Black History Month wasn’t always the 28-day celebration of Blackness we know it to be today. Back in 1926, Black historian Carter G. Woodson proposed the second week of February be named “Negro History Month.” The idea caught momentum and by 1969 Black educators and students of Kent University advocated to make this a month-long celebration of our existence.
The first official celebration of Black History Month took place at Kent State from January 2 to February 28, 1970. Fifty-one years later, we’ve been uplifting Black pioneers within our community during the second month of the year. While it’s amazing to speak to the accolades of celebrities, politicians, and philanthropists who inspire us daily, there is a wide range of everyday entrepreneurs who are also worthy of recognition.
Black women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs. Underfunded and overlooked, we manage to persevere by carving out our own lane and starting businesses that position us for success. As part of a month-long series, I want to highlight 4 Black women who are making serious waves in the fashion and beauty industries. We kicked off the series with Mikaela Pabon and Africa Miranda. Now we’re passing the baton to headwear connoisseur, Emijaa Jaaemil.
Emijaa Jaaemil is a Brooklyn-based designer with a flare for edgy headwear and accessories. She has a real talent for fusing bold prints and fun shapes together to create key statement pieces. Her online store includes turbans, head bows, earrings and masks. Emijaa’s found her tribe when she began marketing her stylish, unique designs to people who had good taste in luxury headwear.
“The most rewarding part of it all is the appreciation and approval I get from my clients/customers. WIthout them, my business is a hobby… knowing that people want what I’m creating means the world to me,” Emijaa tells HelloBeautiful.
Building client loyalty is one thing, but being an entrepreneur is more than satisfying her supporters. Like many Black business owners, the end goal is to build generational wealth so that her children have a strong financial foundation. “Being a black business owner means passing on the idea and drive to my kids that they can have something that is totally and completely theirs. It means they can build on a thought or dream and make it anything they want,” said Emijaa.
There’s been a huge spike in Black-owned, woman-owned businesses. Building generational wealth and keeping the money circulating within our community is important. Black women have proven to be the change makers in today’s world despite us always receiving the shorter end of the stick. “I think the fact that (black) business owners are underrated – in fashion and in other industries. We set the precedent but aren’t given the credit. But owning my business allows me to share my voice – even if it’s only to a small portion of the world.”
“Women, especially black women are resilient… I love that we see ourselves as something more than brains and brawn to build other peoples dreams and are now seeing that we can use all that we learn and know to build our own… It’s important for us to show others especially little brown girls that they can lead – in any aspect they desire,” Emijaa continued.
There may be a rise in Black business owners, but the truth remains that women-owned businesses are extremely underfunded. We are more likely to fail in our first year and we earn significantly less than businesses run by other races. Simply put, the playing field is extremely challenging for women who aspire to work for themselves. Often times entrepreneurs maintain a full-time job so they can pay their bills while managing their business on the side.
“My biggest challenges are time, space and money. Being a mom and fiance, still working 9-5 for a top 10 US law firm and running my business is extremely time consuming and can often be overwhelming… I’m learning to take it easy on myself and not allowing myself the guilt of trying to keep up with everyone else. As a creative, working out of my apartment leaves me no space to spread out creatively… I hope to one day soon have my own studio. And as a small business owner and creative, finding the finances to fund ideas can be a huge challenge… learning to prioritize is the most important way to deal with the financial part of a small business,” Emijaa continued.