banking Group, Zawadi Bryant, CEO and Co-Founder of Nightlight Pediatric Urgent Care, and Vanessa Wade, PR Expert and Founder of Connect The Dots PR. The panel discussion was moderated by Natalie Madeira Cofield, founder of Walker's Legacy.

Ms. Cofield's mission for Walker's Legacy could be summed up in one word, mentorship. When asked about Black women being excluded from industry discussions about existing opportunities, she replied, "No room at your table? I'll make my own table so big that you have to ask me to come to yours." Her passion for mentorship and business success for Black women was evident. Her hard work and efforts are recognized worldwide for bringing women of color together to discuss the issues that they face as business owners. Walker's Legacy has been key in educating Black women about assuming a position of power in the marketplace.

During the breakout sessions, attendees were broken up into three groups, and we discussed our motivation for going into business, our barriers and opportunities to gain access to capital, and challenges that Black women-owned businesses experience that is unique to women of color.

On a Personal Note...

On a personal note, I recently wrote a blog, Women-Owned Businesses Increase, But Not Their Bottom Line, based on the research done by U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce in their report, Wake-Up Call, Opportunity Lost. So it was interesting to actually hear the statistics mentioned again at this roundtable. The glaring elephant in the room in regards to that report was that the average annual receipts for U.S. business owners who were African American or Black Women Owned in 2012 were $27,753 versus the $637,675 of their male counterpart. I got one comment on that article, and he proposed the myth that if we only worked harder, we too could enjoy the fruits of the land.

I left the event encouraged and curious to see what the roundtable conversations started for Houston-based African American women-owned businesses. It is my hope that it would be the catalyst for an entrepreneurial revolution of sorts for future discussions where local women of color gather to discuss strategies that level the playing field in the marketplace. In the words of Madame C.J. Walker, "There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it for if I have accomplished anything in life, it is because I have been willing to work hard." It has been my observation that working hard is not our problem, but working together has been an issue. Walker enlisted the help of women all over the nation in promoting and selling her product. When we become serious about the value of being a business collective (Black women business owners united), we will be an entrepreneurial force to be reckoned with in the marketplace. I witnessed that at Houston's Houston Black Women and Entrepreneurship Roundtable Discussion, it is my prayer that the discussion continues.

Sharon C. Jenkins is a serial "authorpreneur" and a consummate entrepreneur. Her main mission in life is to help authors and small businesses increase their "brandwidth" and to successfully pursue their passion for writing excellence. She is the Inspirational Principal for The Master Communicator's Writing Services. Her writing services and books are tools that assist others in realizing their literary dreams and achieve excellence in their business. She has two great loves in her life: writing and helping others.