How She Got Free: Helping Black Women Be Successful—Without Losing Ourselves


How is it that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, our percentage of business ownership as black women in the U.S. is up 59 percent since 2002, yet we make up a mere 3 percent  of the $1.2 billion dollars in sales from women-owned businesses?

Unjust systems and long-standing, deliberately placed hurdles aside, many of us are learning to maneuver this new era of social impact through technology, and leveraging our skills with our passions to the tune of thriving businesses and comfortable lifestyles.

But on the real, the numbers of us who hoist sails on sinking ships with unstable businesses far surpass the number of financially and emotionally stable black women business owners.

Certainly, we do not lack access to the resources or the brainpower it takes to excel in business—so what’s the deal?

Business and Life Strategist Katrina M. Harrell and I have got a theory about these troubling truths.  It might ruffle your feathers a bit, but perhaps that’s a necessary part of your growth and ours.

The theory: Black women in business have been up, big time!

Yes, we BITCH up!  We get scared.  We stop trusting ourselves.  We take the shortcuts and we prioritize popularity over business ownership.  Many of us, myself included, spent years building a “popular brand”, without focusing on operating a business.

The results: High visibility, but low income.  Some success, but no real fulfillment.

I was a slave to the very thing I had built.  But thankfully, I got free.

All too many black women in business lack the application of sustainable structures, and rely on systems that aren’t designed for their specific markets. And worse yet, these systems we attempt to follow place little value on our capacity to sustain our emotional wellness while we work diligently to build better lives for ourselves.

We build the businesses, and we go in with vigor and great intentions, but that all-important trifecta for consistent progress (which we’ve labeled Standards, Systems, and Structures) get relegated to the background, and don’t come up unless we’re called out by something external.

Webinars and Twitter chats are cool and all, but there’s more to the learn-as-you-build approach than occasional education and quick fixes from popular coaches.

This Friday (November 9, 2012), Katrina and I are celebrating the launch of our new book, How She Got Free: A 5-Step Spiritual Business Manual For Women Who Lead Through Entrepreneurship, by hosting a virtual town hall chat to discuss ways we can start practicing the art of co-existing with a business that allows us to live financially and emotionally well. We’ll be talking about value, sustainability, standards, systems, and structures, all in an environment of candor, deep questioning, and the implementation of viable solutions to our high visibility/low income dilemma. CLICK HERE to reserve a spot in our How Black Women B.I.T.C.H. Up In Business Town Hall meeting.

Can’t make our live chat?  Subscribe to the movement HERE, and watch the Live Stream from our YouTube channel: And be sure to check out our website, How She Got Free for more information on our new book and to subscribe for updates and exclusive invites to help you take charge and get free. 

Akilah S. Richards is a Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE), author, emotional wellness advocate, and founder of The Life Design Agency.  Through her work, Akilah helps women, mothers, and entrepreneurs nurture their minds, bodies, and businesses through her unique approach to work-life harmony.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

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