National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day: Black female entrepreneurs represent

Whether it was for your last meal or your last paycheck, chances are that you come into contact with a small business at some point in your day.

Small businesses, those with fewer than 500 employees, play a vital role in the American economy. They generate roughly 70 percent of all new jobs and 30 percent of all U.S. payroll according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

As a show of appreciation, every year on March 29, National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day celebrates the hard work of the 27 million companies that now employ over 50 percent of the American workforce.

Despite odds such as tighter lending requirements, disappearing Small Business Association (SBA) loan programs, and a widening wealth gap between blacks and whites, businesses owned by black women are now the fastest-growing segment of all women-owned enterprises. As of 2012, there were over 900,000 companies owned by black women, with revenue of almost $37 billion.

Here are five black women who have stepped out independently to address the specific needs and tastes of their respective communities.

Shameeka Claire, Up In The Air Life, Inc.

Ready for an adventure? If you’re a working professional who enjoys group travel and creating life-long friendships, Up In the Air Life, Inc., has you covered. Claire has cultivated the go-to hub for unique vacations (house music parties in Mexico and island hopping in Croatia for Yacht Week, for example), taking the guesswork out of travel. In addition to exceptional client attention, travelers get surprise gifts and bonus amenities, and will celebrate each trip with her signature champagne toast.

An avid traveler, Claire leverages Facebook to promote and create private communities for group trips. Her passion for vacation planning and networking has helped her company thrive at a speed foreign to most startup tour companies.

Connect with Shameeka Claire here.

Jamyla Bennu, Oyin Handmade

Proving that old-fashioned hard work pays off, New York native Bennu has turned her experimentation with grocery store items into a line of hair and body products that can now be found in select Target stores and Whole Foods in the Mid-Atlantic region. Oyin Handmade, made with “food-grade ingredients and lots of love,” was created to address the lack of products catering to the moisture and styling needs of highly textured hair. Oyin Handmade’s quality, she maintains, can be seen in the silky skin and happy hair of her customers.

As such, their team of nine full-time and three part-time employees focuses on health and nourishment instead of purely aesthetic benefits. She says, “Remember that the purpose of your business is to cater to the customers.”

Learn more about Oyin Handmade here.

Teka-Lark Fleming, The Morningside Park Chronicle

With The Morningside Park Chronicle, Teka-Lark Fleming has two missions: to bring strong editorial journalism back to South Los Angeles and to provide an honorable, honest depiction of local black life. Fleming offers an alternative to the typical narrow, pathological black coverage, one that’s inspiring, well-written, and broad in scope. Born at the height of the Black Is Beautiful movement in the ’70s, Fleming simply wants to respect and share the legacies of those before her.

Her vision: “I want my newspaper to be an archive of the entirety of Black Los Angeles history in the third millennium.”

Connect with The Morningside Park Chronicle here and here.

Hillary Porter, Bread Love

With Bread Love, Hillary Porter and her husband seek to bring the California farmer’s market experience to Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. Offering farm-fresh fruits, veggies, dairy goods, and meals prepared with these fresh, local products has helped Bread Love establish a solid presence in her community.

With her team of ten, Bread Love also presents music festivals, gardening tutorials, and outdoor movies. On perseverance, she says, “The food industry isn’t a quick money maker. You have to work long hours. You have to enjoy what you do and know that what you do makes a difference for someone or hopefully a bunch of someones.”

Connect with Bread Love here and here.

Kelly Fair, Polished Pebbles

Founded in 2009 as a direct, hands-on way to serve youth and their community, Polished Pebbles is a mentoring program that helps girls to become effective communicators at home, school and the future workplace. Fair, also known as KellyFairTheMentor, connects Chicagoland girls with a network of over 300 volunteers in diverse local programs and businesses for mentorship and to practice speaking and conflict resolution skills in welcoming environments. She points to ongoing support, donated professional experience and promotion from community members and institutions as the foundation of her success with Polished Pebbles. “I’m passionate about girls finding their “voice” and being prepared for success,” Fair explains. Connect with Kelly Fair of Polished Pebbles here.

Follow Alexander Hardy on Twitter at @chrisalexander_.