Black women make up less than 10% of the U.S. population, but they’ve emerged as the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs, new research from GoDaddy has found.

The number of Black women-owned businesses in the U.S. was trending upward even before the Covid-19 pandemic, which accelerated entrepreneurship overall. 

Between 2017 and 2020, the number of Black women-owned businesses increased by nearly 20%, far exceeding the growth of women-owned businesses and Black-owned businesses overall, the Brookings Institution reports.

“To me, the rise of Black women entrepreneurs means we’re starting to believe in ourselves more, that we’re finally recognizing how limitless we are,” says Joy Ofodu, who quit her job at Instagram to become a full-time content creator and voice actor in 2022.

Ofodu’s decision to leave Instagram reflects a larger trend of Black women ditching corporate jobs and flocking to entrepreneurship for more freedom, fulfillment and flexibility in their careers.

Escaping burnout in the corporate world

Brianna Doe says she decided to go into business for herself last summer, after months of feeling “deeply unhappy” in her role as a marketing director at a fintech startup. 

“I was in this vicious cycle of burnout where I would start a new job, and only a few months in, things would start to go downhill, and I could never figure out why,” Doe, 30, recalls. 

It wasn’t until Doe started working with a career coach in July 2023 that she realized her job wasn’t the problem — it was working in corporate, period.

Brianna Doe

Photo: Jessica Juniper

“I was really scared of failing, of losing the stability of a paycheck coming in each month but it was also exhausting trying to fit into a system that’s just not built for me,” says Doe. 

Doe had taken on various side projects as a marketing consultant throughout her career since 2011 but didn’t consider turning that into a full-time business until her career coach suggested she make the leap to entrepreneurship.

She was laid off from the startup in September, mere days before she planned to put her two-week notice in. Just a few weeks later, in October 2023, Doe, alongside her co-founder Alexis Rivera Scott, launched Verbatim, their marketing agency. Doe works remotely from her home in Phoenix, while Rivera Scott works remotely from Boise. 

“It’s been healing working for myself and creating a more fulfilling, supportive space,” says Doe. “I didn’t realize how much workplace trauma I had built up and wasn’t dealing with until I left that system entirely.” 

Building supportive ecosystems for Black talent

Three years ago, Leslie Frelow decided to make a full-time entrepreneurial venture out of one of her favorite hobbies: drinking wine.

At the time, Frelow was working as a senior director at the Universal Service Administrative Company, a non-profit organization under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, D.C. 

She loved her job, but she loved her side hustle — leading virtual wine tastings and tours to Maryland wineries — even more. 

Frelow also saw an unmet need she could fill in the wine industry: supporting sommeliers, farmers and winemakers of color. Less than 1% of U.S. wineries are Black-owned, according to the Association of African American Vintners.

Leslie Frelow

Photo: K Price Photography

She launched The Wine Concierge, an online wine store and subscription-based wine club, in December 2020 and left her job to run the business full-time in October 2021.

Starting a business in a mostly white, male-dominated industry hasn’t been without its challenges. 

“When I go to industry events, I’m still one of the few Black people or women in the room,” says Frelow, 53. “And if I bring one of my team members who is not a Black woman with me, people will defer to them as if they’re the owner of the company, not me.”

Still, Frelow says she wouldn’t trade being an entrepreneur “for anything.”

“It’s given me the ultimate flexibility to be there for my aging parents, to pursue something I really love, which is seeing people’s excitement from trying wines they didn’t know existed,” she says. 

Finding success while pursuing their passions

Ofodu, the content creator and voice actor, always had aspirations of becoming a performer in the back of her mind, but those dreams didn’t come to fruition until the pandemic lockdowns of 2020. 

“I was truly living the best of both worlds: I had my dream corporate job, and I had this budding entrepreneurship venture, where I was starting to get paid for content I was posting on Instagram and TikTok,” says Ofodu, who declined to share her age. 

Ofodu decided to spend her newfound free time practicing voice acting, drawing on her love for animated films and cartoons as a kid. She posted her first voice-acting demo reel on Instagram in June 2021, and within hours, had an offer to do the voiceovers for a podcast in her inbox. 

She quit her job as an integrated marketing manager at Instagram in October 2022 to pursue voice acting and content creation full-time. 

“I could measure the opportunity cost of staying where I was as a tech employee and only creating content or voice acting part-time versus working for myself, and by doing both, I was leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars and job opportunities on the table, simply because I didn’t have the time or ability to do it all,” she recalls. 

But as soon as Ofodu started voice acting, “it felt like a reactivated childhood dream,” she adds. “I knew I had to quit my job and walk by faith, not by sight.”

By all measures, Ofodu has succeeded quickly in her career, lending her voice to video games, podcasts, TV series and even a yet-to-be-released animated short with Whoopi Goldberg.

Ofodu says one of her entrepreneurial goals is to make voice acting a more open and inclusive industry. 

“Voice acting and film is still a very male-dominated industry and, in some ways, can feel like a bit of a boys club,” says Ofodu. 

Black women and girls represented less than 4% of leads or co-leads in the 100 top-grossing films of the last decade, according to a 2021 report from the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

“Ultimately, when it comes to being a Black woman entrepreneur, I don’t want what I am doing to be so rare, it doesn’t energize me to be the first or only Black woman to do something,” says Ofodu. “I want to fling open the doors for many, many others to join me.”

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